The Pathway to a Significant Philanthropic Investment is Not Paved With Just “Visits”

A common KPI used to evaluate fundraisers is the number of visits they pay on prospects in their portfolios. It should be replaced by PPIs – Personalized Progressive Interactions.

The dated gift-chasing method obligates gift officers to engage prospects in a series of visits that will lead to gift commitments. A far better approach is to think of the process as facilitating donor journeys with the goal of finding the part of your mission promise in which each donor sees the greatest potential for their highest philanthropic purpose to be lived out. The philanthropic facilitator initiates the process by interviewing potential donors to see where each is on that path, then explores where and how their organization might come alongside them.

No matter how capable, a gift officer relying only on “visits” can never achieve as much as a philanthropic facilitator employing a range of personalized progressive interactions, many of which they orchestrate from behind the scenes. For instance, a facilitator could orchestrate site visits, interactions with project leaders and or potential beneficiaries, demonstrations of capabilities, conversations with other investors, or other interactions that will allow the potential investor to offer their opinions and expertise and see more and more of themselves and their purposes in the organization’s pursuits. And, yes, many PPIs can be on virtual platforms.

High-functioning organizations don’t deploy philanthropic facilitators to visit their way to success and to act as their sole representatives but to explore ways of connecting potential investors to their best people and the most promising initiatives. And those same organizations do not deploy facilitators with requests for investment without projections of institutional and societal ROI.

Esther Perel, a highly regarded expert on relationships says we are in an unfolding “relationship revolution, of which there are both personal and professional dimensions. In each, she says, we are looking for partners who “can help us become our best selves.” That, then, certainly must be true of philanthropy which is an expression of lessons learned from personal and professional experiences. Indeed, many a philanthropic facilitator has been afforded the privilege of working with people seeking to become their best selves through philanthropy.

If we want to measure progress on these remarkable journeys, PPIs and the best KPIs. As the graphic below illustrates, it’s about much more than visits if we hope to optimize investment and create lasting philanthropic partnerships.

Key Steps on a Philanthropic Journey
  • The prospective investor (PI), seeing the potential for an alignment of interests, agrees to open a dialogue with a philanthropic facilitator (PF)
  • PF seeks to match PI’s convictions with the organization’s capabilities
  • When a general alignment of interests is achieved, PF suggests initiatives that harness the organization’s capabilities to the PI’s philanthropic purposes
  • When an initiative captures a PI’s interest, PF offers ways to deepen their understanding of it
  • PF seeks to advance the journey from conceptual interest to experiential engagement, allowing the PI to see for him or herself and to gain confidence in the project and the people responsible for it
  • When a measure of comfort and confidence is gained, PI and PF negotiate the term of commitment – on each party’s part
  • An agreement is reached that defines how investment is to be made, how progress is to be tracked and the role the PI will play throughout
  • As the PI fulfills the terms of the investment, the organization fulfills the terms of the agreement
  • PI feels self-actualized, embraced by the organization, and more deeply committed to its mission promise


Jim Langley is the president of Langley Innovations. Langley Innovations provides a range of services to its clients to help them understand the cultural underpinnings of philanthropy and the psychology of donors and, with that knowledge, to develop the most effective strategies and tactics to build broader and more lasting communities of support. Jim has authored numerous books including his most recent book, The Future of Fundraising: Adapting to New Philanthropic Realities, published by Academic Impressions in 2020. 


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1 year ago

Agree 1000% with this author and article! Ever since metrics became “the thing” in higher education fundraising, I have believed that clinging hard and fast to #s of visits as a “must make goal” is a mistake. Number of visits doesn’t translate into major gifts; appropriate cultivation of donors and prospects to assess and encourage alignment of interests does.

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