"In our business, we can't expect fundraisers to hit a home run their first time at bat," says Tom Maness, Associate Vice President for Annual, Major and Planned Giving at Children's Hospital Foundation in Washington, DC. "Rather, it takes a few swings, some misses and careful progress around the bases to win."
Maness knows—he's worked in fundraising for nearly twenty years, and has a special passion for coaching major gift officers. He relies on a tried-and-true analogy to help his people succeed. "I've been talking about gift cultivation in this way for so long that I actually don't recall if it was someone else's metaphor, or something I came up with on my own."
Maness likens the pursuit of major gifts to a game of baseball. As in baseball, gift officers are more likely to win points for the team when they're coached and measured during every stage of play. "Measuring key activity can help us see who is on their way to major league success, and who needs help," explains Maness. His metaphor for acquiring major gifts is "a helpful way to think about and monitor our overall program, as well as the activity of each officer."
1st base = Meeting and building rapport with the prospect. This can take several meetings, plus advice from a mentor with experience, before a player should head toward second base.
2nd base = Briefing the prospect. At this point, the officer shares information about a specific project or area that might fit the prospect's support.
3rd base = Asking the prospect for a specific gift
Home = Gift
This deceptively simple rubric helps Maness identify success in-progress, as well as situations where an officer might need an assist.