What Great Major Gift Management Looks Like—A Three-Part Series

One of the greatest things about the work that Richard and I are fortunate to do is that we get know so many different people.  We’ve witnessed many diverse styles and personalities at work in major gift fundraising and how they go about their business.

Because of this we have been able to develop some convictions about what great management looks like in major gift fundraising.  There are three specifics I want to address on this topic over the next few posts:  Encouragement, Accountability and Evaluation.  These three areas are absolutely crucial to get right if your major gift program is to be successful.

Now, I know we have talked about all three of these many times, yet I really want to focus on them as separate issues because, sadly, I don’t think there really is good management going on in major gift fundraising.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s dismal.

Let’s start with Encouragement.

This one is very emotional for Richard and me.  We have met with major gift officers and development professionals whose spirits have been crushed by the lack of affirmation they receive from their managers and leaders.

You wouldn’t believe how many times major gift officers, after helping to bring in a large gift to the organization, hear only, “Well, isn’t that expected?  What else can you bring in?”  I’m not kidding.  Talk about putting a knife into someone’s heart.  But this sort of reaction from management is very common in our industry.

I want to speak directly here to all managers.  Put yourself in your major gift officers’ shoes.  It’s called empathy.  They need affirmation.  It makes them feel good.  It makes them want to do more.  So, why wouldn’t you praise your staff when good work has been done?

I don’t care if it’s part of their goal, or it’s in their plan…or that it was expected.  Obtaining a large gift from a major donor is hard, hard work.  And it needs to be celebrated.

If you, as a manager, are not celebrating these gifts and affirming your staff, then I would ask you to look deeply at yourself.  What is it about you, that you cannot encourage your staff?  Why are you prone using to negative feedback to get results?  What is going on with YOU, in your life, that prevents you from being positive with the folks you manage?

I read a Gallup study that asked people who had left their jobs why it was they left.  Overwhelmingly the reason most people left was because they didn’t feel affirmed by their managers.  It wasn’t that they didn’t like their work, or their company or that they weren’t paid enough.  It was because they didn’t feel encouraged by their manager.

This is sad.   But unfortunately, it’s rampant in the non-profit, and more specifically, the development world.

Managers, if you need a little more of a nudge, here are some ideas for you to provide encouragement to your team:

  1. Always publically celebrate a gift.  It can be something very simple, but public recognition is important to people.  I don’t care if you ring a bell or send an organizational wide e-mail; it’s crucial to celebrate.
  2. Hold weekly check-in meetings and encourage your staff as they complete certain milestones or check points in their strategic plans.  Yes, it’s part of their job, but getting meetings with donors and meeting milestones is not easy.
  3. When an MGO or staff member seems frustrated because gifts just don’t seem to be coming in, yet they are working incredibly hard,  be proactive and let them know it’s all about the ground work.  If they are working their plans, doing the asking, it’s really up to the donor.
  4. With individual staff members, spend time by taking them out for coffee or lunch and telling them what a great job they are doing.  People respond to personal attention.  Give it to them.
  5. Do little things that make a big difference.  After a long process obtaining a large gift, give your MGO a day off, or buy them dinner and include their significant other.  Write an e-mail to the president of your organization with a commendation for the MGO or staff member.  Those little acts can make a huge difference.

Richard and I have been with MGO’s who have been devastated by the reaction of their managers when they felt they did a great job, but heard no affirmation from them.  With just a little bit of soul-searching and effort YOU can make a huge difference in the performance of your staff if you can encourage them on a regular basis.

Do it.  Why wouldn’t you?

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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