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Take a Data-Driven Approach to Gift Officer Management

Samantha Hunter
Published:  07/20/2021

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Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

A theme that comes up time and time again in fundraising is the importance of data. With more ways to track engagement metrics than ever before, you’re missing out on potential donations if you aren’t taking a data-driven approach to fundraising. You can take the data that’s already at your organizations fingertips, and use it to set your gift officers up for success. Here are some ideas to bring a fresh perspective to your team.

Use proposals to manage the solicitation process

This can be interpreted a few different ways, depending where you work but when I mention using proposals, I don’t necessarily mean a physical proposal document. Instead think about it as the concept or strategy for a prospective donor. 

Encourage gift officers to take the time to map out a proposal plan for each of their prospects within a portfolio. They can start by asking, how many people will they solicit? How much will they solicit them for? When are they going to solicit them? And what type of activities will it take to move towards the solicitation? 

Taking the time to do this allows gift officers to total up the number of proposals they plan to make. It allows them to stay focused and set a clear number of solicitations that need to happen and in turn allows them to plan the number of visits or contacts that are needed to lead those solicitations. Officers that work towards achieving the proposals or the plans they’ve set forth at the beginning of a fiscal year won’t run the risk of being distracted by every new prospect that comes into their portfolio or other initiatives that come up at a hospital or health system. 

Using proposals can also help managers easily identify potential roadblocks. If it seems like an officer doesn’t have enough proposals in place or isn’t making enough solicitations, managers can intervene before they fall short of their goal for the year. By mapping out a clear proposal plan, it allows gift officers to track their pipeline and makes setting goals simple. 

Lead by example

Teams that have a really good return on their investment, have management that really buys into the organization’s philosophy and then uses that to drive strategy. A strong team leader needs to stay focused on one specific outcome and invest in an intentional change to shift outcomes. They are willing to try new things or pull in executive leadership when necessary. 

For example, they really drill down and focus on a specific goal like raising more dollars from existing donors. Or set a specific goal for gift officers to bring in more donors. Taking an intentional, data-driven approach to leading the team allows everyone to set specific and measurable goals individually. 

Data-driven team leaders don’t just talk about high-level organizational change, but instead they actually implement tangible changes as they go. And they stay focused on what those changes will mean for the organization as a whole. Leading by example shows that organizations from the top-down want change to actually happen. 

Actively manage portfolios 

In this case, quantity is not necessarily better than quality. Revisiting and managing gift officer portfolios regularly is critical to achieving a high return on investment. That means not just focusing on the people that are currently in the portfolio, but also being willing to move people out of the portfolio to make room for new people. It’s a shift in thinking but you want to be sure you aren’t hoarding your prospects. 

Holding onto prospects that aren’t getting enough attention or don’t have an active outreach plan in place will hurt you in the long run. This is helpful because it allows management and gift officers to know that there is movement on each prospect. If you have a list of too many prospects it can get out of control quickly. 

Paring down your prospect list will look differently depending on the size of your organization. You want to try and find a number that feels manageable for your gift officers and allows them to actively solicit everyone in their portfolio. Having a more targeted approach will get your organization a greater return per prospective donor. 

Cultivate with intentionality 

What I mean by that is, make sure that relationships are moving forward and that your team is driving purposeful engagement. Going back to the same people over and over again who aren’t engaging with your gift officers can actually hurt you. Gift officers should be reviewing their portfolios on a quarterly basis to manage this. 

The best organizations out there that are successful in fundraising, are fundraising with intention. They are creating a data-driven plan, working the plan, and then reviewing how the plan worked on a regular basis. They aren’t relying on the same prospects over and over again. 

The focus for management should be to create a volume that sets your team up for success. This will look different for each organization based on your prospects and your conversion rates. If a gift officer has 30 prospective donors, and they win 100% of the time, then you probably don’t need to add any additional prospects to the mix. If you win 70% of the time, then you might need to up that prospect number to ensure your team reaches its goal. 

If you get one takeaway from this post, it should be that success at each organization is specific and measurable. Take the time to sit down and dig through the data. What’s working and what isn’t working? Putting in the effort on a quarterly basis to do some data dirty work, will help set your gift officers up for success. 

For more on this topic, check out this webinar on how to build a culture of success for gift officers. 

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Meet The Author

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Samantha Hunter
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy

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