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Robert Martin

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Prospect Management, The Way the Big Boys Triple Their Income

Editor's Note: Although the specifics of this article apply directly to larger institutions, the concepts/techniques are adaptable for organizations of all sizes.

With a donor database of approximately 40,000 alumni and friends, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga recognizes that it is impossible to personally cultivate each of those potential donors, on any regular basis, in any time frame.

So, to ensure ongoing effective contact with our major gifts prospects, our development office, including close to 50 professional development directors, and many more support personnel, uses our own version of the moves management process. (For smaller annual gifts we rely on direct mail and phonathons.)

To determine our best major gifts prospects we have used a variety of ratings methods: giving history and peer review, plus commercial firms that specialize in prospect research. And our Development staff regularly reviews this information and updates prospect "files."

Each development director is responsible for 100 prospects, each of whom must have been researched by the research staff and determined to have a minimum gift potential of $25,000.

The primary guideline for the process is that the majority of prospects in a development director's portfolio be in the six-figure and up range.

The 100 major gift prospects in each "portfolio" are typically divided as follows: Sixty "A"-prospects -- those being cultivated to ask for a gift within 12 months; Thirty "B"-prospects -- cultivated for a possible ask within 18 to 24 months; and, Ten "suspects" -- new prospects that have been identified through the screening process, but have not yet shown significant interest in the university.

Each major gifts development director must meet the following minimum annual performance requirements:

  • 120 meaningful prospect visits annually (meaningful is defined to mean moving the donor towards a gift);
  • 250+ personal contacts with major gifts donors each year;
  • A minimum of $1 million in Gifts-Closed;
  • Identify and contact 10 new major gifts prospects each year; and,
  • Keep top 50 prospects informed, interested and involved with a minimum of five-contacts-each per year.

Prospect contact reports are done in the ANDI system (named after former UT President, Dr. Andy Holt), the alumni and development software. These reports, via the central system, are available for further review and update by other members of the development staff.

ANDI can be accessed from any campus, or from the web -- for the traveling Development Director. It contains a variety of information on all prospects:

  • all contact reports;
  • reason for and result of each contact;
  • type of contact -- such as visit, phone, letter, email, etc.;
  • name, address, phone, email, spouse;
  • giving history, including gifts and pledges;
  • degree information for alumni;
  • to whom the prospect is assigned;
  • place of employment and job title;
  • if they are currently an A prospect, B prospect, or a suspect; and,
  • where the prospect is in the cultivation process: introduction, cultivation, solicitation, or stewardship; and,
  • the stage of proposal development: (strategy, proposal development, delivery or follow-up).

ANDI is capable of producing a range of reports to assist development staff -- reports that are also used, in one-on-one meetings of the Development Director and the Assistant Vice Chancellor, to track activity with assigned prospects.

Data on delivered proposals, those pending -- and when they expect to close on these pending proposals (their follow-up strategies) -- are also documented and tracked by ANDI. We also review the prospect visit schedule for the upcoming month. When a development director travels, the research coordinator is also responsible for giving them names of other suspects or prospects to call on.

Annually, all major gifts directors must review their prospect list with the Assistant Vice-Chancellor, and with the research coordinator, to former, to report on current prospects, and the latter, to identify new ones.

This method of major-gift-fundraising-management has proven very effective for our University. In the last five years using this method, our gift totals have tripled, from just over $3 million to $9 million annually.

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