Major Gift Manipulation Never Works
If you have attended a training program with a nationally recognized major-gift guru, you have likely learned many techniques and strategies on how to approach major donors. Much of this material is very good. But some of those trainings, just like many of the meetings Jeff and I sit in on, where approaches to donors are discussed, a great deal of effort is made to maneuver and manipulate the donor into giving. Major gift manipulation never works.
Jeff and I have spent a great deal of time communicating that the one bedrock operating principle every MGO should follow, as relates approaching donors, is that the donor has an identifiable set of interests and passions that need to be fulfilled and satisfied. And the MGOs only objective is to match those interests and passions to the needs of society as expressed by the organization.
My friend and colleague, Jeff Brooks, wrote about manipulation in his blog “Catnip for Donors: Why You Can't Manipulate Them into Giving.” He makes the point that we all know is true: Manipulation of any sort, while it may get you a short-term bump in return, will not bring you the long-lasting relationship you want with your donor.
Why do MGOs resort to manipulation when they are managing major donors? Here’s my short list:
1. They Don’t Have Good Program to Present
This is a common cause. And this is the fault of the CEO, executive director or nonprofit leader. One development director recently told me:
“Good luck on reaching those goals we set for major gifts. We don’t have the program to present to the donors, so I don’t see how you can expect the MGOs to securely reach those goals.”
He was right. Getting to the goals will not happen without good program. It’s like hiring a really good salesperson then showing him an empty warehouse and saying: “Here is what we have to sell, Paul. I think you will do a good job.” But nothing on the warehouse shelves means nothing in the sales report. You can’t sell air.
2. They Haven’t Been Trained Properly
Jeff and I have seen so many situations where MGOs are thrown into the work without training. They don’t know the program. They haven’t learned how to “do” major gifts right. They are simply told to go “get the money.” I know this is true when I ask a new MGO what their manager said to them when they were first hired.
If the manager said something to the effect of, “We need to raise X amount this year,” and that was the most important message, things are off to a very bad start. If, on the other hand, the manager said, “We have a lot of very good donors supporting us. And your job, MGO, is to figure out how to maximize their joy and fulfillment by giving to our organization. And while you are doing that, we do need to find X amount this year.” That, my friend, is a donor-focused orientation.
3. They Haven’t Identified the Donor’s Passions and Interests
You know the drill on this one. If the MGO does not know the donor’s passions and interests, there is no amount of training on donor approaches that will help them be successful.
4. Their Manager Is More Focused on Financial Goal Achievement Than Satisfying Donor Needs
This point does not need any further explanation. The sad thing is that Jeff and I see too much of this in our industry—where managers care more about the money than they do the donors.
Here is the good news: You can do something about each of these points. While it is not your job, you can be helpful to program and finance to figure out what to present to donors. You can seek the proper training and follow writings, like ours, and the content of others. You can identify your donor’s interests and passions. And you can put your manager’s money focus into the proper context.
Purpose today to value each donor on your caseload versus resort to manipulation to achieve goals.
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.