5 Reasons Why Accountability Is Essential in Major-Gifts Fundraising
Lately, I've been involved in a number of situations where people are struggling with being accountable in their work and lives. Here are good people who say they want someone to hold them accountable to either their work, an action they need to take or to be better in some way — but then reject it when they are followed up on.
I know exactly how they feel. I don't like to be held accountable either. I mean, how annoying is it to have someone ask you if you've done what you said you were going to do — right? Well, over the years I've learned to embrace it because I know it helps me move forward and actually accomplish things.
Now, I fully admit that it's not easy being held accountable. I usually fail when I'm afraid of something. "Will he get mad that I didn't do what I said I was going to do?" "Will she think I'm a bad person because I did something else other than what I promised?"
Then, I kind of go into hiding to avoid either a person or situation. It's not a good place. Have you been there? It doesn't feel good. But, when I allow myself to dust off that fear and come out into the light and allow someone to walk with me, I get things done, and I do it with integrity.
As major-gifts fundraisers, you would think there is a lot of accountability in our profession. Surprisingly, there is not. I mean, you have a goal, you have a plan, and so it should be easy for someone to manage all that.
But it's not happening.
Richard and I believe that the biggest reason major-gifts programs fail is not because major-gifts officers (MGOs) didn't have the right strategy, but because they were not held accountable to sticking with their plans.
Thousands of major-gifts programs are failing right now because no one is holding MGOs or development directors accountable to the plan. This is sad, because there are many really great projects and programs run by good nonprofits that are not being funded.
And just as sad is the fact that there are thousands of donors who don't have the joy of funding those projects and programs that will not only change them, but also help change the world.
And why? Because you either have a problem holding others accountable or you don't like be held accountable. So, if this is you, here are five reasons why accountability is essential:
- It keeps you focused on the right things. Having a manager or person hold you accountable to a goal forces you to focus on the strategy you have laid out. If you are held accountable, you are not allowed to veer off into a place that will not bear fruit.
- You will always move forward. If you have a plan and reasonable goals that inspire you and someone to walk with you to make sure you are following that plan, you will always move forward. I've seen people though who have a great plan and goals, and they go nowhere because they get lost when no one is helping them read the road map. This happens all the time.
- Accountability and focus actually allow you to be more creative. All good MGOs have structure built around them. Within that structure or boundary, they can be wildly creative with their caseloads. If there are no boundaries, then an MGO is left to do anything that feels good (i.e., go put on a special event, start chasing wealthy celebrities to support your cause). That stuff gets you in trouble because you went away from your caseload. But, if your structure and boundaries are centered on your caseload, it's amazing how often you can meet your goals.
- You realize you don't have to do it on your own. I've come to know many MGOs who essentially have been left on their own. "Here, take this list of donors and bring in a ton of money," their bosses say. If someone is there to help you focus your time and hold you accountable, that person says to you, "Hey, I'm here to work with you and help you succeed. You are not in this alone." All of us need that.
- You will be successful. Hear me on this. Richard and I, along with all of the people who work with us, have always had MGOs succeed when they had a solid plan and goals, and allowed themselves to be held accountable on an ongoing basis. Everyone.
And this is the big point I want you to get. If you allow yourself to let someone who knows how to manage keep you accountable and focused on your plan and goals, you simply cannot fail. Will it be easy? No. Will you have to let go of your own ego? Yes. But, I guarantee you if you can let go, you will actually feel free and succeed.
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.