Habits of Successful Major Gift Officers
The three elements of a successful major gift program are a good program to present to donors, good donors and a good major gift staff. Jeff and I have seen many major gift situations where one of these elements was missing, and it was impossible for a major gift program to really get traction.
One of the most frustrating things a major gift officer faces is not having any program to present to donors. We have talked about this quite a bit—in which the authority figure frustratingly says to the MGO: “Just get out the program, and find something,” instead of really helping the MGO by framing what program does and making sure the donor understands and supports it.
And then there are those situations where a good MGO is expected to “land some really big gifts,” but is given a caseload of donors who cannot deliver on that expectation.
No program, no donor is a sure path to failure in major gifts. But here’s the thing: Many times, it is the MGO who is not working toward success and is mired in ways of doing things and work style that is counterproductive.
One of the core beliefs Jeff and I have is that creating and maintaining a system of major gifts fundraising and then helping a MGO consistently work within that system is the key to success in major gifts. I place emphasis on the words system and consistent. Major gifts are as much about discipline and workstyle as they are program and donors.
That is why I found an article in SuccessStory.com on “Habits of Unsuccessful People vs. Successful People” so interesting. The article contains a very helpful infographic that details the habits of unsuccessful and successful people. Take a look at it. The writers make three points, and I quote them here:
- Some of the habits of highly successful people include tracking progress, learning from mistakes, thinking of long-term goals, being humble, taking risks while maintaining balance in life, being organizational, embracing changes and handling problems well.
- On the other hand, some habits which are common among unsuccessful people are wasting time, getting distracted easily, blaming others, not setting goals, fearing change, holding grudges and wanting others to fail, thinking negative thoughts and thinking that they know everything.
- It is a fact that those who think that they have achieved success tend to be 100% successful in the future, whereas those who think that they can achieve it have only 80% chance of being successful. Similarly, those who doubt themselves and think that they might achieve it have only a 60% chance, whereas those who think that they definitely won’t have a 0% chance!
Here is what I think would be good for you, as MGO, to do:
- First of all, embrace the fact that you are a key factor in your success. It is way too easy to blame everyone and everything outside yourself for your lack of success. One of my mentors got in my face once and said: “Richard, the longer you keep looking outside of yourself for solutions, the longer it will take you to find them.” So I have made it a practice to constantly examine how I do things and why I do them. And I have made it a practice to continually solicit the input of others in this area, no matter how painful it is, so that I can be a better person. YOU and how you operate are key factors to your success.
- Take a look at the list of characteristics of unsuccessful and successful people and identify which ones belong to you. You might even ask for input from someone you trust. The point is to get a good grasp at how you operate, both good and bad, so you get an objective view of yourself.
- Pick out those traits that you know make you successful and give yourself some affirmation for having and maintaining them.
- Then pick out those traits that cause you to be unsuccessful. You know what they are. Now purpose to DO something about them. Tackle them one at a time. Have someone you trust hold you accountable in those areas where you tend to fall down.
- Lastly, start carrying positive possibility thoughts and beliefs. If you walk around with a defeatist attitude, you will most certainly be defeated. You are what you believe.
One of the keys to your success as a MGO is you. That is why it is good to regularly take inventory on how you are operating. And as you take that inventory remember that you are way better than you think. It is a fact.
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.