Being a Major Gift Officer Is Frustrating
By far, the number one complaint that major gift officers tell us is that they find it very hard getting the donor to engage with them. Not to sound flippant, but… welcome to the world of being a major gift officer.
There are so many facets of major gift fundraising that are difficult. This is why Richard and I believe it’s the hardest job in the nonprofit space. I don’t have to list out all the reasons. You know.
It’s a demanding job that requires everything from you.
At the end of the day, most MGOs are mentally and emotionally drained. The most frustrating are donors who are always elusive. Sometimes it can feel like no one wants to speak, write or ever see you. And, you start to question yourself, wondering if you are bad at this work or you have terrible donors.
Neither is the case.
Here are a few thoughts to help you put all this into perspective:
- Your donors have busy lives. You have to remember that you and your organization are not their No. 1 priority in life. Right now, at this minute they may be YOUR No. 1 priority, but they are not lying awake at night worried they didn’t get back to you.
- It’s not personal. This is a big one. Richard, our team and I have counseled so many MGOs who take silence from a donor very personally. This is a fast ticket to burnout. Your job is to continue to reach out in creative ways to engage with your donor. If you are doing that… that is all you can do.
- Evaluate if what you are offering has value to the donor. Richard writes about this a lot, and it’s so true. It may be that what you are communicating to a donor does not have value in their eyes and heart. Check to see what you are saying to your donor. Does it match their passion and interests? Is it emotional? Does it line up with their previous giving? Are you connecting with them with their preferred type of communication?
- Patience and persistence. I have story after story of MGOs who are about to lose it with a donor, saying, “All hope is lost, the ship is going down. I’m doomed.” Then, all of a sudden, the donor gets back to them and is ready to meet! What happened? The MGO stuck it out and continued to stay at it. Sometimes it takes seven to nine touches to get a donor to respond. Many MGOs jump off at three touches. Don’t be that MGO.
- Most donors don’t want to engage with you. That’s right. Many MGOs are working with an abundance of unqualified donors on their caseload. No wonder you are knocking your head against a wall. The fact is, only about one third of donors who meet your major gift metric (whatever that is) want a deeper relationship. You’ll increase your engagement level with your portfolio if all of your donors are qualified. And, if they are not qualified, just understand you are going to get a lot of “nos” and silence. That is to be expected.
- Stay positive. You cannot be successful at major gifts if you have a “Debbie or Donnie Downer” mentality. Seriously. Donors not engaging with you is part of this job. It’s okay. It’s normal. Taking it personally and going down a dark path and negativity will not be sustainable for you.
Major gift fundraising can be a very frustrating job. However, if you understand that you are not your donor’s center of the universe, but your job is to be creative and help inspire your donors to find joy in their giving, you will be much more successful…and happy.
P.S. If you’d like a free white paper called the “Six Secrets to a Becoming an Extraordinary MGO,” click here!
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.