Here’s what’s missing from moves management.

Something about the term moves management has always made me feel uneasy.

When I first heard the phrase I figured it was all about managing the moves fundraisers make to get donors to move forward in the decision-making process, and I was right.

Wikipedia says: Moves management is a term used primarily with the non-profit sector in relationship to donor development. It refers to the process by which a prospective donor is moved from cultivation to solicitation. “Moves” are the actions an organization takes to bring in donors, establish relationships, and renew contributions.

Taking my research one step further, I Googled “moves management metrics” and essentially found the following measures repeated over and over:

  • # of prospects identified
  • # of touches/contacts
  • # of discovery calls/visits conducted
  • # of cultivation calls/visits conducted
  • # of asks/solicitations
  • # of gifts closed
  • $ total dollars raised
  • # of stewardship calls/visits


So what’s missing? The donor!

In pretty much all of the articles I found about moves management and its accompanying metrics, it seemed like everything was focused on the fundraiser’s activities. Sadly, the following three essential elements were consistently absent:

  1. The donor’s consideration stage (according to the donor)
  2. Whether or not they are qualified (according to the donor’s reporting their passion, how they rank an organization compared to others, how important they feel the mission is, etc.)
  3. The quality of each engagement (according to the donor’s feedback after engaging with a fundraiser)


This is important because it takes two to tango.

It really doesn’t matter what moves you make if your donor hasn’t qualified themselves (opted-in for a deeper relationship with you, your organization, and its mission and shown that they have capacity, making them worthy of your time— which costs your organization money).

Additionally, you can’t decide what moves (actions) should be taken without first understanding where each donor resides in their consideration process. Their needs and interests will be much different when they are in the WHY stage compared to the HOW stage of their decision-making process. To be effective, you’ve got to align the content of your messages and the timing of them with your donors needs, not yours or your organizations’.

NOTE: If you want to take a deep dive into what you just read, you can learn a lot more about this here.


I think too many fundraisers are taught to do it the wrong way.

They let someone (perhaps their boss or a prospect researcher) or some algorithm decide which donors should be on their list and then off they go! They start making moves. And, too often they make those moves mostly to satisfy the quota of moves management metrics they’ve been assigned.

This is completely antithetical to donor-centricity. Rather, it’s fundraiser-centric and organization-centric. Not nice!


Why not try this instead?

Re-think what you’re doing! First, get their permission to be on your list. Ask them to opt-in.

We’ve found that the best, most cost-efficient, and effective way to do that is via a donor survey (when done right). You can learn all about conducting one here in this free report.

With a survey, you’ll allow supporters the opportunity to opt-in and self-qualify. Asking for their permission is simply the right thing to do! Plus, a survey will give them a chance to disclose where they reside in the consideration process and whether or not they are truly qualified to be on your caseload (so you can understand who is and who is not ready for and worthy of your outreach). That’ll save you time since people who are ready will respond while people who aren’t, won’t.


It’s a technology-enabled donor discovery tool!

In the old days, donor discovery was done on a one-at-a-time basis. But nowadays, it’s almost impossible to get a donor on the phone let alone meet with you. However, if you want to raise a ton of money efficiently, donor discovery still must be conducted. A donor survey will invite your donors to lean in so you can get the discovery stage done well and right away.



Once you’ve got a great list based on what your donors told you (not just based on what an algorithm reported or your prospect researchers have said), you’ll be ready to make outreach with messages that align with each donors needs and interests according to where they are in the decision-making process.

Then, as you make contact you’ll want to review the quality of your engagements based on whether or not they helped your donors move themselves forward in making a decision to give.

It’s not so much about the quantity of contacts. Any goofball can make tons of calls. And, too often, shallow calls designed to meet organizational quotas only lead donors to move backwards along the consideration continuum— exactly the opposite of what you and your organization really want to happen.


Quality is essential!

At MarketSmart, we score our conversations with potential customers so we can prioritize our time and align our messages going forward. This makes it much more likely that we’re not bothering people (like you) who simply aren’t ready to buy from us yet.

We’ve learned that it doesn’t help anyone if we try to move people like you forward so you make a decision in our favor— especially when you aren’t ready. Instead, we try to help you move yourself forward. We try to support your consideration process as a result of our listening tools and skills. That’s true customer-centricity!

I guess you can say we practice what we preach.


It’s about the donor and their needs, not the organization and its needs. Put your focus squarely on the donor and everything else has a funny way of working out nicely to benefit the organization and its mission.


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Anthony Cooper
4 years ago

You’re a nonprofit marketing sage! Thanks again, Greg.

Paul Deakins
Paul Deakins
4 years ago

On Point as always Greg!

Christopher Johnston
3 years ago

Impressive thoughts (and reminders) Greg; thank you!

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