How to Introduce Yourself to a New Major Donor
You’ve landed the job. You are the new major gift officer. Hopefully someone gave you a different title to use externally, because you should not use MGO as your title. Why? Because that is the function you perform for the organization — to secure major gifts. It is not the function you perform for the donor.
This topic of who you are and what you call yourself is very important. It is not just about a title. It is about how you present — how you show up — to the donor. It is also about your professional self-concept.
Jeff and I have said all along that major gifts is not just about the money. Maybe I should rephrase that and say it is not first about the money. It is first about matching the interests and passions of the donor to the need your organization is meeting. That is the first thing. The money follows that connection.
Because this is true, you are not a MGO. You are an investment counselor. You are seeking to provide the donor with the best charitable investment counseling you can. Here, in no particular order of priority, are the 10 attributes of a charitable investment counselor who works with donors:
- Knowledgeable and experienced. Knows the organization, what it does and why it does it. Knows about the outcomes of the programs of the organization. Experienced in matching donor interests and passions to the societal needs the organization is addressing.
- Puts donor interests first. Understands that the donor is a full partner and that his or her interests need to be represented and protected.
- A person of integrity and truthfulness. Is open, honest and finds it easy to say, “I don’t know.” Has a good reputation.
- Invokes confidence and trust. A donor naturally trusts the MGO and has confidence in what he or she says.
- Proactive. Anticipates the donor’s needs, and wants and takes action.
- Good communicator. Communicates well — written and verbal. Is easily understood.
- Accepts responsibility. When something goes wrong, accepts responsibility.
- Keeps promises. Is a person of his or her word. Takes a promise seriously. Follows through.
- Committed to personal development. Is always learning how to do things better. Is curious about the program solutions the organization is presenting solve problems. Seeks to understand where donors are coming from and the latest trends in philanthropy.
- Able to teach. Able to explain how things work in an easy to understand way. It could be about program, the inner workings of a campaign, the elemental points of planned giving, how fundraising works, the relationship of overhead to deliver program, etc. Able to learn about formulas, systems, approaches and strategies.
You will notice that many of these attributes are personal characteristics (i.e. what you are like or who you are). The rest are what you know. Take a look at this list, and reframe how you think about yourself. And then get prepared to introduce yourself to that new donor.
I hope, when the donor asks who you are, you won’t say: “I’m a major gift officer,” or “I work in major gifts.” Instead, say something like this: “My job is to help match your charitable interests and passions to the needs of [insert the recipients of your organization’s work] here in our community. What I seek to do, [donor name], is to make sure that what you care about actually happens.”
And as you are saying and doing all of this, remember that this is who YOU really are. Yes, you are a fundraiser and a MGO. But most importantly, you are a charitable investment counselor.
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.