Manage Fundraising Budgets, Personnel Resources and Productivity

Very few organizations have the luxury to spend uncontrollably without consideration of revenue, donations, or income.  Typically, executives are held accountable to make decisions that drive financial growth while containing and often reducing costs.

The two cost containment options available for fundraising organizations are difficult and painful: hiring or firing.  Cutting costs while increasing income is a double edge sword for both options and can wreak havoc on your fundraising strategy.

The option to hire more people with the goal to generate more dollars competes with the mission to reduce costs. Upfront hiring expenses such as onboarding combined with lack of experience does not translate nor guarantee rapid financial returns.

The decrease staff option – either through attrition or the agonizing process of layoffs- meets the requirement to reduce costs. However, the remaining gift officers will most likely suffer from morale issues and uncertainty coupled with the overwhelming task of connecting with a much larger pool of prospective donors.

Universities need to maximize the gift officer talent they have before adding expensive new talent or indiscriminately cutting jobs.  Providing gift officers with unbiased insights to their prospect portfolio so they can focus on those prospective donors that are most likely to give, maximizes gift officers time and effort and ability to generate donations.

Many tools can be used to help Gift Officers succeed.  Here are a few must haves:

  1. CRM – A well-organized CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) where gift officers can manage their portfolios and have a view to prospective donor information.  The CRM must be designed for consistent capturing of prospect information and gift officer interaction with potential donors.  The processes by which gift officers and managers utilize the CRM must be well defined and tie into the processes used to cultivate donors. Although some flexibility is necessary, the CRM should require consistent entries across fields and stages.  Developing the CRM requires a strong cooperative relationship between BI (Business intelligence) and fundraising management.  Read More

  2. Training – All the data tools in the world will not help without proper system and soft skills training. Soft skills utilize gift officers’ communication talents and ability to engage and interact with prospects. Many organizations have a protocol for gift officers to follow throughout the donation cycle.  Often it will be a script which has a ‘flow chart’ of next steps dependent on prospects responses.

    Systems training needs to pair with the purpose and processes used to achieve donations.  Once again, this is a cooperative effort between BI teams and Fundraising teams.    BI teams need to have in place tools (CRM, Pipeline 360, Contact Scoring) that will help gift officers track progress, information and provide information as they continue to engage existing and new contacts. And they must collaborate with Fundraising to provide specific detailed use practices. Gift officers need to be trained to use the available systems properly; updating stages, filling in fields, documenting activities, so they can effectively manage a pipeline and managers have more consistent view.

  3. Effective Data Management – Not all data warehouses or data lakes are created equal. Regardless of the capabilities, size, and number of data sources associated with your storage repository, usability is the most important characteristic. Clean, up-to-date data will pay dividends and save many headaches in the long run. A clean central repository is free of duplicates and uses unique identifiers in each data set. Generally, historical information is stored effectively in fact tables, somewhere easily joined back onto a tidy dimension table. Maintaining clean data is best left to an experienced data manager.

  4. Portfolio360 – Provide gift officer with the greatest opportunity to be successful by ensuring focus on most likely donors and reducing misspent time on unlikely prospects. Flat data found in the CRM and data warehouse lack the additional insight artificial intelligence and machine learning delivers.  Adding a dimensional view to prospects, allows gift officers to focus their attention based on unbiased, precise, data driven opportunity probabilities. This is the single most impactful tool to maximize staff productivity.

  5. Dynamic Contact Scoring – Timing can mean the difference between success and failure.  Prospective donors’ interest levels ebb and flow. Dynamic contact scores are updated daily to reflect changes in your data that point to increased prospect interest. Often people who are not on anyone’s radar and are being missed.  Putting highly qualified leads in the hands of experienced gift officers can reap large rewards.

Between using the best tools for the job and applying discipline to fundraising practices, fundraising organizations can maximize current donation efforts and are best positioned to weather even the harshest economic storms.