OK, let me ask you a question.
Is it really true that every single human being on the face of this earth has the same category of people they are interested in helping? Is it really true that no one has a specific interest when it comes to their giving – that they really are just content to “give where most needed” and leave it at that?
You’re probably saying: “Have you lost your mind, Richard! Of course it’s not true!”
Well, then tell me why it is so difficult for MGOs to grasp the concept that an individual donor on a caseload is a unique human being with wishes, dreams, values, desires and special inclinations in their giving– all of which we, as partners with them, need to figure out and help them fulfill. Why is this so difficult?
Seriously, I have been wondering about this as I have experienced, over and over again: MGOs across this country and Europe struggling with this simple concept.
The whole commercial world has this figured out to a science. Most of us are in some data base in the cloud up there with a long list of attributes and characteristics, mined from our choices and our behavior, that tells smart marketers what to sell us. I mean, this has been going on for years!
Why is it that in the non-profit world we have so much trouble with this concept, especially in the major gift area? Here is my list of possible reasons – and if you have some to add, please send them to me:
- T he MGO is stuck in a direct marketing mode: by this I mean he or she is treating donors as a group with similar characteristics (they are all donors of a certain economic value) vs. treating them as individuals. Now, a direct marketing strategy, properly done, does pay attention to giving behaviors and interests. So, I would think a MGO could see that this same thing needs to be done on an individual donor basis. But it doesn’t happen. Instead, caseload donors are lumped together in one group and treated the same.
- The MGO thinks that sending nice messages, cards and dropping by with “appropriate” gifts is a substitute for asking. It’s almost like we do everything else we can to be “nice” with the donor, but avoid connecting them to ways they can help people. I see this all the time and I really don’t get it.
- The MGO has a fear of asking. Well, if this is true, then how did the MGO get the job? Good question. I like to make sure, on this point alone, that the MGO who is being interviewed has a very clear idea of what the job description is. Unfortunately, a person does slip through who is simply scared to death about asking. And when I see this I feel really bad for all involved – because everyone meant well, but now we have a situation that just will not work.
- The MGO is lazy. I’ve seen this as well. The MGO just does not want to take the time to discover what makes each individual donor on their caseload tick. They haven’t done it before, and they’ve gotten by. And they will continue to do it and hope they continue to get by. I can think of an instance right now where this is happening. The MGO has constructed a nice way of doing things that involves a work schedule, habits, approaches and tactics that, quite frankly, suit the MGO vs. serve the donor and the organization. This also saddens me, because it cannot be a happy place for this person to be in.
- The MGO is not really in touch with his or her own drives and satisfiers and therefore cannot discern the motivators and drives of the caseload donor. There is an emotional/psychological block. They just simply cannot believe that the motivations and reasons this donor has for giving are really real. I mean, it is so stupid and superficial! This could be it as well. When one is not in touch with the simplicity and complexity and beauty of human emotions and motivations, it IS hard to believe that they actually exist in the form they do.
- A MGO doesn’t really have anything to present to a donor. In this case, why go find what each donor is interested in when there is nothing to present to the donor about it? Here is where the organization has failed the MGO in not providing project and program information that can match a donor’s interests and passions. We have a whole system and program to address this with non-profits, where we take the entire budget of a charity and re-package it into individual units of different price points and categories that can be presented to donors.
- The MGO doesn’t know what to do. Most often this really is the reason. It could be they don’t know how to conceptualize the process or they don’t know how to write or put it together.
As Jeff and I have been talking about this, and we have talked with other colleagues in the major gift field, we have concluded that more help is needed in this area. And it is help that not only focuses on the individual MGO and equipping him or her to do this work properly. It is also about helping managers see what they need to do to add this capability internally.
That is why, over the next few weeks, I am going to write about this topic and clearly spell out what is needed and how to do it.
If we have a good donor who is willing to give funds, if we have a solid program that needs funding, if we have conscientious and competent MGOs that can match the two up, but we don’t have the ability to actually make it happen, then the whole effort is lost. And the MGOs remain in a place where there is fog and darkness between them and the donor. This is not good and it is something we can’t continue let happen.