13 Ways a Major Gift Manager Can Actually Manage
Are you a major gift manager? Do you love managing major gift officers? Do you love developing others and getting results through the efforts of others? When one of your major gift officers secures a large gift from a donor they have been cultivating, do you have a rush of joy for them?
These are the questions that Richard and I ask people who manage major gift officers. If we get any slight hint that they cannot answer with a resounding “YES,” we know there is probably trouble ahead for the team they manage or it answers why the major gift program is already struggling.
In my last post, I talked about leaders leading to help major gifts be successful. Today, I want to talk about allowing managers to manage.
To be blunt, nonprofits do not value good management. In the eyes of board members, executives (especially finance) management is considered straight overhead. You know, that “evil” thing that makes your ratios look bad.
So, because we don’t like management (the perception being that it doesn’t help bring in revenue), we do stupid things. Here are a few:
- You ask development directors with no experience in major gifts to manage a major gift team, while also managing several other departments.
- You hire your best major gift officer to manage the entire major gift team.
- You ask the director major gifts to not only manage the team, but also carry a full caseload of donors themselves.
- You really don’t have anyone managing the major gift officers, and they report directly to the executive director.
Any of these stupid things leads to the eventual poor performance of major gift officers. Or, the major gift officer becomes frustrated because they aren’t supported in the organization properly, so they leave. Ever wonder why major gift officers leave every 1.8 years? And it’s getting worse.
It’s amazing to Richard and me that smart people cannot figure out that hiring, retaining and supporting good managers actually leads to higher net revenue and lower overhead. (I mean, just the cost of replacing a major gift officer can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 in expenses and lost revenue.) It’s so frustrating to watch you do this over and over again.
We really urge you to start valuing management in major gifts. In the long-term, it will save you tons of money and you’ll reap much more net revenue if you can make this a priority for your non-profit. Here is what good management looks like for a major gift program:
- The major gifts manager is not your best major gift officer. Your manager is all about developing people and your best major gift officer is about getting results through their own efforts. Two completely different things.
- Managers have a small caseload of no more than 25 donors.
- Managers make sure there is a proper structure for their major gift officers to flourish in.
- Managers hold major gift officers accountable to their revenue goals—they create monthly performance reports.
- The manager’s job is to support and advocate for her major gift officers to upper management and leadership.
- A good manager will meet with her MGO’s individually on a weekly basis to assure that the MGO remains focused and accountable to the revenue goals and strategies decided upon at the beginning of the year.
- A good manager will sit with one of their major gift officers and brainstorm strategy for one of their donors for a good hour and love every minute of it.
- Having a good manager means they will celebrate with the major gift officer.
- Good managers encourage major gift officers to be better. They help them brainstorm problems and come alongside of them when they struggle.
- Good managers invest in training for their people. They know exactly what individuals need to be successful.
- Managers that major gift officers love to work for do not micro-manage. They encourage the major gift officer to be out of the office as much as possible, allowing for flexibility in their work schedule and know how to reward hard work with added incentives like time off and working from home.
- Good managers know when, after a long period of helping turn performance around, to fire someone.
- Managers who are successful know how to communicate what is happening in major gifts to the entire organization so that there is a greater level of understanding and appreciation for the team’s work.
This is what good, solid management looks like. When Richard and I see this level of attention of a nonprofit toward management, we see retention rates of employees well above the average and increased percentages of revenue year over year. Why any nonprofit would not want that is beyond us.
You can have this too. If leaders and managers can support major gifts as I’ve outlined over the last two posts, you will see a substantial change in the effectiveness and success of your major gift program.
Invest in good management. You will have higher ROI, lower overhead and happier employee… and your donors will be served beyond belief.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.