Donna Caputo
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Rounding the Bases for Major Gifts

"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.


Being able to see a scoreboard of activity, via a simple software dashboard, can help major gifts teams formulate strategies to win more gifts.

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At an organizational level, the program strives to ensure prospect portfolios are spread around the bases, maintaining giving at a relatively steady pace. With accountability for reaching fundraising goals, this information is simple, yet crucial, to understanding the health of the program. If everything in the pipeline is piled up on first base, we know we have a risk for our overall goals.

At an individual level, the information helps pinpoint where an officer might need help. Always getting tagged out at second base? The officer might be rushing into talking about the foundation programs before rapport is built on first base. Having trouble rounding second and getting to third? Perhaps the officer is uncertain about actually making an ask—a little coaching and help might be in order.

Being able to see a scoreboard of activity, via a simple software dashboard, can help major gifts teams formulate strategies to win more gifts. JCA helps organizations see their progress by building great visualizations and reports to support your unique approach to fundraising. 

Ask us how.

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