Anatomy of a Great Major Gift Job Description
In a blog post I wrote last month, I vented on what bugs me about most job descriptions; and I outlined the six areas where most job descriptions go wrong.
Today, I want to get positive and practical, and talk about the anatomy of a great major gift job description. You may find these suggestions simple—and that’s fine. One thing for sure, they are not simplistic; a good job description is complex and serious, but that does not mean it needs to be long and detailed. As I said earlier, many managers and HR departments use the job description to tell the employee how to do the job. And that’s why the job description is longer than the two pages it needs to be.
My first point on writing job descriptions for major gift officers (MGOs) is to get to the point and to avoid trying to fit every detail into it. If you just have to include other things in the “contract” with the employee, put those other things into other documents and have the employee sign those documents to make sure you are legally covered. But keep the job description focused and on point.
So, what makes up a good MGO job description? Here are our opinions:
1. Have a Donor-Centered Title
It could be: Donor Services Manager, Donor Relations Director or Donor Relations. Do not put the word “gift,” “money,” “financial” or anything related to those words in the title. Make it about the donor. One client we have has no title.
The business card simply lists the name of the MGO. That’s an interesting idea. Also, if HR or someone inside needs to have a more descriptive title, consider two titles: an internal title, like Major Gift Officer, and an external title, like Donor Relations Director. That way everyone, inside and out, is happy.
2. Make Sure There Is Only One Person the MGO Reports to
Don’t split reporting relationships. Keep this very clear. An employee cannot serve two bosses.
3. Be Very Clear About the Purpose/Objective Statement of the Job
It could be something like this: “To secure funds for the organization by fulfilling the interests and passions of donors to [name of the organization] by providing them with giving opportunities and encouraging them to give.”
Notice this is about fulfilling what the donors wants and needs, and that the result is giving. This is a key philosophical and strategic point. Jeff and I believe that in major gifts money is a result, not an objective. If the MGO fulfills donors’ passions and interests properly, the result will be the money the organization needs to operate its programs.
4. Leave Out All the Other Stuff
Put the organization’s history, values and rules of conduct in a separate document. Your HR department may want to include it in the job description. Argue against it. Just put all this other stuff in a separate document and have the employee acknowledge in writing that they have read it. That should satisfy HR.
Please keep the job description free from all these details and any need you might have to include prescriptive ideas on how the MGO should do the job. If your job description has more than five categories under the “Responsibilities” section, then you are putting in extra unnecessary things. If you just have to “create understanding” with your MGO on those things, put them in another document! They do not belong in the job description.
5. There Should Be 5 Categories of Work in Every MGO Job Description
Here is what they are:
- Qualify donors for a caseload.
- Create individual goals for each donor on the caseload.
- Create a contact, marketing and communication plan for each donor on the caseload that is focused on fulfilling the donor’s interests and passions. Execute that plan and modify it as circumstances change.
- Work with program to secure project information for creating donor offers (front-end) and reporting to donors on how their giving made a difference (back-end).
- Perform other MGO duties as required including monthly reporting to management that accurately reflects caseload activity and performance.
I know you may look at this very simple, to-the-point list and get anxious about something being left out. Believe me, this is it. It really is! If your MGO does these five things he or she will be successful. If you load in a bunch of other stuff, he or she will fail. It is about that basic.
6. Include an Accountability Section
I actually label that section, “Accountability: Performance will be measured by:” and then I list the a “mirror” of each of the five categories of work above and state how the employee will be evaluated. I also add a couple of other points about the employee’s ability to manage people, process, deadlines and budget, and their ability to relate to others—both of which are important performance evaluation items.
And that’s it. Basic. Simple. To-the-point. And effective. If you would like to have a sample of how we would write an actual job description click here.
Job descriptions have gotten too complicated and verbose reflecting a society frightened by lawsuits and managers who feel compelled to tell the MGO how to do their jobs. I truly believe that the resulting five-to-eight page documents that come from that fear and that compulsion are causing MGOs to be less focused and less effective.
Please review this core contract with your MGO and simplify it. It will really help each of your good MGOs be more focused and successful.
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.