In part 1 of this post, I made the case that evaluating how gift officers approach their work is far more important than the outcome. That using a “dollars raised” metric as part of gift officer’s evaluation is unhelpful and unhealthy for gift officer and program development.
Today, I turn attention to 3 fundamentally effective evaluative metrics which are far more conducive to developing the good gift officer habits that lead to raising more major gifts over time.
1. Number of Visits – Without question, the most predictive variable in how effective a gift officer will be in raising money over time is the number of visits she will make with qualified major gift prospects. A challenge many advancement leaders face is defining a visit in a way that is both substantive and easy to implement. This challenge, though, is not as difficult as one might think. There are 1 of 2 conditions that must be met in order for an interaction with a donor or prospect to “count as a visit.”
- The gift officer plans, arranges, and implements an in-person or virtual interaction with the donor or prospect. No matter the outcome of this interaction, if the gift officer initiates and implements an in-person or virtual interaction with a prospect, a visit has occurred.
- In addition, a visit will have occurred if an unplanned in-person or virtual interaction occurs with the donor or prospect and the interaction produces important or substantive information about the donor and/or her relationship with the institution. (What is “important or substantive”? This is where the 5-year rule comes into play. If the gift officer learns something during this unplanned interaction that someone in advancement would need to know 5 years from now, it was “important and substantive”).
2. Number of Moves – Personally visiting with donors is necessary for major gifts success but it is not sufficient. A gift officer could visit with the wrong people or he could visit with the same person over and over without the promise of a new major gift. There needs to be more to the evaluation of major gifts officers than simply “number of visits.” One helpful metric to add is the “number of moves.”
If we look at a basic major gift-giving cycle like the one presented here, we understand that the work of a gift officer is to move a prospect repeatedly through this cycle. A move, then, occurs when the prospect advances from one stage to the next (i.e., from discovery to cultivation to solicitation to stewardship) leading to an ongoing major gift giving pattern. Think of the arrows as representing a move. Once a prospect is “discovered,” movement through these last three stages should be planned and steady.
3. Number of Gift Invitations – Just as all visits are not be equal, neither are all moves. The Gift Invitation move is special. In order to raise more gift income over time, gift officers should be inviting major gifts. What does it mean to “invite a major gift?” It means that the prospect has been invited to give a specific amount and for a specific purpose (even if that purpose is “unrestricted”). The invitation can be in the form of a written proposal or delivered verbally, but it must be for a specific amount and for a specific purpose. In other words, the gift officer is proposing gifts to prospects, not simply receiving gifts. When gift officers get into the habit of inviting gifts, the expectations of donors are raised and gift income increases over time.
Taken together, these 3 evaluation metrics offer a solid and easily implemented system to fairly and beneficially evaluate gift officers.
When gift officers focus consistently on securing personal visits with qualified prospects, when they move those prospects through the major gift giving cycle, and when they invite those prospects to give their best gifts, the “dollars raised” outcome will take care of itself.