The Six Secrets to Becoming an Extraordinary Major Gift Officer Secret #1-Set Goals You Can’t Reach

“Set goals you can’t reach?” Yes, you read that right.  But hold on, before I get into that, I just want to introduce this new series.  Over the years Richard and I have worked with many MGO’s.  We have worked with lots of good ones and, unfortunately, some pretty bad ones.  But we also, throughout our careers, have had the privilege of working with a handful of EXTRAORDINARY MGO’s.

In our work with these MGO’s we have uncovered six secrets to what makes them so unique.  These “secrets” are unconventional and sometimes seem counter-intuitive, but I promise you, they are key if YOU want to be extraordinary at this work.

These “secrets” are to be shared, so please pass them on to your colleagues and give us your feedback.  We love hearing from you.  So back to that first secret, which is…

Set Goals You Can’t Reach

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Why would I set myself up for failure?”  It’s not about overextending yourself and setting expectations that management will consider are too high.  No, this is about challenging yourself.

Here’s what I mean.  In the process of goal setting with each individual donor, for most of the MGO’s we work with, we have a “management” goal and a “personal” goal.  The “management” goal is what we report to development leadership.  Usually, these goals already have a healthy percentage increase over the previous year.  In other words, there is no “sandbagging” going on.

You all understand “sandbagging” right?  Don’t do it.  The extraordinary MGO’s never sandbag their numbers so they can easily make their goals.  And if you have a good manager, it’s really irritating to them. They’ll see right through what you’re trying to do.  So don’t even try.

It’s a fast track to being out of a job.

Okay, so now you have your “management” goal.  But something we find in extraordinary MGO’s is that they will not be happy with that.  They don’t want to settle with the “management goal.” This is why we help great MGO’s create the “top-secret personal goal.”  These are the goals that, if you really kicked it up a notch, you could achieve from your caseload.  This is where you say to yourself, “If I spent more time with these 10 donors and came up with something that really matched their passions, I could get them to do much more than they even thought they could.”

Why is this a good practice?  Because it helps you stretch yourself and we find it to be a great internal motivator for extraordinary MGO’s.  And 9 times out of 10 what we find is that, when a higher goal is set…it’s achieved!

This “secret personal goal” is just that.  It’s between you and yourself.  Or, in our case, it’s just between Veritus and the MGO.  We don’t talk about this stretch goal with management.  (Okay, so now we let the cat out of the bag with all you managers…but you don’t want to know this anyway…you will be happy if your goals are met.  If they are exceeded, you’re thrilled!)

So here’s the deal.  You can put a bunch of motivational posters on your wall or screen saver, or, if you’re like the extraordinary MGO’s we work with, you can create your “secret personal goals” and challenge yourself to make them.  You’ll be amazed at what happens when you actually put something down on paper and commit to it.

Here’s one last bit of advice on these secret goals: If you don’t happen to be working with Richard or myself, tell one other person (who is not in management) about them.  Why?  Because that one person will hold you accountable and that is key to achieving your goals.



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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