Are You a Broker of Love?
Some time ago, I was walking with one of the major gift officers I work with after lunch. She was lamenting that she felt like there were “so many things” keeping her from meeting with donors. And how she just “wished she had the time” to just get to know them.
I knew the backstory, though. I knew that over the last several months, she had been making excuse after excuse about not contacting her donors and having meaningful connections. Of course, there was some merit to her excuses, but because I had been in constant contact with her manager, I knew that really wasn’t the reason she was not seeing donors. In fact, I knew early on that in her heart, she just didn’t quite believe in what she was doing.
The real story, and one Richard and I see quite often, is that she did not see fundraising as a worthy endeavor. She did not feel that asking donors to give away their money was a good thing. She was uncomfortable talking about money. She felt embarrassed about approaching donors to support the mission of her organization.
You see, she was great at thanking her donors when they gave a gift through some direct mail piece or on their own volition. She loved writing little handwritten notes to her donors and sending little gifts. All that was fine. She also liked to involve herself in side projects that had nothing to do with her caseload. And, essentially, her overall attitude was pretty negative when it came to creating strategies to get donors to meet with her.
I’ve seen this all before.
So, here I was on the streets of San Francisco with her, and I stopped her in mid-sentence:
“Susan (not her real name), do you know that your donors want to give? Do you believe in your heart that donors need to give and that when they do they feel incredible joy? Why would delay in giving them that? Do you understand that as a major gift officer, your most important role is to be a ‘broker of love?’ That you are the bridge between a donor’s desire the change the world and all the programs and projects your organization has to do just that?”
She looked at me for a long time. And then she said the most courageous thing she ever said to me:
“You know, Jeff, I just don’t. I don’t have that desire to do that with a donor. I mean, I get it intellectually, but I don’t feel it in my heart. I wish I did, but I don’t think I want to do this kind of work anymore.”
Wow! I was shocked. I’ve never had a major gift fundraiser be so honest and say that to me. What was even more wonderful, though, was that right after the moment she said all that, she looked like a completely different person. She had unburdened herself with this pressure that she could no longer keep. Her faced looked so calm and happy.
And, yes, it was wonderful. Why? Because Susan was finally being true to herself and admitting that being a major gift officer was not her passion. I just looked at her and said, “It’s okay. The best thing you can do is figure out what your passion is and do that. Don’t do this because you think you have to. Do something you love.”
At Veritus, we work have worked with hundreds of major gift fundraisers. Some are just incredible. Some have real potential and some should not be in this profession. It’s okay. It’s not for everyone. The key is to look into your heart and ask yourself if you believe you are that “broker of love.” Are you someone that takes great joy in helping others find joy through their giving?
Major gift fundraising is incredibly difficult and can be emotionally draining. If you don’t have that fire inside of you to be that bridge I was talking about, you won’t be able to survive the challenges of this profession.
Susan is moving on. She is incredibly happy, and I’m happy for her.
Are you a “broker of love?”
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.