Making Portfolio Strategy Meetings Count

  • Published June 27, 2022
  • / By Sarah Clough

When approaching portfolio strategy meetings between a gift officer and prospect development, there is no one way to conduct the meeting. Your agenda and objectives may vary depending on the size of your team, responsibilities of team members, tools or resources available, team-wide goals or initiatives, and your organizational culture.

As you frame your approach, think about what outcomes you want from these meetings. Are your goals to:

  • Monitor progress?
  • Provide accountability?
  • Foster collaboration?
  • Maintain prospect data?
  • Uncover challenges?
  • Identify which prospect plans may benefit from a prospect strategy session?
  • Reaffirm new policies, procedures, or training concepts?
  • Provide a clear view of the gift officer’s pipeline?
  • Present new prospects?
  • Pinpoint where additional research may be needed?
  • Proactively identify tasks or requests that will be entering your queue?

Your agenda may even vary from meeting to meeting, with a guiding focus for each quarter or meeting cycle. Determine what you want to achieve during those meetings and why. Your desired outcomes should guide how you develop the agenda.

Here are some agenda items to consider:

  • Review of dashboards/reports
    Utilize the tools gift officers and gift officer managers are using on a regular basis to monitor progress and next steps. Using resources familiar to them is often a better solution than creating another report or action step. Provide a snapshot view of their portfolio and highlight areas of strength and/or where they may benefit from additional support. Determine what story these tools are telling and how that narrative impacts the gift officer’s key performance indicators.

  • Housekeeping
    No one loves it, but it’s necessary. Some teams prefer to tackle these tasks outside of the portfolio review cycle – do what works best for everyone! Regardless of when this conversation happens, it is a good idea to review past due or missing next steps, past due or looming ask dates, unrated prospects, prospects without a defined strategy or plan, etc. It is also important to follow up on information or news alerts that have been passed along to the gift officer.

  • Hurdles
    Taking time to discuss obstacles and brainstorm potential solutions can be very impactful. Where is that gift officer stuck? Which priorities are slower to gain traction and how could prospect development help identify potential prospects for those priorities? What strategies or tactics do they need to talk through to push through barriers – in the moment or in a separate prospect strategy meeting? With which prospects are they struggling to get a return email or call? What prospect plans might benefit from a strategy meeting that includes a broader team?

  • Rotating topics
    You may choose to rotate key topics throughout the year to preserve time and focus attention on timely matters. These may include reviewing prospects with lapsed contact, determining annual planning priorities, reviewing the gift officer’s portfolio plan, or providing or receiving updates on special projects. Also consider including a quick refresher if a new policy, procedure, or training initiative has rolled out since your last meeting.

  • Pipeline
    Determine how soon and from which constituencies the gift officer may need additional prospects to fill out their portfolio. If the gift officer is actively engaging with their portfolio and has holes to fill, prospect development may provide newly identified prospects to fill those gaps. However, new prospects should only be presented when appropriate. If the gift officer is struggling to meet or engage with the prospects already in their portfolio, adding more to the list may not be the right move at this time. Proceed thoughtfully.  

  • Upcoming travel/engagement plans
    Be proactive! Get a sense for where the gift officer intends to travel in the coming weeks or months, what big events or donor visits they have coming up, and what prospecting or research needs they might have as they prepare for those activities.

Most importantly, solicit feedback and remain flexible. Gift officers, their managers, and prospect development should be engaged in determining the objectives of portfolio strategy meetings. The time spent on these meetings should be beneficial to all who attend and seen as a valuable activity. Regularly checking in on whether these meetings are still fulfilling defined objectives will ensure all parties remain on the right track.

Portfolio strategy meetings done well foster collaboration, affirm next steps, and support goal achievement. Going into these meetings with defined objectives and a clear agenda ensures everyone at the table comes out feeling set up for success and ready to tackle next steps.

Want to learn more about optimizing your prospect management program? Read Return on Effort: The significance of prospect management. Explore our specialized prospect services and counsel.