Handover of Major Donors

I was discussing with a client today about the very awkward subject of handing over Major Donors.   It is a common occurrence that inevitably Major Gift Executives move on or perhaps need to leave for maternity leave or sickness and hence the difficult process of planning handover begins.  If you have a consistent plan for a Major Donor on your Relationship Chart leading towards an Ask this must be adjusted to allow for the handover as soon as possible.

If you are able to hand over a relationship to someone within the organisation rather than a new recruit this is the most ideal scenario.  You can begin to include them in touch points immediately and familiarise them with the plan.   However, it is most likely that you need to hand the baton to someone new.  You need to plan for this on your chart.

Example:  If you are planning to leave in February and the new person is starting in February, on your monthly Relationship Chart you cannot plan for Asks in March and April, even if you know the Major Donor well and right now consider these are the best months for the Ask.    You will have to move them further along the monthly touch point plan.  A new person needs time to be inducted, understand the organisation and get to know the donor so all Asks have to be moved forward by at least four months minimally even if the donor is very warm to your organisation.

Any time a Major Gifts Executive leaves even temporarily, there is a loss in income.  However, there are ways around this:

  • Introduce your Major Donor to everyone in your team and your Directors.   In this way the Major Donor is familiar with lots of people not just you.  This should be standard practise for everyone on your caseload.   The best time to do this is when they visit your office;  add it into the visit schedule
  • In an ideal situation, there would be other Major Gifts Executives (or even one!) who can take the warmest Major Donors on your caseload; a new person could then take those that need more cultivation and work on new prospects.
  • This is another reason why I always suggest recruiting two Major gifts Executives at the same time:  they train together, share experiences and offer support, can takeover the other’s caseload if needed

There is no easy answer for handover but you certainly need to think about it and plan for it rather than just hoping it will be ok.  It could be that you can include your colleague on a phone call and have them explain some aspects about the project that the Major Donor is interested in.  They can accompany you on a visit and take part of the meeting.  If you set it up so that they talk about an aspect of your mission, they can then send a follow up e-mail on that subject and gradually build a rapport with your donor.

Handover is never easy and inevitably loses income.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I do know you have to plan early!   As a Major Gifts Executive, if you are planning to leave start those handover plans immediately.

What has been your experience?  Let me know what has worked well and what you think should be avoided……………….

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

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