For many nonprofits, plugging revenue gaps will boil down to asking donors for larger gifts, or asking more prospects (or current donors) to become major donors. But, with a down economy, many major donors are unable to give more, and some may be forced to either give less or not at all. Plus, there are only so many times you can only go back to the same donors, running the risk of donor fatigue. Ultimately, new revenue is going to come from asking more donors.
If current major gift fundraisers are working full-time just managing their existing portfolios, then where does the capacity to tap into the suspect pool come from? If they're going to get deeper into prospect or discovery pools, there are two common pain points that must be addressed:
- Fundraisers must be more efficient in managing their primary portfolios.
- Once efficiency is reached, fundraiser attention needs to focus on engaging new prospects and up-leveling current donors.
Under the old paradigm of operating a fundraising office, the only way to increase the capacity of a major gift team was to hire more fundraisers. But hiring freezes, furloughs, and layoffs make that option less viable for virtually every organization.
Let’s say at a hypothetical nonprofit, its development office had five major gift officers with portfolios of 150 each. In total, that team is managing 700 donors right at the top of the donor pyramid. But the middle of that pyramid, the discovery pool, is home to about 5,000 donors.
If this organization was able to hire a new fundraiser and give them a portfolio of 150 donors from the Rated But Unassigned pool, it would take them another 20-25 fundraisers to get through that full 5,000 prospects. But hiring 20 or 25 fundraisers at roughly $100,000 each (after salary and benefits) is another $2+ million to actually qualify that entire pool.
With the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, a $2+ million price tag is not a workable solution. Even hiring 20 fundraisers over time would still cost virtually the same, all while expenses continue to increase and the Rated But Unassigned pool continues to grow. And, in all likelihood, even if an organization can afford to hire 20 fundraisers without concern about price, they would still need to find 20 fundraisers to hire.
John A. Farkas, Jr. of VIA Public Media was able to make personal appeals to 675 donors and prospects, expanding the organization's fundraising workforce by a factor of 3.39x, without making an additional hire. This workforce expansion empowered VIA to increase gift sizes with existing major donors and inspire gifts from donors who never had personal relationships with the station before.
Not only did Farkas achieve 100 percent portfolio saturation, but VIA Public Media surpassed revenue goals for the fiscal year in only eight months.