Should we rethink traditional moves management? – Part 1


This week, Ken has an in depth discussion about moves management with Ellen Bristol, founder of the Bristol Strategy Group and co-author of “Fundraising the SMART Way: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity.”

A concept developed in the 1970’s, moves management has been around for a long time. But, as some parts of the sector struggle to raise funds, it might be worth considering other ways to apply this concept.


Hi Ellen-

I'm so glad we have a chance to have an email conversation about moves management. When we met at the Giving Institute conference in 2017, I got the sense that you have a different take on how nonprofits should tackle their annual fundraising.

Moves management is the common way major gift officers and development directors are advised to manage their top prospects. First prospects are identified and qualified, then they are cultivated, solicited and stewarded. The idea is that this cycle should run continuously as the donor grows their giving over time to the organization.

The basics of this approach seem to make a lot of sense to me. How do you think this approach should be altered to improve fundraising results at nonprofit organizations?


Hi Ken –

Thanks for inviting me to this conversation, and asking for my thoughts about Moves Management. You’re absolutely right – Moves Management is probably the most common way for major gift officers and development directors to manage their top prospects. And for that task, it’s a good solution. But there’s another need in the development shop, which Moves Management doesn’t fill – managing the Opportunity Pipeline.

The concept of the Opportunity Pipeline is entrenched in for-profit sales organizations, for a very good reason: it shows how much potential the team has identified, how quickly all that potential progresses through the cycle, and when and where in the cycle the team tends to lose opportunities. In this model, all opportunities, regardless of “line of business” (funding stream for nonprofits) pass through a standard set of opportunity stages, which are a lot like the moves of Moves Management.

This approach makes it easier to do several things that aren’t so easy to do with Moves Management:

  • Forecast income more accurately. Because opportunity stages are standardized, we can collate all instances at any given stage, and visualize how much potential income is represented.
  • Track overall income performance. Using standardized stages, we can also see where the pipeline encounters obstacles or bottlenecks.
  • Asses size, shape and velocity. Over time, the Opportunity Pipeline shows how much potential is required to meet goal, where to anticipate a slowdown (or discover an unanticipated one), and how quickly opportunities flow through the process.
  • Use opportunity stages as KPI’s. With a little analysis of past performance, it’s simple to translate opportunity stages into Key Performance Indicators, and establish targets (how many, how often, conversion ratio) for each stage.
  • All of these methods provide guidelines, or performance expectations, to the development team. And they make it easier for senior management and the governing board to understand both what’s expected and what’s actually happening in fundraising.

We are big fans of Moves Management. We understand its effectiveness in dealing with the long-term relationship with major and transformational donors. But we also recognize that most development shops could improve their efficiency and effectiveness significantly with concepts like the Opportunity Pipeline. We also believe nonprofits are better off when able to observe potential compared to actual income, when they can track performance of all funding streams the same as major gifts, and when they can analyze the data without being distracted by the “anecdotes” of specific donors or foundations or corporate sponsors.

The Opportunity Pipeline has a significant beneficial impact on development-team effectiveness and efficiency, since it goes beyond guiding the development officer, to providing good analytics for continuous improvement.



How should this theory be applied to revenue streams that are less relationship centered? What about capital campaigns? The conversation continues in PART 2.

Should we rethink traditional moves management? – Part 2

Ken Jones is a former fundraising consultant and co-founder of Above Goal, the only capital campaign management software for nonprofits and consultants.





Ellen Bristol, founder of the Bristol Strategy Group and co-author of “Fundraising the SMART Way: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity.”







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