How to Succeed in Your First 60 days
Many organizations we work with are having a tough time finding good major gift officers (MGOs). Quite honestly, for Richard and me, it’s difficult to watch our industry struggle so much to find really good people.
We have been in so many situations where a nonprofit hires an MGO and very quickly we find out they just are not going to make it—it’s very sad.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If you or someone you know is either looking for an MGO position or just started in one, I’m going to give you a road map for what to do in your first 60 days. If you follow this road map, you will not only start out your position on the right foot, but you will also give your manager a sigh of relief and, ultimately, comfort your donors.
In the first 60 days of starting at a new organization as an MGO, you have two things to concentrate on: knowing the mission (or product) and getting to know your donors. Let’s start with the mission first.
Knowing the Mission
1. Meet with your manager and the CEO to understand their vision for the organization. Don’t worry about starting at the top. If your manager and CEO are good and understand major gifts, they will welcome this meeting. Your purpose is to find out where your organization is going. How is the mission being carried out and why are you so needed. You need to hear from the CEO what she thinks of the donors, and to learn her desire to meet with them and ask them to invest in the organization.
2. Talk with the program people. Your job is to understand completely in what your organization does and how it does it. Like any great salesperson, program people have to know their product up and down to convince someone to buy it. It’s the same for an MGO. Take a week and immerse yourself in what your organization does. Ask tons of questions. Volunteer your time to work alongside the program folks. Wherever you carry out your mission is where you need to be. If someone is saying you need to be at your desk looking at handbook, ignore him. Your job is to know everything you can about what your organization does.
3. Immerse yourself in the mission of the organization. Read everything you can—from past case statements to literature about your organization, news clippings, etc. Go talk to the communications director or marketing director and ask questions about the organization. Strengths, weaknesses, etc. You need to be a sponge to soak up all this information. You need to hear stories. When you are volunteering, you need to talk to those who are benefiting from your organization. You need to hear their stories. Your goal is to be broken by those stories so that not only are you filling your head, but your heart as well.
Know the Donor
1. If you have a portfolio of donors being handed to you, you need to research every donor in that portfolio and review the notes entered in by your predecessor carefully. Note what information seems to be missing and write your questions down. Then, schedule a meeting with your manager to go over each of those donors and start asking questions about them. If the manager doesn’t know, keep seeking out people within the organization that do. Getting to know your donors in the first 60 days requires you to be like an investigative reporter.
2. If you don’t have a portfolio set up, you need to go into your database and start creating a "pool" of potential major donors. Start by looking at anyone who has given a cume gift of $1,000 in any one of the last four years. That is a place to start. You can get more information on how to start a major gift program by looking at this whitepaper and blog.
3. Start introducing yourself to donors with an introductory letter and follow-up phone call. This letter will tell the donor you will be their new representative, and that you will be following up to speak with them. Send out about 10 to 15 per week so that you can follow up the next week by phone, until you have covered your entire caseload. In the follow-up phone call, you want to thank the donor, introduce yourself and try to get a face-to-face meeting strictly to get to know them.
4. Once you are confident of who is in your portfolio, start creating a revenue goal and strategic plan for every donor. You may ask how you can create a goal without totally knowing the donor. In your first year, the best way to figure this out is by looking at previous giving behavior and gathering all your notes you have from your own research. Then, make sure you and your manager are aligned on the goals and strategy.
Finally, one additional item I recommend to you. Great MGOs know they have to be accountable. Unfortunately, a good number of nonprofits are bad with management. Great MGOs, if they don’t have a regular meeting already set up for them, create a meeting with their manager and proactively discuss how they need their manager to hold them accountable.
Now, if you follow this road map in your first 60 days, I know for a fact that you will be serving your nonprofit, your donors and yourself very well. They key for you is to be proactive, be a learner and be unbelievably curious. It will launch your tenure in the most positive way.
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.