Simple Major Gift Math – K.I.S.S.! – How Many Prospects Can You Manage?

Published on November 15, 2018

Brian Saber

President of Asking Matters
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We all know K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid), right? I certainly try to live by this motto, because when things get too complicated my eyes glaze over. Focus has never been my strength, so I need things to be pretty straight-forward. That includes my approach to major gifts.

One of the questions I get asked most often is, how many prospects should be in someone’s portfolio? I’ve read treatises on how to figure that out, what a “full load” should be for a major gift officer, etc.

But what about for the 99% of us who aren’t full-time major gift officers? The first time I was an executive director I had about 10% of my time to devote to cultivating and soliciting major gifts. Even when I was a director of development, it wasn’t more than 25% of my time. As a board member maybe I had 20-30 hours a year I could devote to helping my organization fundraise.

So, here’s my magic number – 12. Twelve hours per active prospect. Over the years it’s taken me about 12 hours, on average, per major gift prospect. For some it might have been 15-20 hours or more, but for many it was six.

Why 12? Well, I calculate it takes six hours of work, on average, per donor visit. That includes doing some research, setting it up, getting to/from it, leading it, reporting on it, and taking the next steps that comes out of it. Of course, this ranges based on many factors but, as I said, I K.I.S.S.!

Now, on top of these hours, I need to make time for general major gift work. That includes keeping my tracker up to date, meeting with staff and volunteers to brainstorm, sending out customized correspondence, organizing a major gift cultivation or thank you event, etc. Maybe that takes another 30 hours.

What does that mean? Well, if I’m an executive director and I have 10% of my time, I assume 180 hours. If I need 30 for the general work that leaves 150 for direct gift work which, at 12 per prospect, is about 12. So, I can only have 12 active donor relationships.

Major gift work:   180 hours
General major gift work:   -30 hours
  150 hours
12 active prospects x 12 hours:   144 hours

And I’m done. Now all that’s left is to make sure I keep my focus on those 12!


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