coffee with friends

Quality not quantity

Trust fundraising and donor allocations


Back in February I presented at Fundraising Everywhere as part of their monthly webinar series for members.

After the training, I hung around in the chatbox with a couple of participants.  Huge thanks to Rebecca and Helen for such an interesting conversation and for inspiring this post about donor allocations.


How many prospects make the perfect portfolio?


Trust (and major gifts) fundraisers (what I define as ‘high value’) typically manage an ‘allocation’ or portfolio of supporters to nurture.  If you’re new to your role, you’ll either be given an existing portfolio, assuming the charity has a long-standing high value programme, or you’ll need to start from scratch.

When I first learned trusts fundraising, from the brilliant Bill Bruty, he advised that an allocation of 50 trusts is an appropriate number for a full-time fundraiser.

This assumes a mixed portfolio small local trusts, large national funders, existing donors and cold prospects yet to be researched.

For major gift fundraisers focusing on top prospects with the potential to give six or seven figures gifts, an allocation of 30 or fewer is generally thought of as a suitable number.


Just being greedy….


I once started a new job, with 400 trusts and potential major donors in my allocation!!!  My predecessor had run two capital appeals in very quick succession and as a regional fundraising manager had more prospects than other colleagues in similar roles (to help her meet these appeal targets).

400 though?!

One of my immediate priorities was to reduce this to a more manageable number.

It is my observation that most fundraisers will err on the side of keeping someone in their allocation on the off chance they might become a good prospect in the future, rather than freeing up space to nurture a relationship which is more likely to produce results.

A recent Twitter poll where I asked trust fundraisers to disclose ‘how many do you have in your allocation, of 33 responses:

  • 42% had 10 to 50
  • 33% had 51 to 100
  • 25% had over 100

So that’s less than half of fundraisers with the recommended number.

We all know that spreading ourselves too thin and trying to do too much never works.  ALL of you I’m sure would choose coffee with a friend over hundreds of instaram likes.  I’m going to accept that you all would also agree with me that a more manageable allocation will likely lead to:


  • better relationships
  • more regular and higher gifts
  • a less stressed, more focused fundraiser.


Here are some things to consider if you think you might need to let go of a few relationships but are worried about saying goodbye completely.


  1. Re-distribute


Is there someone else in your organisation who might be better place to manage a donor or prospect who you think probably shouldn’t be in your allocation?

Just because you’ve not had success, they might be a better prospect for someone covering a different geographical area or managing a different project.


  1. Clean your data


Many CRM databases will charge you according to how many records you have.

Therefore, you should ensure that all prospects on your database are fully researched, qualified and have an action plan (this is also a requirement relating to major donors and GDPR – don’t add names to your database then leave them without moving those relationships forwards).

You can always keep a separate spreadsheet of charitable trusts who are not prospects (to ensure you don’t repeat research).


  1. Get honest, brutal and go nuclear


Just because someone is rich, it does not make them a good prospect for your charity.  Especially if you’ve tried to engage with them several times.

If you’ve:

  • invited them to events and they’ve not attended (or even RSVP’ed)
  • made at least three applications (and received zero response)
  • failed to secure a meeting
  • exhausted all possible connections
  • failed miserably in your follow-up attempts after they attended on event, years ago


Leave them alone, and focus on those who are giving (because more than likely, they are the people who can and will give more, if only you would make more time for them.


How many do you think is an appropriate number?

What stops you from being brave and streamlining your portfolio?


Need a framework to help you craft a suitable sized portfolio?

All of this and more is available in Trust the Process, our online trust fundraising training programme. 

Trust the Process will be available later this year.  You can find out more here.



Posted in Major gift fundraising, Trust fundraising.