“Let me introduce you to our major gift person, Richard,” he said. “She has a lot of experience in the major gift field and we’re lucky to have her!”
And then the development director went on to tell me how Janet (not her real name) was handling a very large caseload of major donors, in charge of events for the organization and heading up the volunteer program as well.
Later, we got into a discussion on how things were going. Revenue was down. He was concerned about some “very good donors we haven’t heard from”. And there were some other nasty little creatures lurking in the conversation.
You see it, don’t you? The lack of job definition; the lack of job focus, and, the wondering about revenue. Pretty obvious what’s going on, isn’t it? Janet doesn’t know what she is doing. Oh, she knows. She’s a smart lady. But there is a gap between what is expected and what is actually happening. And she is stuck in that gap.
How about this…
John (another changed name) is assigned a caseload of 150 donors. It’s clear. “These are your donors, John.” He understands. But John hasn’t qualified the donors. By qualified we mean actually asked them if they want to relate in a personal way. So, even though they meet the criteria of a major donor for the organization, more than half of the donors really do not want to connect or meet with John. He keeps banging his head against silent “no’s” and often loud rejection.
So, John is finding joy in helping with the social media program of the organization he works for. He is really good at it. In fact, he just got an assignment to develop a new section of the web-site. Exciting stuff. Very exciting!
Well, you know the answer to this one. It will cost the organization $100,000+, including salary and benefits, to keep John employed. And the return on that money will be dismal resulting in failure for John and his manager.
Because the job is defined but not managed, donors are not qualified and an employee is wandering. John doesn’t know what he is doing. He’d like to find a way out, but doesn’t know what to do. And he’s scared to talk about it. He knows things are not right, but….
Are you a manager with an employee in this situation? Are you an employee who is stuck like this? There is a way out. Here’s what I suggest:
- Get clear on what the job is. To us, this is pretty basic: manage and cultivate 150 qualified donors. Nothing more. Nothing less.
- Uncover and negotiate variances. If you are the manager and there is a variance between what the employee is doing vs. what you expect, you need to talk about it. Don’t leave it. If you are the employee where there is a variance on what you are supposed to do and what you are being asked to do, you need to talk about it. Don’t leave it.
- Remember that the passing of time and fun new things erode focus and effectiveness away from caring for your good donors.
We have seen so many situations where donors are not properly cared for because the people tasked with caring for them are either distracted by the demands of unfocused authority figures or enticed to other places by their own desires.
Knowing what you are doing in major gifts is about maintaining a very sharp focus on a group of qualified donors, caring for them, respecting them, honoring them and serving them. It’s the very best place you and your employee can be. It will bring you tremendous joy and fulfillment plus the revenue your organization needs.