The Six Secrets to Becoming an Extraordinary Major Gift Officer Secret #6—You Should Never be Comfortable

This last secret, I admit, is a little odd.  What do I mean when I say that you should never be comfortable?  I mean this:  If you are an extraordinary major gift officer and you’re cultivating 150 qualified donors, you should have at least 10-15 different situations that are problematic, complex or difficult to solve.

In other words, in your work, if you are doing it well, you will continually be hustling.  Yes, that’s a good word for it, hustling.

When I have my weekly update meetings with MGO’s, I can tell pretty quickly who is extraordinary and who isn’t by how fast those meetings seem to go.  Meetings with extraordinary MGO’s fly by because they are either super animated as they discuss situations with their donors, or they are creatively brainstorming with me a complex gift that has many twists and turns through which to navigate.

Listening to an extraordinary MGO describe what is happening with her caseload is like listening to a grandmother talking about her 23 grandchildren.  Like grandparents who really love their grandchildren, an MGO loves his or her donors and loves to discuss all the ins and outs of the relationship the donor has with the organization.

So, let me recap the six secrets for you so you either know what to aspire to, or, if you’re a manager, know what to look for and expect in an MGO.

  1. Set goals you can’t make—This is about setting goals for each donor on your caseload that will stretch, challenge and motivate you.
  2. Rejection is required—if you’re a great MGO you will be out there with your donors asking.  This means you will be getting a lot of rejections.  But, each rejection is just another learning experience to help you become better at what you do.
  3. Mistakes are mandatory—much like #2, if you’re an extraordinary major gift officer, you are active and busy…which also means you’ll make a ton of mistakes.  That’s okay, as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice.  Mistakes are a great way to grow.
  4. It’s not a 9 to 5 job—Extraordinary MGO’s are donor focused, therefore they work on their donor’s time.  Great MGO’s know what it takes to do the job.  Managers don’t need to micro-manage their time.  Instead, they manage them based on the overall objective: more donated revenue and deeper relationships.
  5. You don’t have all the answers—meaning, you have to be curious, ask a ton of questions and never allow a roadblock to shut you down.  Great MGO’s are forever curious about their donors and how to overcome any situation.
  6. You should never be comfortable—if you are setting high goals, actively cultivating gifts from at least 20% of your caseload at any given time and  stewarding the heck out of the other 80%,  you’ll naturally run into a number of situations which will be demanding and difficult.  But that is the role of a major gift officer.  This is not supposed to be some cushy job where you sit at a desk and write thank you notes.  This is a job that requires you to be “out there”, going to all lengths for your donors and for your organization.

Richard and I will guarantee you that if you bring to light these six secrets and embody them, you will be an extraordinary major gift officer.  Or, if you’re a manager, these six secrets are what you are looking for from your team of MGO’s.

Are there any secrets we missed?  Let us hear yours.



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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2 Responses to The Six Secrets to Becoming an Extraordinary Major Gift Officer Secret #6—You Should Never be Comfortable

  1. ljacobwith says:

    I absolutely LOVE this post. I’ll begin sharing your list where ever I can. And I encourage development professionals, not just MGO’s to embrace your list as the guidelines for a successful career. I believe that uncertainty can lead to extraordinary things and is often the place where exciting, outside the box actions allow a team to exceed their goals. Thanks for the awesome post!

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