What Happens When Your Major Gift Officer Leaves?
Recently, one of our client managers for Veritus told me a story about one of our clients she is working with. Here is her story:
“So, I was on a plane flying to a client meeting, and that gave me some time to review in-depth each of the MGO’s [major gift officer’s] caseloads I’m managing for our client. While going over each of their donors, I noticed a number of other donors not on anyone’s caseload who had been part of a former MGO’s caseload. The MGO that is no longer with the organization left about three months before we started working with this organization.
What struck me was that these donors had given significant gifts: Like $100,000 for one donor and in the $10,000 to $25,000 range for some other donors. Yet, they were never reassigned to another MGO.
When I landed, I immediately called the executive director and asked if he was aware of this and if he knew who these donors were. Nope! He had no clue. So, here were good donors who were on a former MGO’s caseload, and no one had done anything with them for months. I had a knot in my stomach. The executive director was elated when I found these donors, and we quickly reassigned them and put together a plan to reengage.”
When I heard this story, I was not shocked. Richard and I hear this kind of stuff all the time. This happens with major donors, because many nonprofits clearly have no structure in place for their major gift program.
In this case, this nonprofit obviously had no protocol for what to do when a major gift officer leaves the organization. Now, if the organization had been donor-centered and understood donor service, they would have taken great care of these donors.
Fortunately, we’re working with them now, and this won’t happen ever again. But, how does your organization handle anyone that has a portfolio of donors they are cultivating, and they leave? Do you have a protocol in place?
If not, here is one we suggest:
- If the MGO who is leaving gives you plenty of notice, the MGO is leaving on good terms and you have a replacement, a letter from that MGO going out to his or her donors should be sent introducing the new MGO.
- For some of the “A” level donors in her portfolio, if there is time, the outgoing MGO can set up a meeting to introduce the new MGO to his or her donors. Obviously, this is the best-case scenario.
- The new MGO should follow up that letter with a phone call—within one week—to reach out to all donors in the portfolio to personally introduce himself or herself.
- If the MGO abruptly leaves or is asked to leave, you quickly have to review the entire portfolio and assign those donors to other MGOs or staff who can “cover” the caseload until you can find a replacement.
- A letter should go out immediately from the CEO or executive director, explaining the situation to the donors. (Of course, you don’t go into detail on why the former MGO has left.)
- For all “A” level and perhaps some “B” level donors, the CEO or executive director should personally call those donors, in addition to the letter, to let them know of the situation, and that they are being cared for.
- As soon as you have an outside replacement or you have determined a new in-house solution, you should communicate it to your donors. The new person who is now caring for that donor should reach out as soon as possible.
This protocol ensures that all donors will be cared for, that donors are communicated with and that you are proactive in that communication. While some may be disappointed, most donors understand that this stuff happens with nonprofits.
The mistake many nonprofits make is that they “sit on” this information and make the situation worse by not being proactive, because they fear the donor will think badly of the organization. And, in the story above, because there was no protocol in place, donors were simply “forgotten” by the organization, and that is the worst thing you ever want to happen.
Remember, being donor-centered means having systems in place to make sure every donor is cared for under any situation. Do you have all your systems in place?
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.