Major Gifts: More About Attitude Than Aptitude
Aptitude: A natural ability to do something.
Attitude: A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.
Over the years, I have been on an interesting personal and professional journey with these two words. On the personal side, I have struggled with having the right attitude — the right way of thinking and feeling — in my personal relationships. This has spilled over into my professional relationships, which were sometimes fogged and blurred by a negative and critical attitude.
I’ve grown up a lot since those days, but I still have to watch myself in this area because if I don’t, my ability to DO things (aptitude) will be limited by my attitude.
I’ve seen so many talented people lose an opportunity to contribute their amazing abilities because those abilities were hidden beneath a lousy attitude.
You’ve seen this as well. You have been around a person like this. And you have likely said: “They have so much potential — they are so talented. If only they could get rid of that chip on their shoulder.”
Several weeks ago, I was told about an employee who had been asked to consider taking on more responsibilities. The request was more about commitment to the cause versus working more. This was a perfect opportunity for the employee to respond with the proper attitude and say: “I would love to help out however I can. Just tell me what you need me to do.” Instead, he asked for a salary adjustment, a raise on top of that, back pay for work he had already done in the past and written assurances about what would happen economically if he was let go.
It was an amazing example of attitude — poor attitude. And after I processed my reaction to his response I realized that it was a gift to the organization he worked for. He had shown his hand — the work he was doing was more about him than anything to do with a commitment to the organization he worked for.
As a major gift officer (MGO), you spend a great deal of time thinking about strategy, messaging and moves in order to properly manage the donors on your caseload and deliver on the promise that you will help each donor fulfill their passions and interests through their giving to your organization.
All of this activity is focused outside of yourself, as it should be.
But have you recently checked yourself in all of this? Have you checked what you are thinking and feeling about any one of your caseload donors, your job, your relationship to your manager and others? You might be delivering good work (aptitude), but is your attitude declining into a dark place?
I remember one situation where the MGO was so consumed by one difficult donor that it colored her entire view of her job. Her attitude about this situation was literally robbing her of the ability to contribute her amazing talents. Her attitude of service, over time, swung into a attitude about self.
That is what is so interesting about this attitude thing. It can creep up on you, find its way into your spirit and slowly steal your ability to work your talent in the amazing way you know you can.
Now it is true that sometimes you do need to move away from that difficult donor or manager or colleague. It is true that they, not you, are the problem. But most often, in Jeff’s and my experience, it is us that needs the fixing, not someone or something outside of us.
The content of many fundraising and major gift consultants is often about strategy or messaging, which it should be. But in our opinion, that is the lessor part of the agenda with caseload donors. You can apply all the strategy and messaging points you’ve learned from the “experts” and fail at your job if your attitude and spirit isn’t right.
This is why Jeff and I spend a great deal of time talking about the spiritual, psychological and emotional side of major gift fundraising — that part that has to do with WHO you are and how you operate. Because if you are “right” on the inside, you will be right with the donor. And that dynamic will unleash that donor’s amazing generosity.
We are so thankful for the amazing person you are. You are wonderfully gifted. And you are doing important work — work that is positively affecting the planet and its people. Be sure you can keep that contribution of your talent going and growing by checking on your attitude. It is good and regular work we all need to do.
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.