You Need to Celebrate the Success of a Major Gift Officer
It was a pretty sad conversation. I had just hung up from a phone call with a really good major gift officer. And I had to admit I did not know what else I could have done. Here’s what happened.
This major gift officer (MGO) had been with the organization for over five years. She had had a steady increase in caseload value. She had retained many of the donors on the caseload. She had upgraded many of them as well. She was an above average MGO, but she was discouraged.
The major blow had come last week when she announced that she had successfully secured a six-figure gift from a donor who had historically given $5,000 a year. She had told her boss, a genuinely nice development director, and some of her colleagues. And the best reaction she got out of any of them was a nod and a “nice going.”
And that was it.
When she talked to us, her question was simple and to the point: “Does anyone in my organization value what I am doing? I often wonder.”
Jeff and I, and our team of associates, find that this situation is common in the major gift field. And it is becoming the main reason MGOs change jobs.
Think about this for a minute. Major gift work is not easy. And once a MGO reaches a yearly goal, one of the very few things that most certainly happens is a new goal is developed—a goal that is higher. And there is very little thanks and no celebration of success either on the progress with a specific donor or the caseload in general.
This is interesting to me.
For five years of my career, I managed a team of commercial sales people. I learned a lot during those years—especially about encouraging and motivating these good people. I quickly learned that there is a limit to pay and bonuses and that incentive trips and gifts only did part of the job of motivation and encouragement.
Many sales management experts will tell you that money and things, while important, will not get the encouragement and valuing job done. They will also tell you that truly valuing a sales person and celebrating their success privately and publicly will fill that person’s heart up with the joy and fulfillment they need.
The same is true in the nonprofit world. While it is not appropriate to provide financial incentives, like commissions and others, to the compensation of a MGO, there are a number of things that can be done to honor the good work of the MGOs in your organization. And, if you are a MGO reading this, you can also be helpful in raising the gratitude and celebration bar.
I am writing about this today to encourage development directors, executive directors, CEOs and other MGOs to increase the celebration of MGO success in your organization. Here are some easy to adopt ideas. When a MGO experiences success with a donor and/or reaches a caseload value milestone:
1. Send an email to the rest of the team celebrating the success.
2. On occasion take the MGO to lunch or even dinner.
3. Tell the CEO or top executive about it and have them send a note to the MGO.
4. Publish kudos in your organizational newsletter, if you have one, or put a notice on the organization bulletin board (the electronic one or the one in the hall).
5. Always point out and celebrate the success in your staff meetings.
6. Produce a plaque or certificate and hand it to them publicly.
7. Have an impromptu walk to the local coffee shop, take a bunch of colleagues with you and be sure everyone understands why you are doing it.
8. For certain successes, let the MGO take a day or half day off.
9. Put a congratulatory note in the MGOs personnel file.
10. Play a drum, bell, horn or something that causes noise and is celebratory. Get out of the quiet orderly office demeanor and kick things up a notch.
In other words, celebrate. Truly celebrate. And let the MGO know that he is appreciated and noticed. If things are too quiet in your organization, it’s time to mix it up a bit and get crazy.
And, oh, there is the matter of compensation. What would be wrong, for the right kind of success and trend, to kick up the MGO’s compensation a bit and do it out of the HR cycle? I know a good many folks that would like to do that. Why not budget for that possibility?
Here’s the thing: There are so many little things you can do to let your MGO know that he or she is valued. Why not just purpose to do them? It will cost you very little time and money. And you will be doing the right thing for them plus assure their loyalty to and longevity with you. Celebrating success has a good ROI.
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.