Fiscal Year Planning for the Major Gifts Officer… Where to Start?

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For most gift officers, the summer months can be slow. Our donors are away on vacation, meaning they’re less likely to respond to our emails and calls, let alone meet with us.

So, what can you do over the summer (besides use your own precious vacation days)? In my personal experience, the summer months are a great time to plan for the year ahead. Not only can the planning process be an illuminating experience, but it can also help set you up for successful year.

Here are some actions you can take to start off the fiscal year right.

Identify and Plan Your Major Gift Solicitations

A new fiscal year means new donors; now is the time to identify who’s ready to be solicited for multi-year pledges and/or planned gifts. The good news? Donors in this category are easy to spot. They have a track record of giving and have already expressed a desire to make a significant impact on your organization.

Inevitably, this list will change throughout the year, but that shouldn’t stop you from creating the list in the first place. It may even open your eyes to connections between donors and initiatives that were hidden previously.

 

After you’ve identified your potential major donors, your next step should be to identify the optimum month or quarter for each ask. For example, if the donor has a child in the application pool, you may want to wait until the fourth quarter (when the admissions cycle is complete) to make your ask. That way you can help guide your donor though that period without the ask hanging over his or her head.

Timing is also important for alumni who are in a reunion year. If you plan on asking them to join or chair a reunion gift committee, ideally your solicitation will include that request as well. Make that dual ask in the first or early second quarter.

Alter Your Donor List

Every year, it’s important to add new people to your portfolio and to internally reassign donors who may not be a good fit. The summer is the best time to make these changes since you can work off of giving totals from the previous fiscal year.

 

A decision to add someone to your portfolio may be based on one of several different factors. Some of the most likely include an increase in recent giving, a job promotion or title change, non-alumni parents of current students, and referrals from established donors.

On the other hand, a donor may not be suited for major gift consideration if they have refused to meet or communicate with a fundraiser, make it known that their giving priorities lie elsewhere, or if they are not overly philanthropic.

Don’t neglect to collaborate with your team as you move through this process; this will ensure that prospects are reassigned to the appropriate staff members. At Providence College, for example, our annual giving team works with leadership donors while major gifts officers work almost exclusively with donors who have the ability to make transformational gifts. We’re always working together to make sure that everyone is talking to the right prospects and having the proper impact conversations.

Make a Forecast

Since many of our organizations are dependent on philanthropy to survive, as major gifts officers, we do have to forecast what we think may happen with our donor lists. These estimates often turn out to be incorrect, but they can help with the organization’s budgeting process.

 

Last year, my forecast for my donor list was relatively accurate. That said, there was little correlation between how much I thought each donor may give and who decided to make a multi-year pledge. If we are doing our jobs well, there will always be people who come out of the woodwork and decide to invest in our organizations. These surprises are a great sign for the future of your school or nonprofit.

Invite Donors to Events

Attracting donors to your organization’s best and most interesting events can be an easy win for you and your organization. They build good will with donors, show them that the school/nonprofit is continuing to improve, and serve as an opportunity to meet face-to-face with new people.

The dates of these types of events are usually available months in advance, so you’ll want to invite your donors as early as possible so they can plan accordingly. Not only does this build trust with donors, but it also enables you to communicate with them without asking for their time or philanthropic investment.


Lastly, remember that even the most well thought-out plans will need constant revision. As you glean new information about your donors and your organization, do not remain whetted to your original vision. Every new tidbit of information must be viewed as an opportunity—plan accordingly.

Want to manage your portfolio more efficiently this year? Check out EverTrue for Gift Officers.

Matt Chittim is a major gifts officer at Providence College, where he works with alumni and parents in Metro New York and southern New England. Matt is also the host of the Providence College Podcast. In his non-working hours, he is chasing after his two young kids, running, and following New England sports. You can follow Matt on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn. You can also subscribe to the Providence College Podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, StitcherGoogle Play, and Tune In.

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