The Six Boring Indispensables of Major Gifts – #1 Having The Right Job Description

Stop right now and do something for me, please.  Pull out a copy of your current job description.  Once in hand, please answer the following questions:

  1. Is your title donor centered or organization centered?  If it’s Director of Major Gifts, Major Gifts Manager, Special Gifts Manager, Financial Development Director or something to do with money, major gifts, developing finances etc., then it’s wrong.  If it’s Donor Relation Director, Manager of Donor Relations or even Constituent Relations – something along those lines, then it’s right.  All along, in this blog, Jeff and I have been saying that, “It’s about the donor!”  Period.  And there is something disturbing about handing a donor your business card that says something about major gifts, special gifts, financial development etc.  It’s wrong because it immediately tells the donor that what you are about is getting their money.  And hopefully, by now, you know that this whole major gifts thing is NOT about the money.  It’s about helping the donors express what they want to do in our hurting world through your organization.
  2. Is the purpose or objective statement solely about working with a group of assigned and qualified donors?  If not, there’s trouble.  Here’s why.  First of all, any manager that has given you more to do than work with a group of assigned and qualified donors doesn’t understand the economics of major gift fundraising.  They don’t understand that the very best investment the organization can make is to not add any other responsibilities to a MGO’s job description. I’ve heard of some MGOs that are also in charge of events, volunteers, some PR activities and any number of other time wasters.  No wonder they can’t manage their donors!  No wonder the donors are going away!  No wonder money is being lost!  No one is paying attention to the donors as they should.  The very best ROI (return on investment) a fundraising manager can have is a MGO managing a group of assigned and qualified donors.
  3. Does the job responsibilities section have fewer than five categories of work? I have never been able to understand why managers construct job descriptions that have 10, 12 even 15 categories of work.  I have written some with more than five, but in every case it was due to pressure from an authority figure to include “this area and that area because we don’t have anyone else to do it.”  But if you think about it, how can one person be responsible for so many different things and be successful?  When I was a manager, once a year I would get away with the organizational chart, take each job from the top down and list the five major categories of work for each.  It is a really interesting exercise and tends to clean things up.  If you are a manager, do this yourself.  But start with the top job and work down as you keep delegating responsibility and limit yourself to five categories of work for each person.  The job description for a MGO, in my opinion, should have the following categories:  manage an assigned and qualified group of donors (this includes stewardship and solicitation), qualify more donors as needed for caseload, relate to program personnel to secure information for donors, relate to team members (this is about belonging to a development team) and perform other duties as required – this is that “catch-all” category in every good job description.  This job description covers it all:  the donors, the functions of qualification, solicitation and stewardship, the program the MGO is presenting to donors, the team the MGO is working with and “other”.  Nothing more is needed.
  4. Does the job description have an accountability section?  One of the most tragic and damaging things that happens in management is to not tell an employee how his or her performance will be evaluated and measured.  And this abusive situation is status quo for most organizations, large and small, around the world.  “Whoa, Richard!” you might say.  “That’s a huge statement!  Can that be true?”  Sadly it is.  And it is one of the most damaging things a manager can do to his or her employees – give them a job to do and not agree up front on how those employees will specifically be evaluated.  I have seen job descriptions where a development director is charged with raising $30 to $75 million dollars and there is not one clue as to how that person will be evaluated!  This is a recipe for a lot of hurt, pain, anger and disillusionment.  Yet this goes on every single day in millions and millions of jobs and job descriptions.  An accountability section of a very good job description will, first, mirror each of the major categories of work in the responsibility section.  So for each category of work the MGO is responsible for there is a corresponding “how your work will be evaluated” in the accountability section.  Simple.  Easy.  And, most importantly, just and fair.  We live in a world where there are a lot of expectations and demands stated but very little work is done on how the person creating those expectations will evaluate whether they are met or not.  This is one of the most troubling dynamics in the entire world of labor management.  And it is very hurtful to millions of people who wander around wondering if they are measuring up.

There you have it – what I believe every job description of a MGO should have.  And the underlying values behind my belief are very simply about two things: caring for donors and making sure the MGO knows what is expected.  Period.

How does your job description measure up?  Let me know.



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
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3 Responses to The Six Boring Indispensables of Major Gifts – #1 Having The Right Job Description

  1. Susan C says:

    I wish, oh how I wish, that it were possible for me to focus solely on major gifts. That would be amazing for my org and for me. The solo shop, however, does not allow for this model. I’m doing my own gift entry, reconciliation with accounting, direct mail, alumni relations, board meeting logistics, some events including regional travel, and doing a bit of planned giving. Managing 100 major donors either myself or as assignments out to board members (who need followup and care themselves) could easily be the full job. But it’s not. I’m afraid we’re stuck in a rut that won’t let us break free into an earnings model to allow for more development staff. Any suggestions on demonstrating to the board and my ED that getting me some support staff would give us a boost in income that would be well worth the outlay? Thanks!

  2. Richard Perry says:

    Hi, Susan. I feel your pain. But even the “solo shop” can do things differently IF the authority figures can be convinced, which is what you are saying.

    The most convincing argument I have used, which works most of the time, is to do two things: (1) Do some analysis that brings to light the donors that have gone away over the past two to three years. Forecast what the income might have been if the donors had been retained. That’s first. Then (2) Find the total annual value of your current caseload. So, whatever all the donors on your caseload gave in one full year – that’s the number. Now multiply that number by 30 to 40%. The resulting number is what I believe is the range of additional revenue you could get IF you had the time to spend quality time with your donors. Upgraded some in small amounts and securing larger gifts from a few.

    So #1 above argues that you have, in some cases, lost revenue because you didn’t have the time to spend with those donors that went away. Now, some of them went away for reasons other than passive neglect – but you could argue that some of them might still be with you if you had the time to spend with them.

    #2 argues that if you had more time it would result is more revenue. I know this for a fact.

    So, if the authority figure wants to keep things status quo then he or she should be happy with lower revenue. Although, for your experience, my percentages may be different, I know for sure that there is a direct correlation between having admin support and getting more revenue. More in Wednesday’s post.

  3. Pingback: Are YOU Hiring? | Passionate Giving

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