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5 Tips for Successfully Taking on a New Donor Portfolio

By Andrew Polter posted 02-23-2023 10:39


Taking on a new fundraising role can be equally exciting and daunting. You may be mentally prepared to hit the ground running, but here are five tips to consider before you start making those asks.  

1.    Get the Lay of the Land 

While your role may be responsible for developing relationships with donors, remember that building internal connections will be just as critical to your success. 

Take time to meet with your new teammates and understand how you fit within the group. What are their various roles and areas of expertise? How will you interact with them and when should you partner with specific individuals? 

Spend at least 30 minutes meeting with each person and start getting to know your new team members.
2.    Understand Your Priorities 

Successful fundraisers need to be equipped with knowledge and stories to share with their prospects. 

A good starting place to learn about your organization is its strategic plan, which should ideally lay out fundraising goals and priorities. You will also want to read your organization’s mission and vision statements. These documents can be helpful reference materials whenever you need to talk about specific areas of support and how donors can make meaningful investments in your organization.
3.    Assess the Portfolio 

If you’re joining an established fundraising program, you will likely inherit someone else’s portfolio. 

Set up an all-call team meeting to go over your portfolio and invite everyone to attend, from your Executive Director to your Coordinator. This is a chance for your team to share personal insights about your prospects and for you to understand where individuals are in the donor continuum. 

Were these prospects truly ready for an ask? Had they ever been seen before? Try to uncover as much information as possible during this initial session and agree upon next steps required for your newly inherited prospects.  

4.    Dial Away 

Now that you understand your organization’s priorities and have determined who is likely a qualified prospect, it’s time to hit the phone. 

Connect with your current donors first and secure visits to learn about their experiences with your organization. Ask them about why they choose to invest in your mission. Hearing their responses will teach you how to speak to others and communicate about what’s important to your constituents. 

Also, do not worry if you don’t know everything about your organization just yet. Remember, you can play the “new card” as much as you need during this period. Plus, it builds rapport to get back to someone after a visit and share that you did homework.
5.    Build Your Portfolio

Don’t get stuck in a cycle of only meeting with already-qualified individuals. 

A substantial portion of your work needs to be dedicated to building long-term sustainability. 

Yes, it’s important to maintain good relationships with donors after they have made their gift. However, you need to balance that time with uncovering new prospects who may have the desire to engage with your mission. 

Consistent qualification work will be your key to ensuring your personal and organizational long-term success. Start building good habits of continually introducing your mission to new individuals and adding them to your ever-growing group of institutional supporters.  
Begin With Good Habits

As the months go by and your new job begins to feel more like second nature, maintaining strong links to your portfolio of donors and internal partners will be critical to your continued success. 
Always keep a notebook handy whenever you have conversations and make sure to stay on top of entering your contact reports. Your future self will thank you for building good habits!