The Weekend Briefing

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“Rats!  I forgot about Ed’s party. It’s really important to him and I blew it. How do I make it up to him so he knows I am truly sorry?”
“Omigosh, Valentine’s Day is Friday! I really like this person. What do I do? I want to express how I feel, but not go overboard!”
“It’s been a week since my interview and I haven’t heard. Does it look pushy to follow up?”
That, my friends, is moves management. We practice the concept every day with relationships great and small in our personal lives yet we sometimes struggle when it comes to the relationships we have, or that we hope to have, with our donors.
Moves management, like most everything in our work, is not impossible to practice well. But there are some guideposts we need to follow.
The objective of a visit is not simply getting the visit, right? We need to write down exactly what we hope to accomplish each time. Well, the same is true about moves management. What do we want to happen with this person or this couple? What’s our goal? Do we want to discern their capacity to make a gift? Make them feel appreciated for the gift they made?
Most often, moves management is the process (I guess you can call it the journey) by which we are strengthening the relationship we have with this donor, and them with our organization, to the time when they are most highly disposed to consider the gift we think they are capable of making.
I use the example of a tree stump. Our relationship with the prospective donor starts out at the edge of the stump, near the bark. We want to chart a path (not all at once, but always toward the goal) of bringing the prospect to the center, to their best consideration of our ask.
A side point: Remember, there are three relationships we have with each donor. Who will be the asker? That’s the person the prospect will have the most difficult time saying “no” to, but also the person who can ask most effectively and do so at the time the ask should happen.
The prime is the person at the organization with whom the prospective donor feels the closest relationship. The manager is the development officer who makes sure the right things happen at the right time.
The development officer can assume the role of the asker and the prime, if appropriate. The prospect manager is always the person who keeps the moves management process for a prospective donor current. In other words, never have your CEO or board member responsible for this. They have too much else on their plate.
It’s disappointing to encounter the occasional curmudgeon who insists moves management is manipulative of donors. Do we think donors are clueless about what we do for a living? If we look to keep the donor’s wishes and priorities uppermost in mind, developing the relationship for the purpose we began it is not manipulative in the least.
To me, the essence of moves management is the simple old “Last Action, Next Action.” What happened last and what do we want to happen next? Always enter those at the very same time you write the Call Report (in other words, right away) and always limit yourself to two “Next Actions” because things can change and your next step with the donor might need to be reevaluated.
The biggest mistake we make in moves management is not staying current with the upcoming Next Actions for those we manage. That should be reviewed each week as the lead “To-Do’s” for the following week.
Another aside: The prospects you are managing constitute the donors or prospective donors in your “portfolio.” (It’s just the word most gift officers use, you can call it anything you like.) But those are the relationships you are responsible for stewarding, for managing, and you must keep up with them.
This may sound silly to you, but there are many, many development shops that have never taken the time to create portfolios; in other words, to determine which donors or prospective donors need to be included in moves management. It’s one of the most basic concepts, really, but you’d be amazed how many shops don’t know who their Top 40 are, or who the Top 40 for each gift officer responsible for making visits are. It’s more of a shotgun approach of “who should we try next?” and it’s far less effective than the process we’re discussing tonight.
Only put “Last Action/Next Action” in one place. Period. Can “Last Action/Next Action” take the place of a proper Call Report? Never.
What to include in a proper Call Report? You can find that on the website. Just click on The Weekday Blog and go digging a few pages back.
The concept of, and term “moves management” was developed by G.T. “Buck” Smith and David Dunlop, two pioneers in our field. Smith began his career at Cornell in 1960 and was VP for development at the College of Wooster from 1962-1977, when he became president of Chapman University. Mr. Dunlop spent his entire career at Cornell and wrote extensively in the field. We owe them our thanks.
In summary, moves management allows us to have a focus, a purpose with the relationships we are building with our donors. Just like with a personal relationship, solid moves management says “This is how I want to sustain our relationship with this person. This is how I hope it can grow.”
Have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings coaches gift officers, consults on capital campaigns and helps nonprofit organizations build strong, sustainable fundraising programs. You can reach him at

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