10 Reasons Why Most Major-Gift Programs Suck — Nos. 6 & 7
(Editor's note: Veritus Group co-owner Jeff Schreifels started the Passionate Giving blog last month, and he's already posted some pretty interesting stuff — like his "10 Reasons Why Most Major Gift Programs Suck!" Here are Nos. 6 and 7. Click these links for Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, then the final three next Tuesday.)
“What, are you kidding me?!” That is usually the response I get from major-gift officers (MGO) who have caseloads of 150 donors (which by the way, is the maximum amount of donors any good MGO can handle).
My response is, “No, this is mandatory if you are going to be great!” And, it’s true.
In my previous post I discussed accountability, staying focused and strong management. The only way to be successful with all that is to have a solid plan … a road map, if you will, on how to get from point A to B.
“But that will take a lot of time to create a plan for 150 people.” Yes, it will … but my gosh, is it worth it. Remember, if you have 150 people on a caseload, hopefully you’re managing a portfolio of at least $1.5 million in revenue. And, that is just for one MGO!
How can anyone effectively manage 150 people without a detailed marketing plan for each person and revenue goals?
They can’t. Don’t let anyone fool you otherwise. This is hard work, and without a plan you will soon be lost.
Going through the process of creating a plan for each of your major donors, while arduous and time-consuming, is probably one of the best exercises in forcing you to really understand every one of your donors. And, if you don’t know a donor, then you better get on it quickly.
So, what am I really talking about? Here’s what I mean. (See image)
You get the idea. Then, after the December column, I want to see the revenue goal cash-flowed to the month so it sums up to a monthly revenue goal. This then flows into a monthly move management and revenue report.
Now, with all good strategic plans, we know that over the course of the year they change. That’s okay. Having a plan keeps you focused. It doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the plan. You can, but that will be communicated to the team and adjusted for.
If you manage multiple MGOs and they tell you they don’t need a plan to make their overall revenue goals … they may be RIGHT. However, it’s not JUST about meeting overall revenue goals; it’s about cultivating and deepening the relationship with each of your donors. It’s about engaging donors on a regular basis.
This can only be done with a plan. It’s not about finding that one donor to meet a revenue goal at the end of the year. It’s about loving these people with regular contact, putting offers in front of them they are passionate about and letting those donors know you KNOW them.
If you do that right … the money will flow.
If you are a major-gift officer or executive director and you don’t understand what your donors are passionate about … you have a big problem.
And, I don’t just mean what part of your program or services are they passionate about. I’m talking about what are they passionate about in life as well.
You have to know both if you want to 1) be effective and 2) delight your donors.
Have you heard of the nightmare story of the major-gift officer who was cultivating one of his caseload donors for a $1 million gift to help put a new wing on a hospital? The MGO was working this gift hard. Sending all kinds of information about the new wing, naming opportunities, etc. After about six months of this type of cultivation, the MGO sets up a lunch meeting with this particular donor to make the “ask” with the CEO of the hospital.
They sit down together at lunch and the CEO starts talking about the new wing of the hospital, how great it’s going to be, how many more seniors will be helped because of it, etc. Then, the ask …
The donor looks at the MGO and CEO and says, “Guys, this is a great project, but you should know that I’m about helping children. That is what my wife and I want to give to. You both should know this.”
After lunch on the way back to the hospital the CEO is furious and barks at the major-gift officer, “How did YOU get this wrong?”
I’ll tell you how he got it wrong. He didn’t pay attention. The MGO felt so much pressure to find donors who had the ability to fund the new wing, that it clouded his thinking about who would actually have the passion for it.
Ability to fund and passion to fund are two very different things
Sure enough, when he gets back in the office and looks up the donor’s giving history, all of the donor’s previous gifts were directed toward children. And, if he had done a little more homework, he would have noticed that the donor and his wife had eight children of their own, two of which had special needs and had used the services of the hospital for care.
If he had dug a little harder he would have found news articles on how this couple funded other programs in the community for children and that both of them were on the board of two other children’s nonprofits.
I know what you’re thinking, “Well goodness, this is so obvious, you’d have to be a total idiot to make this mistake.”
Well, you’re right on both thoughts. However, this story is all too common in our business. In fact, I’ve seen it repeated over and over. Just plug in a different type of nonprofit and major-gift officer and the story is basically the same … over and over and over and over …
I don’t want you or your nonprofit to ever make this mistake. Here are some practical ways you can understand your donors’ passions.
- Read everything you can about your donors. Google and other search engines are so good you will FIND them. I want you to know what boards they are on, what businesses they are in, awards they have received, what their kids do, their spouses, etc.
- Use a wealth indicator service such as WealthEngine or Blackbaud. It will give you good information about donors' net worth, businesses and giving histories. (Although this is helpful, not all information from these services is 100 percent accurate.) So, only use this as ONE way to know your donors.
- Use Google Alerts and TweetBeep to get real-time information on your donors.
- Drive around in their neighborhoods. Now, I’m not talking about stalking, but you need to understand where your donors live, shop, do their business. One way to understand your donors is to put on their shoes.
- Do a complete review of each donor’s giving history. NOT just amount, but to what programs, projects and services you provide. All of these are obvious clues.
- Ask them. That’s right. Set up a breakfast or lunch meeting with the sole purpose of finding out what they are most passionate about. Personally, these meetings are some of the best I’ve ever had with donors and allowed me to understand and get to know them in a very personal way. (Make sure when lunch is over you record everything in your donor database.)
- Survey your caseload. I like to put together a survey that goes out to all caseload donors asking them what they like most about XX nonprofit, what types of nonprofits they support, etc. This is just another opportunity to get good feedback from your donors and will continue to give you good information for future funding opportunities.
What are some other ideas you have?
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your donors is the feeling of being known by you. Understanding what your donors are passionate about is not only good for the future funding of your organization, but it allows you to care and respond to your donors’ needs in a more profound way.
If you like baseball, tennis, golf, Gregorian chant, jazz, rock, good wine and deep conversation, then you’ll like to hang out with Jeff.
If you are passionate about fundraising, Jeff will inspire you to be a true “broker of love” for your donors, helping you bring together a donor’s desire to change the world and the world’s greatest needs. Jeff believes that if nonprofits truly want to grow and obtain more net revenue for their mission, it will come through creating, building and successfully managing major-gift programs. The Connections blog will give you inspiration and practical advice to help you succeed. Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit fundraising experience and is senior partner of the Veritus Group.