Prioritize These Capabilities in Principal Gifts Fundraising

Prioritize These Capabilities in Principal Gifts Fundraising

For those institutions embarking on a campaign or launching a major fundraising initiative, an effective principal gifts program can be crucial for achieving success. This is particularly true as campaign and funding goals continue to escalate.  

To attain these goals, fundraising leaders must develop robust capabilities and performance metrics to plan, execute, and evaluate their principal gift programs. Gaining a deep understanding of the size and scope of principal gift opportunities is just the beginning. Establishing systems and processes to evaluate activity on all principal gift conversations is essential, considering the lengthy lead times involved in securing gifts of this magnitude. 

By actively monitoring qualification, cultivation, and solicitation progress for each potential principal gift, organizations can take timely action, seize opportunities, and adjust strategies to optimize performance. 

Understand Your Prospect Pool 

Organizations need access to key data, reporting capabilities, and dedicated staffing to understand the structure of their prospect pool over time. Prospect pools can experience healthy growth in their gift capacity each year, particularly for organizations that consistently add new constituents to their database, such as alumni, donors, members, and other individuals.  

Fundraising leaders must invest in critical functions to assess and comprehend their prospect pools. 

  • Wealth screening involves analyzing available asset types and values to identify individuals with high giving potential based on wealth ratings and other indicators. Wealth screening can be done internally or outsourced to specialized firms. 
  • Gift capacity estimations evaluate the giving capacity of prospects by combining the results of wealth screening with additional factors such as philanthropic interests, past giving history, and level of engagement to prioritize prospects and gain a better understanding of their potential for major and principal gifts.  
  • Prospect Research provides insights into the giving potential of prospects using historical giving and affinity indicators. This information helps leaders gain a deeper understanding of a prospect’s likelihood to give and informs cultivation strategies.  
  • Prospect pool analysis enables prospect tracking and elucidates the growth of the prospect pool over time. Organizations need reliable prospect data, reporting tools, and dedicated staff to monitor progress, identify trends, and generate insights for effective decision-making. Regular analysis and reporting help fundraising teams stay informed about the progress and performance of their prospect pool. 

With an understanding of the prospect pool and data-driven strategies, organizations can focus on the most promising prospects and enhance their overall fundraising outcomes. 

Use Growth Scenarios to Set Goals 

Developing growth scenarios and engaging in scenario planning helps organizations anticipate and prepare for future possibilities, ensuring they make informed decisions and investments to achieve their fundraising goals.  

Among many benefits, growth scenarios help organizations to do the following: 

  • Learn from historical data, using past fundraising growth to forecast future scenarios. 
    This data identifies trends, patterns, and opportunities to grow fundraising revenue in alignment with the available prospect pool and helps to align the organization’s aspirations with the gift capacity of the available prospect pool. 
  • Allocate and invest resources strategically.
    By exploring different scenarios and considering the actions and investments required to achieve fundraising goals, leaders can identify resource gaps, assess the need for additional staffing or infrastructure, and allocate resources to maximize fundraising success. 
  • Maximize aspirations.
    Understanding the potential for fundraising growth, campaign pyramid expansion, and prospect pool development allows leaders to assess whether their aspirations align with the current capacity of their prospect pool. 
Reduce Friction in the Pipeline 

Prospect development professionals and gift officers must be diligent in curating and categorizing prospect data, including prospect strategy descriptions, contact reports, complete and accurate proposal data, and progress on next steps and future actions. 

Maintaining data fields for planned proposals (such as the projected solicitation date, solicitation amount, and expected closure date) along with data fields for existing proposals (solicitation date, award amount, and award date) can provide valuable insights into your portfolios and reveal steps you can take to reduce friction within the prospect pipeline.  

  • Develop comprehensive prospect reports.
    Create a suite of reports that provide visibility into the pool of principal gift prospects, including their status, activity or inactivity, and active proposals. These reports should identify any bottlenecks, as well as the need to proactively adjust strategies. 
  • Regularly review prospect activity.
    Review and discuss prospects that have shown no activity within a specific period with the gift officer; address inattention or ineffective strategies, then work with gift officers and their supervisors to determine next steps. This could involve updating the prospect strategy or reassigning the prospect to another member of the team. With a process in place, leadership has a clear understanding of where progress is stalled and intervention is needed. 
  • Define proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. 
    Looking ahead is important for estimating the current and future pipeline and setting realistic goals for the organization. Anticipating proposals to be pursued, leadership can align their expectations, allocate resources accordingly, and determine which gift officers who are on track to meet their proposal goals for the year (as well as those who may need additional support). This ensures that efforts are focused on prospects with the highest potential and allows the organization to plan for proposals to be delivered in the following fiscal year. 


Altogether, these capabilities lay the groundwork for achieving substantial, sustainable growth in your principal gifts program. As you prioritize each within your fundraising team, you can position and prepare your organization to attract gifts that are truly transformative.  

Juan Garcia, Senior Vice President, leads the Analytics and Advancement Services practice areas at GG+A, with more than 20 years of experience in advancement operations strategy, campaign planning, business development, strategic planning and implementation, prospect development, and information management. To connect with Juan about your institution’s analytics or campaign planning needs, email jgarcia@grenzglier.com 

For more from our consultants on how your organization can prepare for and attract transformational gifts, download our playbook, Transformational Giving: Keys to Unlock Principal Gifts. 

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About the author

Juan Garcia

Senior Vice President

Juan Garcia is the Senior Vice President and Practice Area Leader for Analytics and Advancement Services at GG+A, where he provides expertise to the firm’s Advancement Leadership Forum (ALF) and consults with clients in areas such as donor analytics, advancement services performance improvement, program data analysis, comparative data studies, strategic…