It is so easy to lose sight of the individual in a group. Think about this for a moment. There are 30 people in a room and you are there. It is almost impossible to think of each one as a unique person with his or her own set of values, wants, needs and personality.
Sure you can say they are all unique and different – but treating them that way, as if they were the only one in the room – is a different story.
Which is why major gift work can be really complicated. You have 150 qualified donors on your caseload. And each person on that caseload deserves your full, creative and energetic attention. But, when there is a group of them, the individual can get lost if not properly managed.
Several days ago I was on the phone with an MGO talking about what he was doing with his donors during this critical 4th quarter of the calendar year. Don’t get me wrong, we had been talking about this long before the arrival of the 4th quarter, but experience has told me that I have to keep bringing it up even if it is just weeks away. Why? Because, many MGO’s just do NOT plan ahead and suddenly the best giving season is upon them and they have no plan!
So, as I brought up the topic I immediately discerned that the individuals on this MGO’s caseload had gotten lost in the group. They were just names, I.D. numbers and financial info, not real human beings with very special wishes and dreams to make the world a better place through their giving.
For this MGO the whole effort had become a job, not a sacred trust and partnership with the individual donors on his caseload. So I reminded him what this major gift thing was about and he perked up and got back on track. But precious time had been lost.
That is why, in this self-evaluation I want you to consider this thought: “Is this just a job or am I behaving as a relationship manager, charged with the very special responsibility to steward the interests and passions of 150 very good people who are relying on me to help them do good?” Good question. And as you ask yourself this question include the following points in your evaluation:
- Am I tracking donor progress against giving milestones and goals? Are you really in touch with when each donor gives and if they have missed a giving milestone? Are you regularly in touch with how each donor is giving against the goals you have set? If not, how do you know where you are with that donor? And, more importantly, if you don’t know this basic information, isn’t it true that you have let this donor just morph into the group of donors on your caseload and you have lost touch? It’s not too late to get back into the relationship. Just make up your mind to do it.
- Do I have a plan that I am executing for each donor? I know, Jeff and I keep saying this over and over again. And here’s why. Most MGO’s do NOT have a plan. And yet they expect to be successful. It doesn’t make sense to me but, unfortunately, it’s the truth. Please, please make and execute a plan for each donor.
- Do I have a system for making calls and booking visits? You can have the best plan and not execute it properly, i.e., actually make meaningful contact with a donor. Do you have a system for connecting with the donor that works for you? If you do, then you are regularly meeting with donors. Check yourself out on this one.
- Have I learned how to manage my donor’s gatekeepers? If many of your donor’s gatekeepers are keeping you from the donor, then it is time to come up with an alternate approach. You can’t just keep ignoring this reality or there will be a group of donors on your caseload with whom you will never make progress. One MGO I talked with recently told me she is meeting with another MGO from another organization who had successfully managed to secure a multi-million dollar gift from a donor who is on each of their caseloads. What is the purpose of the meeting? To find out how to manage her way through the gatekeepers. What a brilliant idea!!
- Am I in touch with the individual donor’s interests and passions? Jeff and I will continue to ask this question every single day of our lives. Why? Because, over and over again, even after we have told the MGO that this is one of the most critical pieces of information an MGO can have, the MGO just does not know what the passion or interest of each of their donors is! This continues to amaze me – it is just unbelievable that a smart, professional, fairly self-aware MGO does not get this basic point. It is like starving to death and refusing to eat. Goodness!
- Do I really care about each of my donors? It actually does boil down to this one point, doesn’t it? Do you really care about each donor? Are you really interested in partnering with each one to fulfill his or her charitable interests? Or is it just about the money for you? Please stop and ask yourself this basic question. And answer it honestly. It is the most critical item you need to get in touch with as you examine WHO you are in this job.
This great adventure – this very important journey we call major gift fundraising – is about building relationships, nothing more. It is from a very solid relationship with each of your donors that you will experience personal success as an MGO. Don’t forget it.