Benefits of a Major-Gifts System
It was a new relationship—a major-gift officer (MGO) meeting our Veritus team approached for the first time. When we first met, there was a great deal of emotion and suspicion present in the room. There were a lot of questions.
What were we up to? What was our motive? What are we going to do? What do we care about?
A colleague of ours put it this way: “When I first met Ron (not his real name), he said ‘Veritus’ like it was a curse word. He did not like what we stood for or our careful process of donor identification, qualification, stewardship and cultivation.”
So the going was a little rough. It usually is. In fact, Jeff and I regularly tell our associates that doing major gifts the Veritus way is often not easy at the beginning. But once the MGO gets used to the system and process and, more importantly, once the MGO realizes we are trustworthy people, who are coming along side them versus judging them, things tend to get better really quickly.
In fact, let me digress a little bit on this point. There are many organizations where MGOs are suffering under management that is reckless and abusive. There is hardly any training. The goals and recommended process keep changing. There is little, if any, program to present to donors. And the primary vibe of the place is one of fear versus one of hope, opportunity, relationship and partnership. It’s no wonder that many times when we start with a new client, the MGOs are fearful and suspicious.
That’s what we encountered in this situation.
But we pressed on and introduced our system, process and strategy to the MGO. And we insisted, as we always do, that it be precisely followed, so that the MGO could get to a positive outcome with his donors. So Ron, being a good person and wanting to do a good job, followed what we told him which essentially is summed up in the following seven points:
- We helped him find the right donors to have on his caseload.
- We qualified those donors to determine their interest in relating to Ron.
- We made sure Ron worked at identifying the passions and interests of the donor.
- We made sure Ron had a personalized plan for every donor on his caseload.
- We set goals for every donor.
- We made sure there were credible program offers that Ron could use to create offers for his donors.
- And we set up an accountability system to make sure everything happened as planned.
We set up a system for Ron, and at first, he was afraid of and rejected the system.
Let me pause on this point for a second. To many people, there is something about a system that seems to be in conflict with the free-flowing, spontaneous, take-it-as-it-comes approach of many MGOs. They feel like they are in a box, constrained from doing their very best and being in the moment. It feels limiting and repressive.
I understand this. And it may be your point-of-view. You may think it is better just to “go with the moment” and see what happens. And maybe that has worked for you—to some extent—in the past.
But let me assure you, no matter how much success you have had with your “free-flow” approach, you would have had double the success had you been working with a system that harnessed that energy and directed it towards high-value activity—believe me.
This is why Jeff and I feel strongly that creating and maintaining a major-gifts system that carefully monitors activity and moves the MGO through the different stages of relationship with a donor is critical to major-gift success.
I am asking you consider installing a system in your major-gift efforts, if you do not have one. Why? So you will be successful in major gifts. But does it really work, you ask? Yes it does.
Consider this recent message we received from Ron, the MGO who had a difficult start with the system. The donor he is talking about gave a previous gift of $5,000. This year he gave $15,000. Here is what Ron said:
“I have to eat a little crow. I have to admit that it was the repeated touches that made the difference—the Veritus process made the difference. I knew Mr. B from a previous nonprofit and never saw this level of giving before. It’s living proof that this process works. Even if they’re not responding to me, clearly, it’s making a difference to them.”
Well, what can I say? Jeff and I have seen this working for many years—in many nonprofits and in the lives of many donors. Why does it work? Because it forces the organization and the MGO to treat the donor as a partner versus a source of cash. And that makes all the difference.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.