I don’t like the terms, “self-made millionaire” or “self-made man or woman.” There is no such thing. In fact, I’ve never met anyone that was labeled successful by our society who became that way on his or her own.
Now, some may claim they have, but that is because their ego is so over-inflated they can’t think straight.
Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to know individuals who have mentored me and were able to speak some hard truths to me. In fact, if I look back all the way from junior high to where I am today, I can name all the significant people in my life who have guided me and helped me along my journey to where I am right now.
I’m so grateful for them.
These were just ordinary people who I either reached out to or who took an interest in me. They were skilled at listening and guiding. Some just came alongside me to provide encouragement or a few words of correction that helped me see things differently.
As a major gift fundraising professional, you need people in your life to help guide you personally and professionally. I’m saddened when I see good fundraisers think they can do it on their own, that they don’t need advice or can’t even listen to constructive criticism of their work.
This work you do is too complex, difficult and emotionally draining to not have a support team of people around you to help you be successful.
Richard and I could tell you story after story of when we would first start working with a new client. We would sit down with an MGO and tears began streaming down her eyes because someone finally wanted to support and help her.
“I’ve been doing this on my own for so long and I think I’m failing. I’m so glad you can help.” This is what we often hear from MGOs who are out there on their own without any support.
I will promise you this. You cannot be a successful major gift officer if you don’t have help. I don’t care how good you think you are, you will fail without others to help you. Here are some things you need that will help you:
- A Mentor—You need someone in your life who has more experience in your field and can speak truth to you without your becoming defensive. This is an absolute must. You have to seek this out. Don’t expect it to just come to you.
- Colleagues—even if you are a one-person shop, you have to seek out colleagues who are doing what you are doing. Seek their advice, talk about your frustrations, share your joys and learn from them. Too many times I see good MGOs who fail to reach out to colleagues because they think they are in competition with them. All the great MGOs I know have great relationships with their colleagues. They have great friends at work.
- Support staff—Richard has talked a lot about this in previous blog posts. But since you are expected to travel and be in front of your donors, you need administrative support. Otherwise, a lot of your time will be spent on other things besides your donors.
- Managers—You need a strong manager to support you. You need someone to keep you accountable, keep you focused and not allow you to veer off somewhere that has nothing to do with your caseload. You might think, “Gosh, life would be so much easier if I didn’t have someone holding me accountable for everything.” That kind of thought never comes from a great MGO. A great MGO realizes he needs structure and someone to help him stay on the road.
Being a major gift fundraising professional is hard work. You have a lot of responsibility and pressure on you at all times. You cannot do this alone. Leave your ego at the door. You have to lose yourself in order to gain so much more.
Finally, one last thought. When you realize you need all of these people to support you and you allow them to do it, show them your gratitude. All of these folks that are in your life to support you are doing it for you.