What’s the Right Portfolio Size?

by Erik Rogers, Chief Strategist Major Gifts Services Dunham+Company

Are you striving to build a solid infrastructure for your organization, specifically around your major gift development program? If so, the size of your portfolio matters.

In order to evaluate the proper number of donors in your portfolio, let’s explore four unique portfolios we help build out here at D+C:

1. The Developing Portfolio

The Developing Portfolio is your first step to establishing a solid core.

This portfolio includes a few more donors than normal, somewhere between 175 and 225, who can be cultivated by a new staff member or someone in your organization learning a development role. As you explore these relationships, gauging the donor’s interest and capacity, you’ll build a solid foundation from which to take the next step.

More often than not, you’ll run into donors who are nonresponsive, not the right fit, or perhaps their alignment with your organization isn’t quite as deep as you thought it was.

Eventually, these 175 to 225 donors will be whittled down to a smaller, more manageable number of engaged partners in your mission.

2. The Developed Portfolio

At this point, your Developing Portfolio of 175 to 225 donors is likely culled down into a Developed Portfolio of about 150 to 200. This typically belongs to a senior officer or someone who’s been doing the job for a number of years. You’ve cultivated a large group of donors who you know are responsive and interested in a relationship with you.

I’m often asked, “Shouldn’t you have more than 200 people just to make it worth your time, a good return on investment?”

The answer is that it all comes down to maintaining healthy relationships. Personally, I’ve never seen anyone capable of managing more than about 200 people. There isn’t enough time in the day to spend with that many donors, giving them your full attention.

3. The Senior Leadership Portfolio

Sometimes a person in charge of the development program, the chief operating officer or even a vice president of advancement, desires to have a portfolio, but they wear many hats and can’t spend 100% of their time with a portfolio.

In this situation, you’re going to have a portfolio size between 90 and 125, honing in on the donors you feel are the most engaged, with the greatest interest and capacity.

4. The Executive Team and/or the Founder of the Organization Portfolio

You’ll often find that certain core donors want to spend time with the ‘head honcho,’ the founder, president or CEO. In that case, you’re going to need a very manageable portfolio!

Typically, this would consist of 25 to 50 of some of your top donors who might even feel more like friends. These often include board members who are local and spend time with your organization.

The size of your portfolio allows you to put the proper foundation in place for building a solid infrastructure… ultimately leading to more impact!

For more tips on building a solid infrastructure for your organization around your major gift development program, be sure to check out my Dunham Institute Course.


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Ready to take the next step? 
Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.