A strong major gifts program requires well-composed portfolios. While donor conversation is and will always be critical for confirming their inclination to give and gift capacity, many issues in constructing portfolios can be resolved ahead of time with data captured in a CRM system. These five tips will help your development department leverage the data in its donor database to ensure the right prospects are in gift officers’ portfolios.

1) Capture and update contacts within your database

Every year, the employees of your nonprofit come across hundreds, if not thousands, of potential donors, advocates, and supporters for your institution. To make the most of these relationships, it is critical to ensure their information is accurately captured at the relationship’s onset. Consider setting practices and processes around systematically adding new contacts into your donor database and storing relationship information not just within your gifts officers’ or program officers’ heads, in a notebook, or in Excel, but also within your current CRM.

What if one of your program coordinators regularly engages a volunteer who happens to be the significant other of a Fortune 500 CEO? What if you discover in passing that a new single ticket buyer is a board member of a community foundation on your target list? Capturing contacts within databases helps ensure your organization is not missing opportunities to identify and strategically engage fundraising and friend-building prospects.

As you enter contacts, basic database hygiene is key. Capture correct names, salutations, addresses, gift records, and contact information. If you have not already, you should also note the date of your last wealth screening activity.

2) Wealth screen regularly

As your organization adds potential supporters to its database, engage in a wealth screening at least every three years to gain insight into the overall giving capacity of your organization’s contacts. For higher education institutions, consider conducting a wealth screen with every new class of admitted students. For hospitals, which generally have a higher volume of face-to-face interactions with potential donors, consider completing wealth screens more frequently as part of a grateful patient program.

3) Conduct a segmentation analysis

It isn’t enough to simply add new contacts to your database, or regularly complete wealth screens. Good portfolios are created through segmentation.

Segment your donors with a recency, frequency, and monetary value (RFM) analysis to help target which donors should be elevated to a gift officer’s portfolio and which may be a better fit within your annual fund communications pipeline. Recency considers the last gift a donor made to your institution, frequency considers how often gifts are made to your institution, and monetary value considers how much the donor has given to your institution. Combining RFM scores and wealth screening data can help define segments of donors to add or remove from a gift officer’s portfolio.

Depending on the size and complexity of your institution’s database, you may also consider undertaking predictive modeling to segment your donors. This approach entails looking at a broad swath of internal data points as well as wealth screening information to help optimize gift officer portfolios.

4) Monitor annual fund appeal responses for sudden or gradual gift amount lifts over time

Donors may signal readiness to be moved into a major gifts officer portfolio based on the trends of their giving. Keep a close eye on the average return for cyclical annual fund appeals. Are any donors generally giving significantly above the average for your appeals? Has a donor’s giving steadily increased year over year? Has there been a seemingly random four or five-figure gift from a donor unassigned to a gifts officer portfolio? These are all signs that the institution might consider engaging this donor on a more personal level.

5) Have candid conversations on moves management

Does a donor sparsely return calls, emails, or contact? Has a donor not responded to a gift appeal in the past few years? It might be time to remove these donors from a gifts officer portfolio. However, before this happens, be sure actions are being adequately tracked within your database and taken into consideration. Who was the last point of contact? Who is the primary solicitor?  When was the last contact—and with what partners, materials, and talking points? These details are critical for diagnosing cause and effect and developing institutional knowledge rather than operating from anecdotal observations.

The journey to successfully collecting and using CRM data to make decisions on portfolio strategy can be complex and time-consuming. However, it is well worth the investment to elevate your major gifts program and scale your fundraising capacity.

Is your organization considering how to build an effective fundraising data and reporting structure? CCS Fundraising can help. To learn more about our Systems services, contact Allison Willner, Vice President of Data Strategy, at systems@ccsfundraising.com.

CCS Fundraising is a consulting firm that works with nonprofits. We provide campaign counsel, strategic planning, and other services to strengthen development efforts for charities.

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About the Author

Mariama Holman is a Senior Director at CCS Fundraising. She has nearly a decade of proven impact in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors and loves partnering with clients to improve operations, data analysis, and insights reporting. Since joining CCS in 2018, Mariama has worked with nonprofits across the country to lead multi-million-dollar campaigns and design technology systems for fundraising strategy and performance measurement. Prior to working with CCS, she completed an MBA and MA in Arts Administration at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, and worked with the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture and Americans for the Arts. During this time, she developed an interest in applying an analyst mindset to advancing social and civic causes. In 2017 she was honored in the Bocconi for Digital Public Innovation Award Competition for planning an application for multi-modal transit. She and her team were also invited to engage young women interested in careers in technology at the UN Women’s STEM in the City Conference in Milan, Italy.