4 Secrets to a Successful Fundraising Portfolio Review

It’s about that time. You’re wrapping up the end of year fundraising frenzy and looking at what the new year may bring. It’s a perfect chance to review your fundraising portfolios and adjust as needed. 

According to Blackbaud data, the perfect fundraising portfolio is 120 prospects or less. With this limited number, each one needs to count.  

Does your portfolio have enough short-term potential to meet this year’s goal? Is there a balance between cultivation stages? What changes have prospects experienced in the past year? What are your organization’s long-term strategic goals and how does philanthropy support those? 

This is an opportunity for your data to shine. If you have access to analytics, this is the time to reexamine the results! But if not, your fundraising solution should include some type of data insights, like wealth ratings, next ask amounts, or giving trends. This information is a perfect starting place to take a fresh look at all your supporters and their assignments.  

Resist the urge to keep ‘the regulars’ in your portfolio just because they’ve always been there. Use your available data to make room in your portfolio for discovery. Even development officers with well-established portfolios of your most involved stakeholders should include discovery prospects to keep the pipeline moving, replenishing, and countering your natural donor and giving value attrition. 

There may also be donors who still belong in a portfolio, but maybe not yours. It’s possible that changes for the donor or the organization dictate a realignment.  Being donor-centered and consistent may be the best strategic fit but if not, make certain that the baton hand off is a smooth one for your colleague and more importantly the donor.   

Here are a few of my tips to getting the most out of your annual portfolio review:  

1. Dig Into the Data

If you have predictive modeling results, that is the best place to start (and if you don’t, put it on the wish list for next year!). Knowing the prospects with both the capacity and likelihood to make a major gift to your organization is gold. I like to combine this with a three-year giving history to see if there are prospects who are trending up or down in terms of their gift size. 

Next, the data from affluence personas is a great indicator of prospects ripe for discovery. Someone who is a philanthropist and has given for the past three years – even at a modest level – may be worth researching further.  

Finally, I consider the giving level possibility with either a next ask amount or target gift range. There’s always someone who hasn’t given much, but the capacity is there, so I want to know their story. Again, my entire goal is making sure that I am maximizing the precious 120 spots in the portfolio. 

Find out how data insights can help your organization.  

2. Look at Macro Trends. 

You should always consider events and trends, but it is especially timely after the upheaval of 2020-2021. For example, Fortune says the wealthy are getting wealthier. Is that what your data shows? Should you adjust your strategy and aspirational solicitation level? 

The pandemic also propelled many to reexamine their values and aligned causes, driving in many cases towards their active philanthropy. Does your data reveal any of these shifts among your assigned prospects? Can you use this insight to better line up these changes with your organizations needs to inspire a proposal that’s more meaningful? 

3. Ensure your Portfolio Reflects your Organization’s Strategic Plan

You have 120 spots in your portfolio to help your organization meet its goals. It is easy to get so focused on meeting your own KPIs that you lose sight of the big picture. Part of your portfolio review is looking at how well the prospects’ priorities match your organization’s priorities. For example, if your organization’s top priority this year is a capital project, focus on adding prospects whose persona indicates they are interested in this type of gift.  

That said, you should be confident that you can reach your goals with your portfolio. Look at your prospects, their giving levels, and how long you’ve been working with them. Assign dollar values and work the algebra to see if you’ll have enough visits, proposals planned, dollars raised, etc. 

4. Set Yourself Up for Success

Your next steps are just as important as building the perfect portfolio. Once you have settled on your 120 best prospects, update the prospect management section of your fundraising software. Let your CRM help you manage, track, and report your work.  Set open actions for each qualified prospect to ensure you meet your proposal, visit or touchpoint goals. Lay out a plan for the fiscal year that you can review with your manager on a consistent schedule. You’re working with people, so your plan will likely change, but consistent reviews will make sure you’re able to quickly pivot. 

An annual comprehensive portfolio review is a time to truly reflect and as a team review those individuals who today and tomorrow will have the most significant impact on your organization.  With one eye to today’s priorities and one eye to tomorrow’s, you’ll find a balance that best serves your organization.  Plus, with disciplined tracking and analysis, you’ll be a more effective and efficient team. 

Your annual portfolio review is key to successful, disciplined, and effective major gift fundraising.  It’s a collective process that not only can reinforce your work as a team (it’s a collective effort to reach your goals), a well-managed portfolio review process also provides time to balance your daily work with the longer view towards sustainability and continued vitalization.  As major gifts become increasingly vital to every organization – no matter your dollar definition of ‘major’ – the process of growing your organization’s financial stability can hinge on a healthy, sustainable prospect management program.