Major Gift Officers: Just Do It!
At Veritus, we have worked with many major gift officers (MGOs) who, when we ask how it’s going with meeting and deepening their relationships with donors, we get a response like this:
“Well, I haven’t been having much donor contact. I’m just not finished with all my planning for my caseload, and I have to get my goals done. And I really need to get more understanding of our programs... then I’ll be able to visit and get to know my donors.”
Basically, the MGO is saying, “I have to get all my ducks in a row before I can really start building relationships with donors.”
The fact is, you don’t.
Now, do you need to build the correct structure, qualifying donors, tiering them, goal setting, creating strategic plans, knowing all about your programs and projects, etc.?...yes, of course. You will not be successful without it.
But you don’t have to wait until all of that is complete to get out there and start forming meaningful relationships with your donors. You can do the relationship thing and create the structure you need to be successful.
Many times, we hear from MGOs who are qualifying donors, and they tell us they haven’t worked their plan with their already qualified donors, because they are just focused on the qualifying.
This sometimes goes on for many, many months!
I could tear my hair out.
When Richard and I hear this from MGOs, we’ve figured out there are two possible things happening:
- The MGO just doesn’t understand that you can do two things at once, but more likely it’s...
- The MGO is doing everything to avoid talking and meeting donors.
Now, you may be wondering why would an MGO avoid talking or meeting donors.
This is quite common, unfortunately. For various reasons, there are scores of MGOs out there who are not comfortable developing relationships with donors, and they figure out every which way they can to not meet with them. They turn out to be great at the planning stuff. And they love getting to know the programs and projects, but they are not wired to be out in front of donors.
If you are a manager of a MGO, and you hear from your MGO that they can’t meet with donors until they have all of their T’s crossed and I’s dotted, it’s a major warning sign.
Great MGOs work hard to create a solid structure for their success, but they’re also eager to get out and start talking to donors. So, as a manager, a key sign of success will be to see your MGO not only doing all the right things by building that structure (qualifying, tiering, goal-setting, strategic plans for every donor), they will, at the same time, be out building relationships.
And, if you are a major gift fundraiser, know that you can do both of these things simultaneously. You don’t have to wait until your entire structure is complete to start meeting with donors; in fact, you can’t wait.
But if you find yourself using that as an excuse, be honest with yourself, and do some soul-searching to discover if major gift fundraising is the right fit for you. It may not be—and that is okay.
But, if you know you love this work, Richard and I are giving you permission to get out and just start doing it! Your donors are waiting to hear from you.
If you like baseball, tennis, golf, Gregorian chant, jazz, rock, good wine and deep conversation, then you’ll like to hang out with Jeff.
If you are passionate about fundraising, Jeff will inspire you to be a true “broker of love” for your donors, helping you bring together a donor’s desire to change the world and the world’s greatest needs. Jeff believes that if nonprofits truly want to grow and obtain more net revenue for their mission, it will come through creating, building and successfully managing major-gift programs. The Connections blog will give you inspiration and practical advice to help you succeed. Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit fundraising experience and is senior partner of the Veritus Group.