Reality Check: How Many Prospects Can You Reasonably Cultivate in Your Portfolio?

Here’s a question we get all the time: What’s the right size for a Major Gift Officer’s Portfolio? How many prospects should someone be able to handle?

And the answer is: no more than 150 prospects. And an even smaller portfolio is better- and more productive.

Labor Intensive

We all know that major gift fundraising is a labor intensive strategy. If you want to develop an authentic relationship with a donor – you have to devote enough time and attention to this person.

And, if you really look at the number of hours in the day – consider how much time an MGO can actually devote to a donor. You will find that focusing on fewer people will yield higher productivity. Which of course means funds raised.

Therefore, a SMALLER portfolio should result in more, and larger, gifts.

Why? When you focus deeply on a donor couple, family or individual, you can build up a relationship of trust and credibility. This simply takes time.

What worked for me:

When I was a front-line fundraiser, I had a portfolio of about 150 donors.

But there was no way I could keep up with close relationships with all those people. I triaged my list into a top prospect group of 60 and put the rest on a “backburner” list. And I was very successful.

You can see more about how I organized my portfolio and raised $50M here.

Major gift fundraising takes a long term investment of time.

It takes time for the donor to get to know you and trust your organization. Donors need to feel that you care about them as people, not just as ATM’s.

What does that look like? It’s quickly responding to your donors’ questions. It’s making sure they got an event invitation on time. It’s checking in personally to see if they will be attending, and making sure they have a good table.

What’s more, you pay attention to personal details in their life – when they are traveling or ill, or family events.

It’s finding out your donor’s passions and interests – what aspect of your programming really turns them on? It’s really listening to them – what do they believe in?

It’s inviting them in when something new is happening at your organization.

Unrealistic expectations of MGO’s

When fundraising staff are expected to help with events, board meetings, administrative activities – you are taking them away from their most important face-to-face work with donors.

When that happens, there will simply be fewer hours available for front-line fundraising.

Be realistic about what one person can do.

Loading your MGO’s up with prospects and activities will ultimately dilute their focus – and their fundraising results. It also creates stress, burnout and exhaustion as MGO’s get stretched too thin.

The job market for successful fundraisers is expanding exponentially – and successful fundraisers can easily move to a different organization that offers a better working environment and work-life balance.

So, think again when you add more and more prospects – plus more and more meetings and activities – to someone’s work load.

Remember: the fewer the prospects, the deeper the relationships.

BOTTOM LINE: Reorganize your major gift officer’s portfolios – if you want to max their productivity!