The Six Secrets to Becoming an Extraordinary Major Gift Officer Secret #3-Mistakes are Mandatory

I don’t think I know anyone who actually enjoys making mistakes or messing up.  I sure don’t and I know Richard doesn’t, but a common characteristic we find in extraordinary major gift officers is that they make a ton of mistakes, just like all the rest of us.

Now, you may be thinking, “Well, that doesn’t make sense, because if they were really, really good, they wouldn’t be making mistakes.”

Wrong.

Extraordinary major gift officers are exceptional because they are not afraid to try new things, go out on a limb, test new ideas and strategies and do everything they can for their donors.

That type of major gift officer, one who aggressively tries new strategies, will make mistakes.  But, they are extraordinary because they learn something new with each mistake they make and don’t repeat that same mistake again.

That is the key difference between an ordinary vs. extraordinary MGO.  If you are a manager, you know what I mean.  How many folks have you managed who continually make the same mistakes over and over again without ever trying to do anything about it?  Unfortunately, Richard and I see this happening all the time.

Hopefully, as a manager, you don’t allow this behavior to continue.  Because, quite frankly, that is a mistake YOU’RE making over and over again.

I was in a meeting recently with a major gift officer who was conducting an evaluation of a  gift she had helped to secure from one of her major donors.  It was a fantastic gift.  But it was incredibly complex, involving many lawyers, senior staff, family members of the donor, etc.  It took 6 months to complete this seven-figure gift.

During the process of cultivating the gift with this donor, there were many phone calls of despair from the MGO.  She would say, “Jeff, I think I’m blowing it.  I got this one person involved and now I think I made a huge mistake because the donor is upset that he is involved.  I don’t know what to do…” That was just one of many mistakes and blunders during the course of the six months.

But during this process she continually learned new ways to overcome these mistakes and, at the end of the day, the donor felt incredibly good about his gift and what a difference it was going to make.

In our evaluation meeting, she had recorded all of the mistakes and miscues she had made during the course of the cultivation of this gift.  Then, she went over her list with me, step by step, about what she learned from each one, how to avoid those mistakes with another donor and how, in the end, she realized how much the process had taught her about being a better MGO.

This is the kind of MGO you want to be!

As someone who was managing her, it was music to my ears.  The whole experience made her better because she was able to clearly see what she had done wrong, learn from it, and move forward with the donor.

And, when all was said and done, she had become even more confident in her abilities.  Is she going to make more mistakes?  Of course she is!  But she will not make the same ones.  And knowing that mistakes are always going to happen, she’s learned that it’s what you do with them that will determine success for the long run.  Mistakes, handled properly, are stepping stones to wisdom.

Now that is what makes an extraordinary MGO.

Jeff

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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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