Out-of-Control Major Gift Events Program
Tell me what you think is wrong with this picture: There is a major gift officer (MGO) who has a caseload, and he is also charged with doing events for the organization. He has three staff members who work with him on this agenda. Here is what they do, what they get and what it costs:
- Nine events of different types in one year: lectures, wine tasting, special Christmas gathering. There is no program connection with caseload moves management or major gift caseload strategy—just events.
- Highest net revenue of all of them is $2,900.
- Highest loss of all of them is $6,074.
- Net profit for the whole year is $5,741, excluding staff and executive time and operating costs.
According to my calculations, when you add in the staff, executive time and operating costs, this whole fiasco costs the organization $219,300 a year … $219,300! I’m about ready to jump out of my chair. This is crazy. Nuts.
And I am sure the executive who thinks this is a good idea is sitting back glowing in the “feel-good memories” of rubbing shoulders with the event attendees, swirling his glass of wine making small talk and thinking: “What a wonderful thing I have created here.”
Perhaps to give him the benefit of the doubt, he may be saying: “This is great PR. Look at all the exposure the organization is getting!” And, to some degree, he is right. There is some good exposure happening. But the problem is that no one in the organization is thinking strategically about this. They have:
- Co-mingled an event/PR strategy with major gifts. Big mistake. Do not do this. Pay attention to donors. If you want to spend $220,000 a year on a PR/events strategy, at least do it right. This is not even good PR.
- Not integrated events with major gifts. There is no connection to caseload management and no strategy to involve major donors or move them in any direction with the event. All that has been done is to toss the MGO into the mix and call it a part of major gifts. Insane.
- Wasted organizational resources. With no strategy, no destination, no integration, the organizers of this program have literally thrown good money and time away. In well-run organizations, this would be a reason to fire someone.
- Allowed a manager to run amuck. This, perhaps, is the saddest thing. This manager or leader, the guy who came up with this travesty, is allowed to deploy the organizations resources on a whim. And this reflects on the top leader who is not using good judgment to curtail, guide and even eliminate this kind of activity.
I bring this to your attention today, because still, in many good nonprofits, the events thing is ravaging many development departments with wasted time and resources. And if it is not pure events, it is some misguided thinking that MGOs should manage anything else, but donors. Jeff and I just do not understand this. How can a professional, smart manager/leader think this is the right thing to do?
Don’t do this. You have in your hands a group of wonderful donors who are committed to your organization. They need your care and attention. They need to know they are making a difference in our world. Help with that and do not get distracted.
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.