We’ve Moved!!

Hey folks, Richard and I wanted you to know that our Passionate Giving blog site has moved to a different location.  We’ve had the new site up since the end of January.  You can view the new blog site here http://veritusgroup.com/passionate-giving-blog/

Come join us.  You’ll be glad you did.

Jeff and Richard

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Three Things that Bother Me About Our Industry–#1—Leadership Will Not Raise Money.


Generally, I consider myself to be a positive person.  I can usually see hope in almost any situation.  But lately, a few things have really been bugging me so much about the industry I love and they keep coming at me almost daily.

The other day I was speaking with a colleague of mine who was complaining about some similar things that had come up in her work.  So I said, “Write down the top three things that are bothering you about non-profits and we’ll compare notes.”

Unbelievably we had the same three…in the same order!  Which, of course, intrigued me enough to write this blog post.

#1 on list:

Leadership Will Not Raise Money.

When Richard and I give a presentation to a potential client we can detect very quickly whether or not the CEO and board are actively involved in raising money for the organization.

We’ll usually get a question like this, “Do you find in other organizations that the people at the top go on donor visits?”  Or the question will more likely be, “How active should a board be in major gift fundraising?”

Immediately we know that leadership has not embraced fundraising as something good and necessary, and of course they have not fostered a culture of philanthropy in the organization.

If you and I were face to face right now, I could mimic for you the look of frustration on the faces of development directors and major gift officers.   They’d probably say something like, “Oh, I know that look.  Yep, I’ve seen that too many times.”

I’m not really sure how someone becomes a leader of a non-profit, yet at the same time abhors, or at best puts up with, fundraising.  Our industry has to do a better job of training future leaders in the idea that fundraising is a good and necessary function of the non-profit.

Recently I was with a non-profit that had hired a former CEO of a fortune 100 company to run their organization.  Everyone on staff was all excited because this guy was going to lead them all to the promised land.  “I want to double revenue in 5-years,” he proclaimed.

Well, four years into it, they’ve remained flat.  When I asked what happened, that “look” came across the development director’s face and he said, “ The CEO hates fundraising.”  He had cut their acquisition budget by two thirds because he said it lost money. And, he didn’t believe in the long-term value projections of those donors.

The head of major gifts told me he wouldn’t let the CEO go on any more donor visits because when they tried it in the past he was so arrogant it turned the donors off.

So, there they sat with that “look” feeling incredibly undermined and hopeless.  Think about it. Here is a guy who successfully led a major U.S. corporation and he’s rammed the organization into an iceberg.  All the staff has been doing is using buckets to stop the water from gushing in.

It’s not working.  All because he doesn’t see the value in fundraising.

I’m calling on all development leaders in our industry, you included, to continue to press upon all non-profit leadership (CEO’s, Executive Directors and board members) to embrace a culture of philanthropy and understand the necessity of a healthy and robust fundraising program.

Here is what Richard and I are calling for with all non-profit leaders:

  1. All non-profit leaders must understand that their mission must include their donors.  Just as CEO’s of corporations have an obligation to their shareholders, so does a non-profit leader to his or her donors.
  2. Non-profit leaders should understand that fundraising is not only essential for the health of their organization, but for the well-being of its donors.
  3. All board members who are overseeing the work of a non-profit are obligated to give financially to that organization and are evangelists for the mission to bring others alongside them who can support the mission.
  4. All non-profit leaders must act as the heart and voice of their non-profits mission so as to inspire others to give of their time, talent and treasure.  Not only must they inspire donors and volunteers, they must inspire their own staff.
  5. Non-profit leaders must promote a culture of philanthropy that permeates the hearts and souls of the staff, volunteers and donors of the organization, knowing that everyday they are making a difference in the world.

This is what our non-profit leaders have to be about.  If you are in leadership in the non-profit industry I need YOU to LEAD on this.  Your staff needs you to lead.  And, just as importantly, so do your donors.


Posted in Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Philanthopy, Social Networking | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Not Asking Donors? Don’t blame the Major Gift Officer


If you are afraid to ask someone for money you should not be involved in major gift fundraising.  That sounds pretty logical, right?  Yet, when Richard and I get involved in helping non-profits with their major gift programs, we find so many MGOs who don’t ask their donors for gifts.

Now, after so many years of this happening you would think we’d be used to this, but we are dumbfounded every time we encounter it.

But I want to be clear.  I don’t blame the major gift officer.  It’s a leadership problem. Here is what it looks like:

Usually the board and/or president of the organization, or even the development director (no, I’m not kidding – I once had an encounter with a development director who had been in the business for over 25 years and proudly proclaimed she had never asked for a gift!) sees fundraising as a necessary evil.  They know it has to be done, but they don’t like it so they unconsciously sabotage it.

This means the leader doesn’t get out to meet donors, fundraising appeal letters are weak and the non-profit usually has a big “communications” budget with a ton of “friend-raising” events.

How this plays out in the major gift program is that MGOs are essentially called “relationship managers.”  They go on visits to say “hi”, they bring little gifts to donors, they are on the phone “checking in” with their donors and sending little notes.  Then, it seems they spend the other half of their time getting involved in office politics or things that have nothing to do with major gift fundraising.

Yes, gifts do come in.  But, they usually are not large, organizational changing, new project starting gifts.  They are in the $5,000-$10,000 range and everyone seems happy.

Until this “strategy” stops working.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Jeff, you’re making this up.  This doesn’t happen.  Why would you not ask donors to give?”

Unfortunately, Richard and I see this type of scenario with major gift programs all over the country.  It’s sad, really, because non-profit leaders have not embraced fundraising as a good and necessary function both for their own organization and for donors.

Yes, you heard me right.  It is necessary and good for people to give.  If a non-profit leader does not understand how important it is to help people discover joy in their giving they will unknowingly create a culture of shame and fear associated with fundraising.

If the development director easily succumbs to that shame and fear, you end up with a major gift program like the one I just described.  And this happens over and over again in non-profits all across our world.

Even if the development director “gets it” and tries to promote a real culture of philanthropy in his or her own shop, and the leader of that organization is not on board, it creates a toxic fundraising environment.  Elaborate “work-arounds” start to develop to overcome the leader’s distaste for fundraising and it just becomes a huge mess.

This takes me back to our MGOs.  It’s easy to blame an MGO for not asking donors.  But, when Richard and I run into this situation, we know first to examine the leadership of the organization and have compassion for the lack of productivity of the MGO.

Often, even though MGOs have been brought up in this toxic mix of fear and shame around fundraising, with the proper training and a new found sense of what fundraising really is all about, they begin to thrive.  We have seen some remarkable turnarounds.

Unfortunately, many MGOs who have been brought up in to this “relationship manager” “let’s not ask” culture, cannot get past it and they ultimately have to leave.  It’s not their fault. I blame the non-profit leaders and teachers who don’t understand the amazing role philanthropy can play in the lives of donors, which ultimately can change the world.

Is any of this happening in your organization?  Do you feel like you have to constantly “work around” your CEO or President?  Is your major gift program floundering because you’ve never really asked your donors to invest in the mission, but simply accepted their gifts?

Things can change.  I’ve seen it happen.  It takes courage and strength to build a culture where donors are truly honored by asking them to make significant investments in your organization.  But this is exactly what donors want to do.  Take the lead in your organization to grasp the philosophy that your organization is the bridge between your donors greatest desires and passions and the world’s greatest needs.

Be bold, ask, and ask again.


Posted in Development Directors, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Non-Profits, Philanthopy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Events: What are they good for?


Several months ago I was on a Skype call with a friend of mine who is a priest living in the mountains of Bolivia.  He’s working with some of the poorest people in South America.  He wanted my advice on how to raise $250,000 over the next five years to support the projects he’s working on.

Before I could get a word out he said, “Jeff, I’m thinking all we need to do is have one big event back in the States.  I’ll invite everyone I know, have them invite their friends and I’ll make a pitch for the money. What do you think?”

To his dismay, I said, “I think that’s a terrible idea. Do you know how much time and work events are and, even more importantly, how much they cost?”  He didn’t know what to say.  He was so adamant that the only way to raise the money was to have an event, he wasn’t prepared to have me disagree with him.

At that moment, he didn’t look very happy on my computer screen.

Instead, I recommended he put together a case statement, come up with a list of potential donors, put a revenue goal next to their name and have me help him devise a strategy to get the money.  He was skeptical.  But, he heeded my advice and eventually came up with a case statement and list of names with revenue goals.

Then, I helped him with his “ask” strategy.

Within one month, by following the plan, he had commitments for the $250K.  Oh, and about that event.  We did have an event last week- a celebration event for raising  all the money he needed for the campaign.  He’s going to end up with well over the $250,000!

Had he gone ahead and tried to put on this event, he would have failed miserably.

Now, I realize this is just one story to highlight the fact that I dislike fundraising events and believe for the most part they are absolutely worthless for raising net revenue, but over the last several weeks I’ve become aware of organizations that are struggling with their event strategy.

In reviewing one of these organizations and their major gift caseloads I noticed that three years ago a number of donors had made significant gifts, yet in the subsequent years it was nearly zero.  I asked what happened.  “Well, we had a big event that year and a number of donors gave, but then that was it.  We couldn’t get them to give again.”  I asked how much net revenue the event brought in.  Their eyes looked toward the floor.  “Well, not much. It was pretty expensive,” they said.  “And, a lot of our donors were pretty upset that we held such a fancy event.”

Another non-profit I had an opportunity to review has what I would call an event’s superstructure.  I mean, the culture of their development department is essentially “all events, all the time.”  They boast how the events team brings in about $6 million dollars a year in revenue.

So then I started digging a little more.  “Of that $6 million, how much of that revenue comes from donors that are on a caseload?  I mean, this is revenue you are going to get regardless of putting on an event or not.  And, when you deduct that revenue from caseload donors how much NET revenue do you actually end up with?”  The answer was embarrassingly little.

Actually, when I spoke with a few of the MGOs, they were complaining that some of their donors who they were cultivating for large six-figure gifts actually gave LESS because they happened to sponsor a $20,000 table at an event instead.  They were really frustrated.

Yet there continues to be the belief from upper management that “if we didn’t have all of these events we wouldn’t be able to raise so much money.”


Look, I’m not down on all events, but they should be limited and they should never be a replacement for developing  relationships with donors.  Richard and I have written about the pitfalls of events many times, but we keep writing about them because we see too many non-profits distracted with them with very little payoff.

Richard and I have seen way too many MGOs get sucked into the events black hole never to be seen again.  If I had a nickel for every MGO who said they didn’t make their goal because they had to coordinate some event…I’d be lying on a beach in Hawaii right now.

If you are the head of a non-profit, we urge you to move away from using events to raise money.  If you’re an MGO who continually gets “asked” to help with an event, do everything you can to convince your boss it’s a bad idea.  And, if you are a development director of a small non-profit, you have to realize that the best way to raise major gifts is to build relationships with donors and ask them directly to support your mission.

Don’t hide behind the false wall of an event.  Knock that wall down, create a solid list of qualified donors, find out their passions and desires, match them up with your great programs and ASK them to fund it.  And, guess what?  They will!!


Note to our readers:  You may have noticed that you received our Passionate Giving blog post today via an e-mail with a link coming from our company, Veritus Group.  We have recently created a new website and we have integrated our blog into our site.  This has caused some changes in how our blog gets delivered to you.  We are in process of coming up with a different solution that is more acceptable to us.  Thanks for hanging in there with us.

Jeff and Richard

Posted in Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Non-Profits | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Trust the Process


Recently, I was sitting across the table from the CEO of a very large non-profit we work with.  He said, “Jeff, tell me how our MGOs are doing.”  “Well”, I said, “all of your MGOs have exceeded their revenue goals in 2012 and overall your major gift program is up 70% in revenue over last year.”

He looked at me and said, “ No, no, I don’t care about revenue.”  I thought to myself, “What the in the world are you talking about?  You better care about the revenue.  This is phenomenal growth.”

So, of course, I said, “What do you mean, you don’t care about the revenue?”  He said, “Look, I want to know if they followed your process or was this growth just something that happened by chance?” 

Then I got it.  He wanted to understand whether his MGOs bought into the process.  Did they actually add value or did growth just happen because someone gave one seven-figure gift.

So he added this: “Jeff, even if you had told me that we brought in less revenue than last year and that no one made their goals, yet they followed your process, I would have been satisfied, because Jeff, I believe in your process.  Now, did they follow the process?”

Of course they all had.  If they work with us, they have to follow the process. And, yes, that was why they saw such incredible growth this past year.

That got the CEO pumped.

Major Gift fundraising is not rocket science.  It’s not quantum physics or brain surgery.  It’s very hard work, but it doesn’t require a masters degree or doctorate, or a CFRE for that matter.  I’m not putting any of those down, but a successful major gift officer doesn’t need any of that.

What they do need, (besides the right talent and learned attributes) however, is an absolute trust in “the process.”  I put “the process” in quotes because I’ve seen different MGOs and organizations use different processes that Richard and I would deem absolute failures.

If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time you know that we’ve outlined “the process” over and over to you.  Now, we’ve explained it under different topics and through various stories, but it’s really all about one process.

If you step back and review “the process” you might say to yourself, “Well this is pretty simple.  It’s not that hard.  I can do this.”  And, you would be right.

Except, most major gift officers and non-profits do not follow “the process”.  They get easily discouraged, abandon “the process” and end up lost in the forest somewhere.  That is when someone smart calls Richard or me and says, “We need a search party…we’re lost.”

I have to be honest with you.  When we were first considering writing this blog, Richard and I wondered what would happen if we just shared “the process” with everyone. Would we ever get hired if everyone knew what to?

Whew!  I’m glad we didn’t follow our first instincts.  In fact the opposite has happened.  The more we give away “the process” the more our phone has continued to ring from stressed out executive directors asking for “the search party” to come in and help them find their way again.

So, why are so many MGOs and their organizations getting lost in the woods?  One reason Richard and I think they’re getting lost is because major gift fundraising is so filled with ups and downs that when you or your organization is in one of those down periods, you abandon the trusted process and look for answers and quick fixes to appease your boss and, most likely, your own ego.

This happens all the time.  You go through a dry spell or you lose a big gift that you have been working on for over a year and veer off your plan.

Another reason is that many MGOs simply don’t know the right process to begin with so they start out all wrong.  They chase “big” prospects around, holding costly and time consuming events and get lost in staff meetings and desk work where the hairball sucks you in.

At this point it would be easier for you to find your way out of the middle of the South American rainforest without a compass than to be a successful major gift fundraiser.

So, with all that said, here is the process that, if followed, will make you a successful major gift fundraiser.  Are you ready?

  1. Cultivate the right donors—This means make sure you have a qualified list of donors on your caseload.  This also means you are cultivating no more than 150 donors.  And, that you have tiered these donors A, B and C level, spending half of your time with your A level donors.  NO CHASING UNQUALIFIED DONORS.
  2. Have a revenue goal for every donorSetting goals is absolutely important to success.  It gives you a destination.
  3. Have a strategic plan for every donorYou need a carefully laid out plan on how you are going to achieve the goal.  If you don’t have a roadmap you cannot stay focused and accountable.  And don’t forget to make sure that your plan starts with identifying, then serving the interests and passions of the donor.
  4. Half of your time should be spent face to face with donors —So, within that plan, you must be in front of donors to find out their passion, who they are, why they give and to ASK them to support your organization.
  5. Match program with the hopes, desires and dreams of your donors —Part of the process is to constantly be matching program with people – your people.  You can only do this if you are working your plan, looking your donors in the eye and understanding exactly what programs or projects you have that will meet those desires and dreams.
  6. Thank donors —When your donors give, you have to properly thank them –  immediately.
  7. Report back —Donors need to know they made a difference with their gift.  If you don’t tell them how they did this, you will NOT get another gift.
  8. Be accountable —You need someone to manage you.  I don’t care if it’s the CEO, Veritus Group or your mother-in-law.  Someone else has to hold you accountable to all of the above.  When you go through those “dry” periods, someone has to be able to look you in the eye and say, “Hang in there…trust the process, the process works.”  They will help you stay focused and not allow you to veer off into the woods and get lost.

There it is:  “The Process.”   There is nothing crazy about it.  Not a lot of bells and whistles.  No big breakthroughs that “wow” the crowd – just very good, common sense, slogging it out, hard work.  If you follow it, you will be successful.  Richard and I know this because our clients who follow this process have been successful, and continue to be so as they grow in revenue and deepening relationships with donors.

You can do this.


Posted in Development Directors, Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Non-Profits, Philanthopy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Five Things You Must Do At The Beginning of This Calendar Year #5 – How Well Did You Thank & Report Back To Your Donors?

thank you

“Thank you”, according to the dictionary, “is a conventional expression of gratitude”.  I would suppose that if I do not feel thankful or say the words, “thank you”, that I am not really grateful.

I have thought about this quite a bit.

Is feeling thankful a learned behavior or does it come naturally?  I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.  I know in my own life I have had to stop and think about all the good things that happen to me, THEN feel grateful, and then express thanks.

So, for me it does not come naturally.

I was out to dinner last night with some friends.  The food was delivered hot.  I thought, “That’s nice.  I appreciate it.”  I said thank you.  We received good service, my empty glass of water was filled repeatedly and quickly.  I said thank you.

But there have been many other situations where I did not experience gratefulness and therefore the words “thank you” did not leave my lips.  There was the taxi driver who got me to the airport quickly and efficiently,  the TSA agent at security who was helpful, the flight attendant who offered me more water, my wife who took over my share of dog sitting while I was gone, the cashier at the grocery store who quickly processed the groceries and sent me on my way, etc., etc.

So much of life – so many intersections with people in my life – can just pass me by without me stopping to feel thankful.

How are you doing in this area?  Of course it’s none of my business how you are doing personally. And, I guess it’s also none of my business how you are doing professionally either.  But Jeff and I are trying to be helpful here in your journey with donors.

So, on that subject, how well did you thank your donors and report back to them in 2012?  Sit with your caseload list and think about it.  Put yourself in each donor’s shoes and feel your treatment of them.  Was the experience a good one?

Or, are you like many MGOs and MGO managers we know who have a DOLLARS vs. donors orientation?  They are obsessed with getting the money into the bank and “when we get around to it we will take care of those donors”.

This dollars vs. donors mentality is pervasive in our industry.  And it is THE thing that will kill your organization if you let it continue.  It is the ultimate proof that you and your organization are not grateful.  What does a dollars focused organization/MGO look like?  Here’s a short list:

  1. More concern about banking the money than thanking the donor.  Every system to turn the money into useable cash is in place.  All the other systems of thanking and reporting back to the donor are either non-existent or in shambles.
  2. It is difficult to secure program results info.  This one always amazes me.  The donor gives the money, we use it to do the program, but then we forget where the money came from and don’t care about or spend the energy to report back to the source.  How does this happen?
  3. Less budget is spent on caring for donors.  So, we’ll spend a ton of money acquiring donors (and getting their money) but we will be cheap and stingy in caring for them after we have them.  It’s like really stepping up and doing everything possible to show the lady you’re dating that she is special and then, once you have her in your grasp, ignoring her.  Sound familiar?
  4. The MGO spends more time getting the donation than caring for the donor.  You know what I am talking about here, and I do to.  Frankly, you just get more of a buzz finally getting that $5,000 gift than you do in caring for the donor after she gave it. I know, I have been there.

But that is why I am asking you to look into your heart and examine your motivations in this area of gratitude.  How well did you do in 2012?  And what are you purposing to change in 2013 in this area?

For me, this is an intensely personal issue.

It is strictly about the subject of learning to become a more thankful person.

It is about being proactive in dealing with the arrogance and insecurity in my own psyche/emotions.

It is about understanding that there is hardly anything that I have or that I am, large or small, that hasn’t come to me because of what OTHERS have done for me.

It is about being truly thankful and expressing that thanks quickly and regularly in every area of my life.  It is about waking up in the morning and being thankful that I can still breathe, that I am healthy, that I am loved, and that I am fundamentally OK.

In my opinion, you need to get yourself into a mindset in which you think about your donors as the wonderful caring people that they are; people who have given a part of themselves to you and your organization to do good; people who trust you with their money and their hearts; people who really do need to HEAR your thanks and FEEL it as well.

Purpose, this year, to be a more thankful person with each of your donors.  It will do so much for them.  It will even do more for you.


Posted in Development Directors, Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Philanthopy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Things You Must Do At The Beginning of This Calendar Year #4 – Review Your Use of Time


The waste or misuse of time is one of the key reasons an MGO fails at his or her job.

Now, as soon as some MGOs read this statement many will say that their manager gave them some lousy donors and that’s the reason for the failure.  Or, the program people didn’t deliver what they should and that’s the reason they didn’t deliver what the MGO and the manager agreed on.

There are some exceptions, I know, but often, in Jeff’s and my experience managing and relating to hundreds of MGOs, it is the mismanagement of time that is the key reason an MGO fails.

Look at it this way:  you, as an MGO, have 150 qualified donors on your caseload.  150 donors.  That’s it.  You have no other task but to manage those donors.  You have 365 days to do that.  OK, you have to take weekends and vacation.  And there are holidays and business meeting days. So let’s do it this way:

  • 365 days in a year
  • less 104 weekend days (assuming you will never work a weekend day)
  • less 50 days of holidays and organizational business meeting days
  • Leaves you 211 days a year or 18 days a month!

18 days a month.  That’s all you have.

When you look at it this way, that’s precious little time to do ANYTHING but pay attention to the donors on your caseload.  This means:

  1. You can’t be doing any prospecting for new donors.  I know we have said it before, but Jeff and I will continue to say it.  You CANNOT spend time looking for new donors when you have a qualified caseload that you need to spend your time on.  You cannot do it!  I had one more instance just this week in which an MGO said, “Richard, I was looking at this list of very wealthy, high capacity people who live in my area and I think there is a great opportunity that we are missing.”  I wanted to grab him by the neck.  “Roger (not his real name)”, I said,  “how many times do I have to tell you that you have very little time and that your greatest chance of success is in working with the donors on your caseload who love you and the organization and want to help?  How many times have I told you that?”  “At least ten times, Richard”, he said.  “But I just can’t help thinking that we are missing something.”  Then we had a long and friendly conversation about why Roger just can’t help looking over the fence at the greener grass.  It’s complicated and I will dedicate a future blog to this subject.  But I convinced Roger to get back to his caseload and focus on his good donors.
  2. You can’t be spending the same amount of time with your B and C donors as you will with your A donors.  This is a common time waster.  The MGO spends hours with a C donor whom she just loves, and then very little time with an A donor who is difficult to deal with but has very high capacity and high inclination.  This tiering or classification of donors is a very strategic way an MGO can use time wisely.  It is a way to plan for less time to be used on C donors, a little more on B donors and the majority of the time on A donors. This works.  Just this week, Jeff called me about an MGO we serve who recently received a $1 million gift.  He has never had a gift from anyone on his caseload of an amount greater than $100,000.  But this $1 million gift came in because the MGO focused properly, spent a great deal of time with this donor and successfully matched the donor’s interests and passions to a need in the organization. This is a perfect example of how time used wisely paid off!
  3. You can’t be spending too much time in any meeting at the office that doesn’t directly have to do with the donors on your caseload.  This is a sticky one, because every MGO has managers and authority figures who just love to hang out in meetings, organize things and blather on for hours.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not against meetings.  But we have too many of them and each of them are way too long.  I like the idea someone came up with about having meetings standing up.  No chairs.  You just stand there.  It helps to make things short and to the point.  Here’s my point: get out of every meeting you possibly can that doesn’t directly have something to do with the donors on your caseload.  You just do not have the time to sit in a meeting and listen to someone drone on about stuff!  You have to get out and be with your donors.
  4. You can’t be spending too much time in the office.  You know this one.  You have to be out with donors.  If you have an administrative assistant, let him do the in-office work.  Get out of there!  And if the admin person can’t do it, find another one.  You just cannot spend too much time in the office.
  5. You can’t be doing anything that doesn’t strictly focus your time on the task of fulfilling your donor’s passions and interests. Jeff and I have said this before, but it bears repeating.  Your central objective is to match your donor’s interests and passions to a real need your organization is meeting.  You have to do that with 150 qualified donors on your caseload.  That is all you have to do.  Nothing else.  It is a big job and a time consuming one.  And you have very little time to do it.  So get rid of all that non-essential baggage you have been carrying around.

Now you’ve read my opinions about use of time.  If you have to, toss half of it out as pure nonsense.  But you have to agree that a more disciplined and focused use of time will have its benefits in your major gift work.

So take that thought and answer this question:  How did you do in 2012 as relates your use of time?  Spend some time thinking about this.  And purpose to do better this year.  It will be one of the best decisions you have made.


Posted in Development Directors, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Non-Profits | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Five Things You Must Do At The Beginning of This Calendar Year #3 – Analyze Your Strategies – Did They Work?


I love analyzing cause and effect. In fact, my wife gets a little irritated by my constant WHY questions.  “I wonder why this happened?”, and “What was the cause of that?”, etc.

It is a basic curiosity that drives me to question the causes for the things that are happening around me.  Now, I may take it to the extreme, because this has become almost a hobby of mine.  But when it comes to understanding your donor’s behavior, it is very critical to ask WHY.

Why did this donor give that amount?

Why did that donor not give?

Why did this donor give a different amount than I expected?

After your 2012 books close, a very important analytical task must be done.  You must go through your entire caseload, donor by donor, and ask the WHY question that is appropriate to each donor.  If you do this you will know what is working and what isn’t.

So right now, set aside at least a half a day – 4+ hours – maybe even a whole day – to do this work.  I know that as you read this you may be saying, “I don’t have the time to do this!”,  OR, “I really don’t have the motivation to do this.  It’s boring and tedious.”

If this is what you are saying, then you have to, as an act of will, make yourself do this work.  If you don’t you will not be successful in the coming months.  And, I believe, wanting to achieve your personal success, should be motivating.

Here are several questions to ask yourself as you work through each donor on your caseload:

  1. First of all, ask the WHY question for each donor.  In other words, try to discern what caused the result you received.
  2. Do you know this donor’s interests and passions?  If not, why don’t you?  This is basic stuff.  We have been talking about this over and over again in this blog.  Why is it that getting this very basic, fundamental and critical information is so difficult for you?  You have to ask yourself this question.  For Jeff and me, this is one of the most frustrating topics in our work – that of getting an MGO to take the basic step of securing the passions and interests of each donor on his or her caseload.  You must have this to be successful.
  3. As you look at each donor, ask yourself, “Do I have a plan to move this donor to a greater engagement with me and the organization?” If you do, good for you.  If you don’t, you need to develop one.  Giving the donor a gift or sending a thank you note is nice, but it is not a plan.  Jeff and I find way too many MGOs who think dropping by with a gift is all that needs to happen.  You must have a plan.
  4. Does your plan contain proven strategies that work? This question implies that you know what works in general and you know what works with each donor.  If you don’t, you have not completed step #1 above – asking the WHY question.

While this exercise of asking why and determining what strategies work seems rather basic, believe me, very few MGOs actually do it.  The ones that do are extremely successful professionals. The ones that don’t are usually very frustrated.

As you look forward to this new year, remember that you have in your care some wonderful people who are on your caseload.  They each have hopes and dreams about what their giving will do to better our world.

And they are counting on YOU to help them out.  Be sure you know WHY things are happening between you.


Posted in Development Directors, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Marketing Plans, Non-Profits, Philanthopy | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Five Things You Must Do At The Beginning of This Calendar Year #2 – Review The Performance Of Each Donor On Your Caseload


I will never forget the meeting I had with an MGO one day last year in late January. I had asked him to come to our meeting prepared to review how each of his donors had performed in the year that just ended.

Our meeting was a disaster.

To begin with, he waited until the last minute to have the year-end report printed for the meeting, which told me he was lazy and not really interested in understanding his donor’s behavior.

Secondly, he had not reviewed the list to examine what each donor had done in December, nor drawn any conclusions about what the donor’s total year giving meant as relates his or her relationship with the organization.  That was not only lazy and unprofessional, but it also told me that he really wasn’t into the job.

Finally, when we were meeting together, it seemed as though reviewing each donor’s performance was a nuisance to him.  What a bother to spend time looking at each donor and trying to understand the nature of his or her journey with the organization!  What a waste of time! There were so many other important things to do.

I was very frustrated.

So I asked him, “Paul (not his real name) – tell me something.  Do you really care about these donors and their relationship to you and the organization? Just tell me the truth.  I really want to know.”

“Well”, he said, “here’s how it is, Richard.  It doesn’t really make any difference whether I know what each of them did in December or even for the whole year!  It just doesn’t matter. They are going to do what they are going to do and there is nothing I can do about it.  I just have to keep working with them and do the best I can.”

Goodness.  I almost blew a gasket.

We had spent a considerable amount of time with this man going through all the principles of major gift fundraising and making sure he understood that his most important objective with each donor was to match his or her passions and interests to the needs of the organization.

He had said he understood.  He understood all right.  Yep.  But now I knew he didn’t believe it.  And we had a serious problem.  Long story short – we let him go.

Now, here’s the take away point to this story for you in this new year.

This is a good time to come to grips with YOUR beliefs about the job you are in.  What do you believe about this major gift work you have committed yourself to?  Do you really believe:

  1. That donors really do want to give?  Jeff and I know from years of experience, and from the writings and experiences of others, that donors do indeed have a need to give.  We know for a fact that the act of giving brings them joy.  Do you really believe and know this?
  2. That it is possible to uncover a donor’s interest and passion?  Every single donor on your caseload has a specific interest and passion for our hurting world. Every single one.  I am constantly amazed at how many MGOs just do not believe this.  They seem to believe that just because they can’t uncover what it is (that’s a failure on their part) that it proves it doesn’t exist.  This is simply not true.  Every donor – every single one – has a specific interest and passion.  Do you really believe and know this?
  3. That you can help a donor in a significant way by helping him fulfill his interest and passion?  Do you believe that you can bring each donor on your caseload great joy and fulfillment through his giving?  Do you really grasp that you are doing him a favor by asking him to give?  Are you really comfortable with this reality and do you fully understand it?  This is important stuff.  If you can answer yes, then things are fine.  If it’s no, then it’s time to study and reflect on this important fact.
  4. That you have the ability to significantly influence your donor and her giving?  Jeff and I find so many MGOs who do not believe they can have a significant influence on their donor’s giving.  Think about this for a minute.  If an MGO does not she they can really affect her donor’s giving, then why even do the job?  The fact is that every enlightened MGO can, through her words and actions, positively influence her donor to increase his or her involvement with the organization.  Do you believe this?  I hope so.

Now, if you really believe these things, then it logically follows that you will be intensely interested in what each of the donors on your caseload did in 2012.  If you are NOT intensely interested in their performance, then I have to question what you believe.

So, stop and ask yourself, at this important time of year, who you are in relation to these donors and the organization you are both serving.  It might be time to renew your commitment and zeal for the cause and the donors.  OR, it might be time to scoot out the door.

Either way, you will be happier and, truthfully, so will the donors.  Do not stay in the middle.  Remember, measuring the performance of a donor is really not about the money.  It is about how well the relationship is going.


Posted in Development Directors, Impact, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Non-Profits, Social Networking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Five Things You Must Do At The Beginning of This Calendar Year #1 – Review Your Caseload And Take Action

Check off

The year has closed.  And now you know several things about your caseload:

  1. You know who didn’t give.
  2. You know who gave more than before.
  3. You know who you expected to give but didn’t and you don’t know why.
  4. You were surprised by what some donors did.

How do you know these things?  Because you have gone to data processing and gotten all the 2012 information, you’ve looked at it in detail and you know all of this stuff.  If you haven’t done this, please get busy – this is important.

Here are the actions Jeff and I suggest you take for each of these four points:

  1. Those who didn’t give.  So, what’s the story here?  Did they give during the year, but not in the last few months?  Or, did they not give at all during the year and does that mean they have decided not to stay engaged?  You need to know.  Why?  Because if this donor has moved away from you, you need to remove him from your caseload.  Now, here’s the thing.  You need to look at this objectively.  Look at the donor history and make a decision as to whether, from what you know, this donor is with you now and is going to be with you in the future.  If your answer is no, you need to move him off your caseload.  Why?  Because you only have room on your caseload for 150 donors, and if one or more of them have moved on, you need to use the labor space they occupied for donors who are interested in partnering with you.
  2. Those who gave more.  You need to fully understand WHY these donors gave more.  What did you do or what happened that resulted in increased giving?  If you don’t know, find a way to talk to the donor and ask her.  This can be a natural part of a conversation you have.
  3. Those you expected to give but didn’t.  Something is wrong.  Or something has changed,  and you need to find out what it is.  It could be that the donor’s financial situation changed. It could be the donor decided to give somewhere else.  Or, it could be the donor just forgot.  Or, you didn’t ask.  What was it?  You need to find out.
  4. Those who surprised you.  This is always a pleasant experience.  A donor just comes out and does something that you did not expect.  This is when you call that donor up and say, “Wow, Ann. I am just so amazed and thankful for your gift.  Could you tell me what prompted you to give in such an unexpected way?”  Something like that.  And the donor will tell you and you will learn something.

It is very important at this time of year to do a caseload review that involves these four steps. You will find out more about your donors.  You will find out more about yourself.  And you will make sure that donors who no longer want to support your organization are no longer on your caseload.

Take steps to do a caseload review as soon as your 2012 books close.


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