[APRA-NW] Virtual Roundtable for January: Relationship Management

Jessica S. Balsam jbalsam at uw.edu
Thu Jan 9 09:57:42 PST 2014

I could talk about this stuff all day long! Oh wait, I already do. ☺

UW has had an open cultivation policy for just over a decade. I wasn’t around when it was instituted, but my esteemed leader Susan Hayes-McQueen was. She and I have applied to do a presentation at APRA in Las Vegas about what we’ve learned in that decade about sharing prospects and building a more donor-centric model of relationship management.

Which is what we’re all alluding to here – how do we institute the policies and procedures that make a love match between a funding area (and fundraiser or volunteer) and a major donor? We in relationship management can have a lot of influence over this, which is the exciting part.

Assigning based on affinity, age, interest, where it intersects with the fundraiser’s strengths? We do some of that here. But here at UW that’s mostly done between the fundraiser and their supervisor. Maybe one of my researcher colleagues can chime in if they have made some assignment recommendations based on those factors.

How portfolio size influences cultivation time and major gift commitments? I would also love to know. But with fundraiser turnover happening every 2 to 5 years (that’s the national average, from what I’ve heard from BWF), it’s pretty hard to test.

How long to keep prospects in portfolios? We don’t concern ourselves with this, but we instead focus on proposal stages. We highly encourage our fundraisers to open a proposal record when the ask is approaching within 1 to 2 years, and then show them the days in stage every quarter for each of their proposals. This usually lights a fire under them to either move the solicitation forward, or drop it. In addition, if the fundraiser doesn’t remain in contact with the prospect at least once a year (so generous, we are!), we automatically drop their proposal. That having been said, though, we don’t have recommended stage lengths and I’ve been wondering if we should.


From: apra-nw-bounces at mailman2.u.washington.edu [mailto:apra-nw-bounces at mailman2.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Jon Garrow
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2014 5:21 PM
To: apra-nw at u.washington.edu
Subject: Re: [APRA-NW] Virtual Roundtable for January: Relationship Management

Great questions, Amanda! I have always been curious about the relationship between length of cultivation, portfolio size, and development officer success, e.g. does a bigger portfolio mean longer cultivation? Does more churn mean more gifts? Do great fundraisers perform well regardless of portfolio size? Scary things to test...

And Jess, has UW always had an open cultivation policy, or were you around when that happened? Anyone else? I have talked to a number of people (mainly at big, old universities) at organizations where units are allowed to hoard prospects indefinitely - how many undergrad psychology alumni are waiting decades to hear from a psychology DO, while they went on to work on Wall Street?
Jon Garrow
Sent from my iPad

On Jan 8, 2014, at 19:47, Amanda Jarman <amanda at amandajarman.net<mailto:amanda at amandajarman.net>> wrote:
Hey all,

I would be curious to hear if anyone is assigning fundraisers to portfolios based on anything other than region, school/unit/program, and/or capacity. Josh Birkholz has some fascinating ideas around assigning fundraisers by prospect demographic, e.g. Fundraiser A does well with young entrepreneurs, Fundraiser B does well with retirees, etc. I was never in a shop where that was feasible, mostly due to organizational structures. I am dying to hear if anyone out there has had a chance to experiment with this model.

I am also curious to hear folks' thoughts on appropriate length of stages/how long to keep folks in portfolios. I like what Cecilia had to say about "too rich to quit," and at the same time, am also wondering if any shops are trying to shorten cultivation periods (OHSU, I'm lookin' at you with that challenge gift!) A few years ago, I saw a presenter from Virginia Mason talk about their implementation of kaizen/lean methodologies, which led them to shorten their cultivation stage to something like 7 months (!) if I am remembering correctly.


On Wed, Jan 8, 2014 at 11:23 AM, Jessica S. Balsam <jbalsam at uw.edu<mailto:jbalsam at uw.edu>> wrote:
Hi everyone!

We’re just a few days away from screening a Relationship Management webinar in Seattle<http://apra-nw.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1092815&eventId=817696&EventViewMode=EventDetails>; it will be shown in Corvallis<http://apra-nw.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1092815&eventId=817702&EventViewMode=EventDetails> on Monday and in Portland<http://apra-nw.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1092815&eventId=815088&EventViewMode=EventDetails> on February 10th. So let’s chat about relationship management, shall we? I’ll start us off with a few questions, but please jump in with your own. Don’t forget to reply-all to the listserv.

Here’s a few questions to get us started. Please share your answers to one or all!

1) What’s the average portfolio size at your organization? Here at UW we made a major effort to reduce portfolio size and increase focus on higher-level prospects in summer 2011. Now that we’re two years in, we have an average portfolio size of 150 prospects (our prospects are householded and grouped with their family foundations). If we take out all our assistant-level fundraisers (who are focused on lower-level gifts), the average drops to 110. I wish it were even lower, but it’s a big improvement over the 200 and 300-prospect portfolios we used to have. And this leads into my next question…

2) How do fundraisers’ portfolios get populated? Here at UW, we have a strong culture of letting the fundraiser choose who goes into their portfolio (and who comes out). This is one way we carry out our open cultivation policy, where any prospect can be cultivated by any fundraiser. So we have all sorts of methods to encourage them to focus on the best prospects. I can extrapolate if people are interested.

3) How do you keep portfolios up to date? Here at UW we meet quarterly with each fundraiser to go over their portfolio and proposals. A researcher and a relationship management person (both from our team) go to the fundraiser’s office and meet with them for 30 minutes, collect updates, and then do the data entry or research when they get back to their desks. This is a major undertaking for our 150+ fundraisers; it takes about 5 weeks every quarter to get through all of them (with our staff of 4 FTE relationship management folks). But we find that it’s a great chance for us to remind them about policies and tease out missing information that we wouldn’t otherwise get. The fundraisers tell us that it’s a super valuable reminder of where they need to focus in the coming quarter.

What else is bugging you about relationship management/prospect management/tracking or whatever you call it at your organization? How to track the performance of corporate/foundation fundraisers? Planned gifts? How to get people to file contact reports? Ask away!


Jessica Balsam, President, APRA-NW
Associate Director, Relationship Management
University of Washington Advancement

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APRA-NW at u.washington.edu<mailto:APRA-NW at u.washington.edu>

Amanda Jarman
Fundraising Nerd

amanda at amandajarman.net<mailto:amanda at amandajarman.net>


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