Are You Caught in the Major Gift Chaos?
When Richard and I are out talking to prospective clients, one of the questions they often ask us is, “For the clients you have worked with who were not successful, what was one of the contributing factors?”
We love this question, because it allows us an opportunity right up front to tell the client the truth about what they need to do to be successful with Veritus—and have a growing major gift program.
The No. 1 answer is that leadership and management have to be on board and supportive of the process and the major gift officer. And, No. 2, closely connected to No. 1, is that the MGO has to work within a structure and cannot be allowed to be distracted by anything outside of working his or her caseload.
Recently, I’ve been sitting around quite a few boardroom tables, presenting our major gift assessment and listening to leaders and managers try to explain why their major gift program is not growing.
The stories I hear are all about some kind of “outside distraction” that has nothing to do with working and developing relationships with donors.
“Well, we have 10 events a year, and it’s very hard to focus on individual donors.”
“Our CEO decided to take a three-month leave of absence, and that put everything into chaos.”
“The VP of Development took another job and we were left without leadership for 6 months.”
“Our program area was in crisis and that took a while to get straightened out.”
Listen, every nonprofit Richard and I have ever encountered has “distractions” and some chaos attached to it. But if you are an organization that has structure with your major gift program and a sole responsibility to work on your caseload, then you will have a major gift program that is thriving.
When you are not working within a structure and you are not managed properly, you are opening yourself up to being sucked up into your organization’s giant hairball, and then you get lost and fail within 12 to 24 months. This is one of the main factors why you’re constantly moving from job to job.
This is a failure of leadership and management.
I cannot be clearer: Work your caseload. If you have a revenue goal and a strategic plan for every one of your 150 qualified donors, they are tiered and you have a system of accountability to remained focused… you will be successful.
If you stray from this one tiny bit, you leave yourself vulnerable to failure. Why? Because you no longer are developing relationships with your donors. You are doing something else.
Richard and I love hearing the stories of MGOs, despite all the chaos around them, who continually meet or exceed their revenue goals. How do they do it? They work within a structure and stick with their plan. Very simple… and you can do it, too.
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.