Be Nonprofit Leaders Who Actually Lead—14 Ways to Show It!
Recently, I took part in a LIVE call in which is part of our nonprofit leaders and managers course for major gifts. It gave me such hope because the leaders that are taking this course are doing it because they want to learn about major gifts and, even more importantly, lead their nonprofit to be supportive of the major gift team.
But sadly, they are in the minority of nonprofit leaders.
Unfortunately, when it comes to being supportive of fundraising and major gifts in particular, Richard and I are not seeing the vision, support and passion needed in nonprofit leaders for the whole thing to succeed.
Leaders… you are not leading.
Believe us. Richard, our team and I have been in countless meetings with major gift officers and leaders. When the leader leaves the conference room, the truth starts spilling out. Here is what it sounds like:
— “Our executive director will not meet with donors when we ask her to. She makes up all kinds of excuses to NOT meet with them.”
— "We’ve been pleading with our CEO to help us by hiring an assistant to help us, but we’re stuck in the office with all this paperwork.”
— "Our executive director hates fundraising. She loves the revenue it generates, but she never talks about what our team is doing in the organization at our staff meetings.”
— “There is no accountability with program. Our donors are asking to show them impact and we cannot get it because there is no pressure or understanding from leadership that it’s important.”
— “I don’t know where we are going. I get pressured from my CEO all the time with him asking me where the million-dollar gifts are. He doesn’t understand that we need a multi-million-dollar vision to get that kind of gift.”
Now, there are a whole host of reasons nonprofit leaders are not actually leading when it comes to fundraising and major gifts in particular. But, as a leader, I’d like to suggest how you can support your major gift team and inspire your donors at the same time.
- Say YES to your major gift officer when they ask you to meet with donors.
- Support and cast a vision for your organization to adopt a culture of philanthropy
- Understand that a good major gift and planned giving program will generate the most NET revenue for your organization and you need to invest in it.
- Have the patience to let it grow. It doesn’t happen overnight.
- Support your major gift team by providing administrative support, allowing them to work outside the office and to reduce their mandatory meetings. Let them be in front of donors.
- Demand accountability of your major gift team. Make sure they have individual donor revenue goals that are cash-flowed and that they have strategic plans. Make sure their manager is meeting with them on a consistent basis to provide focus, strategy and encouragement.
- Communicate your vision to the staff.
- Make it policy that program has to report on impact with facts, figures and stories to support fundraising efforts.
- Provide your major gift team an ongoing list of all or your projects and programs that make up your budget (including overhead) so they can turn them into dynamic offers to inspire their donors.
- Thank, thank and thank your donors again and again by meeting with them, calling them and sending personal notes.
- Allow yourself to be “managed up” from your major gift team to help you manage a small caseload of your top donors.
- Provide ongoing training to your major gift staff. Show appreciation for hard work by allowing days off when they work nights and weekends.
- Pay great major gift officers well, knowing they are generating the net revenue for your programs. And, don’t adhere to some HR policy that has been set up that forces a good major gift officer to be a manager to get higher pay.
- Get to a place in your head and heart to understand that donors are actually part of your mission. They want to give and asking them to invest in your cause brings them joy. From that place is where you act and make decisions about supporting your team.
If you can embrace these supportive ways to lead your team, you will see a major difference in how your team performs, acts and increases revenue for your organization. If you are NOT yet leading this way, you can start now. Your staff and donors are waiting and relying on you to do it.
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.