One of the main questions I am always being asked is how many prospects should a major gift officer have in their portfolio? My initial answer is that it depends on the gift officer and what does the portfolio look like.
I remember having two gift officers with very different size portfolios – one with 125 prospects and one with 200. If the evaluation is strictly or primarily based on the size of a portfolio then I believe you are setting yourself up to fail. Both were incredible gift officers with great successes. I knew that if we assigned 200 prospects for every officer then some of those individuals would not be cultivated/stewarded to the level of standard that should be expected. If the percentage of gifts achieved is high for both then don’t mess with what works. I am all for making people stretch but you need to base that on various criteria.
Some factors to consider would be what percentage of time is really being devoted to major gift work? We need to factor in administrative duties, meetings and my favorite other duties as assigned. If your gift officers are multi-tasking on a high level then their portfolio needs to be reflective of that variable. Level of experience and tenure at the organization is also a big factor to keep in mind. What is the geographic focus of the portfolio? If I have one gift officer who is flying around the country and one whose prospects are locally based then that should be taken into consideration. What is the average level of ask within each portfolio? We all know cultivation time for a high multi-million dollar gift can be much longer than a six figure gift. The same could be considered for planned giving. Is the portfolio weighted heavily with annuities and CRTs? If so, then the timeline to get those completed will be longer than a bequest. I think another great question to ask is how well established is your major gift program or planned giving program? You not only have to give your officers some consideration with this but your constituents. If you have a fairly new major gift or planned giving program then you need to educate your donors and this takes time.
I recommend that you do this analysis for not only your gift officers but for other members of your fundraising team. Take the time to come up with thoughtful and strategic questions to help determine each member of the team’s expectations will help create harmony, success and retention of staff.
*Michael Quevli is a consultant for Target Analytics. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.