14 FAQs about donor portfolio management

Major gifts officer

A guide for major gifts officers & mid-level gift officers

Navigating donor moves management portfolios is about nurturing and retaining relationships. In an era of massive turnover, missing donor retention goals can lead to a loss of revenue and critical pipeline goals.

But creating clear and documented processes for transitioning donors from one gift officer to another is not an easy task. If your team struggles with this, you’re not alone: more than half (57%) of fundraisers say they have no formal process or their process has significant gaps for handing off qualified donors to major gift officers.

Here, we provide the most frequently asked questions (and answers) about donor portfolio management and donor transitions.

Donor portfolio basics

What are the different levels of donor portfolios?

Donor portfolios typically vary depending on the organization and specific fundraising strategy. However, here are the most common donor levels:

  • Prospects: These are individuals or organizations that have been identified as potential donors but have not yet been cultivated. Prospects may be identified through various means such as wealth screening, networking, or referrals.
  • Annual giving: Donors at this level typically give smaller, regular donations on an annual basis. These donors may contribute to general operating funds or specific programs or initiatives.
  • Major giving: Major donors are those who contribute significant gifts to an organization, often above a certain threshold determined by the organization. Major gifts can vary widely depending on the size and scope of the organization, but they typically represent a substantial investment in the organization’s mission or projects.
  • Leadership giving (also known as mid-level): Leadership or mid-level donors are individuals who make substantial contributions to the organization and often take on leadership roles within the fundraising structure. They may serve on advisory boards, campaign committees, or other leadership positions.
  • Planned giving: Planned giving donors make contributions through bequests, trusts, annuities, or other planned giving vehicles. These gifts are typically arranged during the donor’s lifetime but are realized by the organization at a later date, often after the donor’s passing.
  • Foundation and corporate giving: These donors are typically foundations, corporations, or other institutional funders that provide grants or sponsorships to support the organization’s mission or specific projects.
  • Legacy giving: Legacy donors are those who have included the organization in their estate plans or wills, ensuring that their support will continue beyond their lifetime.

What is the ideal size portfolio for each donor level?

Every organization depending on size has a varying range of criteria for the various portfolio levels. Ideally, major gift officers and planned gift officers should manage no more than 150 donors in their portfolio each. Many more than that can lead to donors with big giving potential falling through the cracks because of a lack of time and resources to focus on each one.

Mid-level gifts are typically more transactional and have a shorter process, so a mid-level gift officer might manage anywhere from 300-1,000 donors.

What is a major gifts officer?

A major gift officer (MGO) is a fundraiser who is primarily responsible for cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding major gifts for an organization. Major gifts typically represent larger donations than those obtained through annual giving or other fundraising efforts, and they play a crucial role in supporting an organization’s mission and programs.

Does the donor portfolio management process impact donor retention?

In short, yes. Building and sustaining a relationship is key to donor retention. Consistent engagement can increase retention rates, which is critical in times of transition and hand-offs from one gift officer to the next.

For tips on taking a relationship-first approach to portfolio management, read our blog.

Measurement & tracking

How can you use a donor CRM to track interactions and improve relationship management?

Tracking donor interactions in your CRM is key to a successful transition between gift officers. Automatically tracking interactions in CRM systems ensures every detail is noticed, providing a comprehensive view of the donor’s engagement and interests. If anyone went into the donor record, they know exactly what you have done because activities were logged in your source of truth.

Integrated AI tools like Gravyty can help you seamless track and manage donor interactions in your CRM.

What other tools are helpful for managing donor portfolios?

Video messaging can be a great tool when handing off a donor to a new gift officer. It can bring a personal touch to an introduction or sharing impact stories. Gravyty’s video messaging solution can make capturing, sending and measuring performance of videos a seamless part of your strategy.

How can gift officers manage the balance of strong donor relationships with meeting aggressive fundraising goals?

Taking a donor-centric approach to fundraising is critical to both donor retention and building a sustainable pipeline for years to come. Prioritize building genuine relationships with donors based on their interests, giving history, and motivations.

Scale relationship-building strategies with AI-powered prioritization tools that can remind you to follow up with the right people at the right times as well as an omnichannel approach to outreach using integrated communication tools like video and texting. 

How can you measure donor affinity (beyond wealth capacity)?

The donor affinity is the donor’s level of connection and commitment to your organization. Affinity can be made up of a number of factors including but not limited to:

  • Donor engagement: Frequency and level of interaction between the donor and your organization.
  • Gift history: Frequency, size, and consistency of donations.
  • Personal relationships: Quality and depth of relationships with staff, volunteers, board members and other supporters.
  • Interest and involvement: Donor’s interest in your organization’s mission, programs and initiatives, determined by things like surveys, conversations and other feedback mechanisms.
  • Behavioral indicators: Look for other indicators of affinity like referring new donors, advocating for your organization, or participating in events.

How to calculate donor retention rate

Calculate donor retention rate by dividing the number of recurring donors this year by those who gave last year. 

For example: 230 donors gave again this year after giving last year, and 500 gave last year in total. Your donor retention rate would be 46%. 


What tools are helpful for donor engagement and communications?

Tools that enable you to connect with donors quickly, effectively and at scale are key to retaining and acquiring donors. One outreach tool that lets you reach more donors personally is video messaging. Video messaging lets you easily craft and deliver heartfelt messages, donor thank you videos, and campaign updates. Another tool is peer-to-peer texting, which lets you connect with donors immediately and meet them where they are.

How can you communicate with a donor the transition from one gift officer to another?

Start by expressing gratitude for their past support and reiterate the importance of their contributions to your organization’s mission. Next, introduce the new gift officer, highlighting their qualifications, enthusiasm, and dedication to continuing the relationship. Finally, assure the donor of a smooth transition process and offer opportunities for them to connect with the new gift officer to discuss their ongoing involvement and philanthropic goals.

What should you do if a donor resists communicating with a new gift officer?

If a donor resists communicating with a new gift officer, it’s important to respectfully acknowledge their concerns and reassure them that their relationship with the organization remains valued and unchanged. Offer flexibility in communication preferences and provide additional support or resources to address any specific needs or questions they may have.

Internal processes

How do you manage the “internal politics” of moving a mid-level donor to a major donor portfolio or vice versa?

Clearly outline the strategic rationale behind the move, emphasizing the donor’s evolving capacity, interests, and relationship with the organization. Seek buy-in from relevant management and leadership by highlighting the potential benefits for both the donor and the organization, and be prepared to address any concerns or objections with empathy and evidence-based reasoning.

How can you make the case for donor portfolio management resources to leadership?

Leadership’s primary concern is to drive revenue through donations. When making the case for new resources, emphasize the critical role that effective donor portfolio management plays in maximizing fundraising revenue, donor retention, and long-term donor relationships. 

Highlight how dedicated resources for donor portfolio management can lead to more personalized cultivation and stewardship strategies, resulting in increased donor engagement and giving. Additionally, demonstrate the potential return on investment by showcasing success stories, data on improved donor retention rates, and examples of organizations that have benefited from strategic portfolio management.

Better portfolio management leads to better results

At the heart of fundraising is a mission-driven cause to make a difference. Tap into the human nature of your donor relationships by adopting a donor-centric approach to portfolio management. Documented processes and procedures and a well-planned tech stack can help you not only retain but grow valued donor connections and build a strong, sustainable pipeline for years to come. 

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