Toward A More Holistic View of Moves Management

Anyone who has worked in the fundraising field is likely familiar with the phrase “moves management,” a concept as inherent to major gift fundraising as gift pyramids and feasibility studies. David R. Dunlop, the Cornell University fundraiser who helped pioneer the model, defined it as, “changing people’s attitudes so they want to give.” In practice, we tend to think of moves management as a series of milestones that lead to a gift, often through a five-step process:

  1. Identification
  2. Qualification
  3. Cultivation
  4. Solicitation
  5. Stewardship 

Who among us hasn’t seen this concept illustrated with a helpful graphic?


But what does moves management mean to the prospect development professionals who work in this specialized corner of the fundraising world? In this modern era of crowdfunding and viral fundraising campaigns, how do prospect research and relationship management experts integrate this much-vaunted — yet decidedly static — approach to what should be a flexible, dynamic undertaking?

Here at the University of Arizona, the University Development Program is helping guide our fundraising efforts through a significant sea change: Over the last seven years or so, fundraising has begun to shift from decentralized, siloed and reactive to far more proactive, collaborative and centralized. As those of us in prospect development contribute to this shift, we are observing a similar shift in how we leverage moves management to support the work of our frontline colleagues. This is the story of how we’re keeping moves management relevant across an ever-changing fundraising landscape.


A Little History

In early 2015, the prospect research team at the UA Foundation was asked to organize a comprehensive screening of the donor database, the results of which would be further analyzed by a consulting firm. This analysis, in turn, would inform a new strategic plan at the university and redefine our fundraising goals.

Approximately 400,000 households were wealth screened at the time. After the capacity verification work was completed and the consultants had finished their modeling and analysis, we were excited to find more than 150,000 suspects rated at the major gift level or above. Eight thousand of these, according to our consultants, had a “high likelihood” of becoming major gift donors. It was immediately apparent that our old model of prospect discovery and qualification had to change if we were ever to work through this large pool.

We soon implemented a proactive referral process, mining the new data to find each development officer at least 10 suspects to qualify. We provided contact information, the suspect’s relationship to the university, an overview of their giving history and a brief note on why the development officer might want to reach out to the suspect.

Over the next year, we provided proactive referrals to more than 70 university development officers, following up after six months to determine if the lists were helpful and see how to improve the referral process. We learned that not every development officer uses the same information when first meeting a prospect ― some needed more, less or different information than we had provided. We’ve adjusted as we’ve moved forward.

We also realized that discovery officers and some of the large initiatives around campus required more than a just a few suspects at a time. To assist with the greater amounts of qualification needed, we began providing lists of up to thousands of suspects, and created an in-house RFM score to help prioritize qualification efforts. We based the score on the total number of gifts given by the suspect or donor (volume), the recency of the latest gift and the total monetary value of all gifts from the donor. These factors were weighted and normalized within each list, giving each suspect a score between 0 and 300. We called this the “VRooM!” score, and the concept caught on quickly with development officers around campus.

It was this screening project and refinements to our internal processes through close collaboration with our frontline colleagues that helped to facilitate our progression toward a more proactive, donor-centered fundraising model that incorporates the best of moves management in exciting ways.


Upon successful identification, new suspects are assigned to development officers for qualification. (For the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on suspects identified by the prospect research team, although suspects can be found through other channels such as colleagues’ referrals, development officers identifying prospects on their own, etc.) The research team uses a set of donor-centered guiding principles to determine the best “fit” for a particular suspect. These principles take the following data points into consideration:

  • History of giving to the University of Arizona
  • School affiliation (for alumni)
  • Non-alumni affiliations (such as parent, faculty/staff, etc.)
  • Existing campus interests
  • Student engagement (for alumni)
  • Philanthropy to other organizations
  • Corporate or foundation connections
  • Geographic location
  • Giving patterns (recency and frequency of giving, etc.)

In an effort to be donor-centric and provide optimal support to our development officers, we provide several choices when it comes to qualification and disqualification:

  1. Major gift qualification: A development officer has qualified a suspect/prospect for a gift of at least $25,000, via personal contact (e.g. phone call, personal visit or email communication).

  2. Future prospect qualification: A “future prospect” is a constituent who is not currently a major gift prospect but has potential to become one. Development officers must provide details of the contact made and specify the approximate fiscal year to revisit the prospect.

  3. Non-responsive constituent: A development officer may remove a constituent from their portfolio if they have been unresponsive to attempts at outreach. Development officers must have at least three documented contact attempts using at least two different channels (such as phone calls and emails) before they can flag as non-responsive. They are also asked to provide an estimated timeframe for re-attempting outreach.

  4. Major gift disqualification: This denotes campus-wide disqualification as a major gift prospect. Development officers are asked only to use this option when it’s clear the suspect has no interest or capacity to support at the major gift level.

  5. Unit/college major gift disqualification: A development officer may indicate that a suspect is not a prospect for a particular college or unit. If the development officer learns of other interests the constituent may have on campus, they can note this information, and the constituent will be queued for re-assignment.

We refined our processes in early 2016 to include the unit disqualification, non-responsive and future prospect options in an effort to make the process more agile and precise. After rolling these new options out to development officers at the beginning of the 2016-17 fiscal year, our number of disqualifications increased to more than 850 in the last 18 months (compared to 162 disqualifications in fiscal year 2015-16). Our qualifications have also jumped from approximately 600 in the 2015-16 fiscal year to nearly 1,000 since the new options were rolled out on July 1, 2016.

Cultivation and Solicitation

At these stages in the process, while adhering to the overarching principle of donor-centricity, we begin to leverage moves management through the lens of gift expectancies rather than prospect stages. Development officers utilize proposals in Raiser’s Edge to keep track of their planned solicitations, which provide a clear view into a donor’s relationship to the University of Arizona as a whole. Since we solicit and steward many donors with multiple interests on campus, incorporating proposals at this stage allows for maximum flexibility, accounting for the increasingly common scenario of a prospect being in multiple traditional moves management stages simultaneously. The proposal status (“Planned”) corresponds to the conventional "Cultivation" stage.

Proposal Status Discount Expected Amount Discounted Forecast Amount
Planned 80% $100,000 $20,000
Submitted 60% $100,000 $40,000
Accepted – Awaiting Gift 40% $100,000 $60,000
Accepted 20% $100,000 $80,000


In addition to recording their planned asks via Raiser’s Edge proposals, development officers are asked to record all relevant contacts and meetings using action records, which allows for further transparency and donor-centricity.

Once a prospect reaches the “Solicitation” stage, we are again simultaneously focused on both gift and donor. At this stage, development officers will change the proposal status from “Planned” to “Submitted” and document the solicitation in Raiser’s Edge. By focusing on “moves management” for gifts rather than prospects, we are also able to provide a more accurate forecast of expected gifts. We accomplish this through a system of discounting based on the proposal stage. In short, proposals in the “Planned” stage are discounted more heavily than proposals in the “Accepted” stage.


We have two additional proposal statuses that correspond to the traditional “Stewardship” phase of the moves management cycle: “Accepted – Awaiting Gift/Documentation” and “Accepted.” The former denotes that while a donor may have agreed to a gift, it has not yet been received; the latter signals to our prospect management team that the gift has arrived and the proposal can be deactivated in Raiser’s Edge. Once a gift expectancy reaches these stages, the focus shifts to stewardship of the donor and, when applicable, cultivation for the next solicitation.


We’re often asked how we keep track of “prospect stages” in our database. When we respond that we don’t — that the traditional “moves” of moves management are tied to proposal records rather than constituents — we experience stunned silences or audible gasps. We would argue, however, that David R. Dunlop’s original intent for moves management has been diluted down to the five stages that we referenced at the beginning of this article, and that his own, more dynamic definition of moves management of “changing people’s attitudes so they want to give” has gotten buried under the static rubric of Identification – Qualification – Cultivation – Solicitation – Stewardship. Why not create a fundraising practice wherein both aspects are of equal importance, and instead of trying to push donors through five discrete stages, free up frontline development staff to work on building relationships and “changing attitudes?”

Using the stages of moves management to track solicitations instead of people has resulted in a more dynamic view of our constituents’ relationships to the University of Arizona and has helped to create that vital space necessary for growing essential connections.


Jeanne Sharp is the director of prospect development at the University of Arizona Foundation, where she oversees the prospect research and prospect management functions within the University Development Program. Jeanne celebrates 20 years as a development professional this year, having held a variety of roles in a wide range of organizations, from K-12 schools to animal shelters and virtually everything in between. She is a proud graduate of Whitman College and holds a BA in Art History & Visual Culture Studies. Connect with Jeanne on LinkedIn and via email

Jason Shults is an associate director of prospect research at the University of Arizona. He has worked in nonprofits for more than a dozen years in many capacities, including gift entry, data integrity/records specialist, membership coordinator, manager of a gift office and prospect research analyst. He holds a BS in Management and an MBA from the University of Central Missouri, and is currently studying business intelligence and data analytics in the graduate program of the University of Arizona. Connect with Jason via email


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