Going Solo Spells Disaster
You’ve heard of the term, “solo player.” It refers most often in a sales environment to someone who does everything alone and won’t include others in the work. In most cases they are not very successful. In fact, we see a tremendous amount of burnout from this type of MGO.
We believe that to be effective at major gifts, many people from the organization needs to be involved. One area that I think most fundraisers don’t work together on very much is working on individual donor strategies. Let me tell you a story.
Several months ago, I was sitting in a meeting with a large, well-known nonprofit. In that room represented the top development person from the national office, four executive officers and their development directors, along with the chief financial officers from four major chapters of the organization and board members from those chapters.
The purpose was to discuss their recent development progress and discuss a shared program all of them were involved in. Part of that discussion was to talk about specific donors that were passionate about program and get ideas on how best to approach those donors.
So, do you have the picture in your head? All of these people sitting around a big table, and the conversation turns to discussing individual donors and how they should be approached to invest in the project.
I, along with one of the development directors from one of the chapters, led the discussion. We brought up one donor, gave the history of that donor, talked about her passion and interests, and then opened the discussion to everyone. Remember, no one in that room really knew that donor except that particular development director.
The questions were spot on. The ideas that flowed from those questions were quite amazing. In fact, a whole new strategy was born in that room in how to bring the donor along with the project and what the best way to solicit the donor should be. That discussion lasted 45 minutes … about one donor!
Some of the best ideas actually came from a couple of chief financial officers in the room. But, what was even more amazing was the reaction from many of the executive directors. They were actually having fun in this discussion. And you could see light bulbs going off in their heads about how this major donor stuff works.
This went on and on until we had talked through four donors—some 2.5 hours later!
Later the VP of development for the national organization came up to me and said that he had never witnessed anything like that session in his entire career. He later said, “We have to do this more often. We are better together than doing this on our own.”
Yes, this is absolutely true. You know, as an MGO, you are mostly wired to get results through our own efforts. But, that doesn’t mean you have to think through all your donor strategies alone. Yes, you have to lead on those discussions, but Richard and I believe that by bringing others together to think through your strategies with donors, you end up being more successful.
I mean, wouldn’t you, as a MGO, love to walk down your hallway and see the chief financial officer, a program person or even the CEO poke their head out and say, “Hey, how’s it going with that donor of yours we discussed last week?”
Remember, we’re all in this together. When Richard talks about building a culture of philanthropy, we are always asking, “Where is the donor? Getting others in your organization to help you craft your donor strategy is a great way to get people to start thinking like this.
Think about getting a team together once a quarter to talk about three to five donors you could use help on. Bring in program people, finance, the executive team and some board members—get people who are strategic thinkers and who are “idea people” to help you.
You will get great ideas that you probably would not have thought of. And, you get organizational buy in to the importance of donors and major gifts.
That, to me, is a home run.
If you like baseball, tennis, golf, Gregorian chant, jazz, rock, good wine and deep conversation, then you’ll like to hang out with Jeff.
If you are passionate about fundraising, Jeff will inspire you to be a true “broker of love” for your donors, helping you bring together a donor’s desire to change the world and the world’s greatest needs. Jeff believes that if nonprofits truly want to grow and obtain more net revenue for their mission, it will come through creating, building and successfully managing major-gift programs. The Connections blog will give you inspiration and practical advice to help you succeed. Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit fundraising experience and is senior partner of the Veritus Group.