Optimizing Your Fundraising Portfolio for Major Gift Success

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If you are a frontline fundraiser, you likely have a portfolio (and if you don’t, you should!). It’s the group of donors you are responsible for shepherding through the relationship management or moves management cycle, from qualification through stewardship.


While it’s a simple concept, many of our clients’ staff members have portfolios that are the wrong size, made up of the wrong people, or poorly balanced across relationship management stages.


In this article, I will share strategies to optimize portfolios and overcome these common challenges. I’ll also share how Beam Insights, our fundraising planning software, can make this process easier and more effective. 


Assessing Your Portfolio Composition

The size of your portfolio depends on how much time you have available to focus on building relationships with donors. A full-time major gift officer with no management or other responsibilities should have a portfolio of about 125.


At most organizations, portfolios will be made up entirely of identified prospects, whose giving demonstrates a combination of recency and affinity. This contrasts with future prospects, who may possess great wealth but lack a clear connection to your organization. Well-resourced organizations may have some bandwidth to include future prospects in portfolios, working to establish that clear connection.


Ensure that each slot in your portfolio is filled with someone who is capable of (or you suspect is capable of) giving a major gift and will make their best gift through personalized cultivation. It’s easy to keep a faithful fan who gives at the same personal maximum level year after year in your portfolio. But ask yourself: how likely is their gift to change if they were not holding that valuable slot in your portfolio?


Beam Insights can make this analysis straightforward and data-driven. The software segments individuals into prospects and future prospects and assigns them a single capacity measure. You can view all your assignments with simple filtering and leverage this information to develop a better understanding of the true composition of your portfolio.

Rebalancing Your Portfolio

If you find that you have space to add, review the list of prospects (in descending order by capacity) who are not assigned to a gift officer at your organization. And if you are overburdened, consider cutting those with lower capacity or those who haven’t increased their gift despite persistent effort.


In addition to its optimal size, a balanced portfolio has an appropriate mix of prospect stages. There is no hard and fast rule here, but a nascent major gift program will typically have a larger share of prospects in qualification—perhaps as high as 50%—as compared to a mature program.


At the other end of the relationship management cycle, it’s important to avoid managing too many prospects in stewardship. Instead, embrace the dynamic nature of portfolios and focus on someone who appears closer to making a major gift.


Beam Insights includes all of these fields: capacity, prospect assignments, total giving, prospect stages, and more. You can filter, sort, and export your view, with prospect IDs that make it easy to update your portfolio in your database. All the data in Beam Insights is updated consistently so that you have the latest information to support an informed decision…until next quarter when you should do it all over again!


As a major gift officer, your achievements are directly tied to managing individuals who have capacity and inclination to give. Don’t just “trust your gut”—incorporate rigorous portfolio reviews and tools like Beam Insights, which will help you make informed decisions that will lead to improved results.


Katelyn Martin

Katelyn Martin is a Senior Consultant at Campbell & Company, with a primary focus in arts & culture philanthropy. She works to identify opportunities to leverage strategic use of data and communications.