Why You Should Not Be a Major Gift Officer
You should not be a major gift officer if:
1. You don’t value being held accountable. Notice I didn’t say you don’t “like” being held accountable. Valuing and liking are two different things. You don’t have to like it, but you need to see why it’s important for you. Richard and I have seen too many MGOs that not only hate being held accountable but think they don’t need it. They don’t make it in our industry. Unfortunately, we also have bad managers that don’t know how to provide it, or they themselves don’t value it. With that combination you end up with a bad major gift program.
2. You love administrative work. Ninety percent of an MGO’s job should all be centered on cultivating your donor relationships by getting out and being face-to-face with them. Ten percent of your time should be spent on entering data into the database, paperwork, etc. We have seen far too many MGOs who love to sit at their desk and do busy work, rather than be out in front of their donors. If this is you, you are in the wrong position.
3. You like getting involved in office politics. Great MGOs are centered on their donors. Bad MGOs are centered on everything else but their donors. I can usually tell in one meeting how good or bad an MGO is by how they talk about their job. If all they do is complain about that person or this situation, I know they are involving themselves in office politics to avoid going out to see donors.
4. You don’t believe fundraising is a high calling. I’m using the word “calling” purposefully. If you don’t believe asking people to give away their money to help change the world is one of the best things you can do for that donor, then you will not be a great MGO. If there is a shred of doubt about how important it is that your donors are asked to give, then you will not succeed as a major gift officer. You have to be absolutely committed to this philosophy and the cause you’re asking people to give money to.
5. You generally don’t like people. You may laugh at this statement, but you would not believe how many MGOs I’ve run into who do not value their donors. They think of almost every excuse not to see them, they figure out how to do all their correspondence by e-mail and notes and they don’t reach out to them to figure out how they can be of service to their donors. How they got to be a MGO in the first place is beyond comprehension, but they are out there. One trait I always see in great MGOs in that they are naturally curious people. They genuinely want to get to know you, want to know what makes you tick and want to help you. If you don’t like people, stay away from being an MGO.
6. You don’t value goals and strategy. This is related to accountability. Great MGOs love to have goals and a strategy in how to obtain those goals. Good MGOs may not love goals and having to create strategy, but they understand the need for it and know it will help them succeed. Bad MGOs, not only hate goals and strategy, but also don’t value it. These are people who think they can wing it and are always chasing some big donor they heard about. I have to admit I’ve seen some bad MGOs make a quick win with a large gift. But over time, they are absolute failures because they are not focused. Great MGOs know that major gift fundraising is about the long-term. They value creating strong relationships and providing outstanding service to their donors because they know if they cultivate a donor well, good things happen.
If any one of these traits are yours, either you need to change something or decide that perhaps you are in the wrong position. Look, we are all on a journey. But why continue on the path that is making you miserable? Doing it just for the money is not fair to you or your organization’s donors.
You should love what you do. It should bring you joy. No, that doesn’t mean it will be easy or you won't have tough days, but you will always know the “this is the job for me” feeling. It should rest well in your bones.
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.