Robots and Major Gift Officers
I was sitting at a local pizza place several weeks ago, and a young family came and sat next to my wife and me. There were three kids, all teenagers, and the mom and dad. The server came over to take the drink order, and then there was total silence at the table.
The silence caught my attention, so I turned to look and found that all the kids and the mom and dad were buried in their cell phones texting and surfing the web. This went on for the whole meal. At one point, the wife was trying to talk to the husband, and he was feigning attention by grunting acknowledgements. It was pretty sad. I see this more and more where kids are given iPads to “keep them distracted” versus learn the social skills they need to have while in public.
I sit in more and more meetings where computers are open, people are actively responding to emails in the meetings and participants are not really present in the meetings. We have a rule in our company: no texting or computers in meetings or conference calls. I will stop the meeting if I see that going on. It is rude.
Then my wife tells me there’s a nursing home that has installed a robot to take care of the seniors — and that this robot, when talked to by a senior, sighs and turns its head to simulate paying attention and caring. The author of this news story makes the point that technology, while helpful, is no substitute for human interaction.
I titled this post “Robots and Major Gift Officers” to get your attention and to make the point that it would be ridiculous to even consider that a robot could be a MGO. But I also want to make the point that in your daily major gift work, you have to guard that you don’t do robot-like work and dehumanize the sacred and mystical thing that major gift work is.
Here are some things to watch so you make sure you keep being human and staying present with your caseload donors:
1. Watch That Your Moves Don’t Become Mechanical
If you have 150 qualified donors on your caseload, and you have a strategic plan for every donor, with one or more tactical moves in every month, the chances are pretty high that in any given month many of the tactics for your donors will be the same.
This dynamic, if not managed, will cause you to think about the donors as a group or as a cluster versus individual donors. You will be moving into robot land. Be careful. Every donor is different. Just because two donors have the same tactic this week does not mean that you will treat them the same.
2. Efficiency Is the Enemy of Intimacy
I know this one firsthand, because I am very objective-oriented and don’t want to waste one millisecond on redundant and wasteful actions. But my wife constantly reminds me that relationship is not efficient; it is sometimes messy and unpredictable. It takes time. And all of that is not efficient.
So you planned to have three major donor visits today, but you were with Mrs. Jones, and the whole interaction needed another hour — an hour you did not have. That is the way it goes. You give her the hour and change your day around. You do not rush out the door. If you try to be too efficient in major gifts you will be moving into robot land. Be careful.
3. Stay Present to Your Donor
This is very hard to do, especially if the donor is boring or difficult or their style is one that rubs you the wrong way. Now hold on —I said boring, difficult and irritating style, because that is a fact. Some people you like. And some you don’t. It is a fact of life. But as a MGO, you do not have a choice to favor the “good” donors and disfavor the “bad” ones.
So, you have to watch that you stay present with each donor, honoring them with your attention and listening to their details.
4. Flee From Strategies and Tactics That Turn You Into a Robot
You know what these are: the impersonal letter, the heartless phone call that lacks content, the boiler-plate email, the action that takes care of business but doesn’t value relationship.
Don’t do it. I know you are tired, it has been a busy day, that there is a lot to do, etc. I know that. But don’t go in this direction. If you do, you will be in robot land.
Technology is a great thing. I love it. I am sure you do to. But it is something to use to support your goals and values. It is not something that can replace real relationships. For today and the rest of this week, be on the lookout for robot-like behavior that has crept into your life, both personally and professionally. Then, once finding it, root it out and get back to being human. It’s the best place to be.
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.