One of the most irritating realities of life is having to deal with the expectations of others.  I’m just being honest.  It IS irritating.  But hardly anyone acts like they are irritated.  They just keep the tension inside.
But then, if we are being honest, WE have expectations of others as well and we get irritated when THEY don’t meet our expectations.
All of this leads me to wonder about this world of expectations.  People outside of ourselves have them and we have them for everyone around us.
Seems normal, doesn’t it?  Then why do we get so irritated about it?
For me, until I understood it better, the irritation came to light because I did not clearly understand the value of the expectations others had for me.  So, since I did not understand, then the expectations were unreasonable and bothersome.
And this dynamic repeats itself over and over again in major gifts.
There are some basic expectations in the major gift world.  And I think most of them are reasonable even if some are misunderstood.  Here are the most common ones I’ve encountered :

  1. Donors expect to be thanked.  I shouldn’t have to say this except I still discover situations where donors are either not thanked at all or thanked in a lazy way.  By lazy I mean thanking them days, sometimes weeks after the gift was made or sending a thank you that is not personal.  I know what it feels like to do something nice for someone and not be thanked.  Take a moment this week to map out the thank you process in your organization.  Put it on a pert chart and write down the steps and amount of time it takes. Does it feel right to you?  Also, send yourself the thank you letter you send to a donor.  Does it make you feel good?  It is always good to check your thank you system at the beginning of the year.
  2. Donors expect to be told the truth. I shouldn’t have to say this one either.  But shading the truth or even covering it up is something I see happening too often for my comfort.  Let’s say a program may not be going well but the MGO is encouraged to get the funding for it anyway.  Or a program is likely to be closed down and the funding continues.  I know of one donor situation where the donor was not told the truth and now the relationship is practically ruined.  And all the situation required was the truth.  In this case, had the donor been told the real situation,  he would have been fine.  But the deception hurt.  Don’t do it!
  3. Donors expect to have a response to their questions and concerns.  Have you ever had a situation where a donor asks a tough question or criticizes what you are doing and you just want to shut down?  It’s a normal reaction.  But watch yourself on this one.  My advice is simply to answer the question.  And if you don’t know the answer, then to say you don’t.  There is nothing wrong with that.  A donor is a partner NOT a source of cash.  And they deserve to have their questions answered.
  4. Program people expect their programs to be represented honestly. Good program people are technicians, creative folks who take pride in how they have constructed a program that will actually help people or the environment.  They have spent a great deal of time working up a system of help and they know it works.  It has a lot of detail and logic to it and all the parts are important.  If, as an MGO, you minimize the importance of what they do or modify how it works or embellish it you are not only stretching the truth, you are changing what the program person has designed.  They expect you to represent what they have created and what they are managing.  You should therefore spend a lot of time getting to know each program of your organization.  I am constantly surprised at how little many MGOs know about their programs.  It is truly amazing.  It is the ONLY product you are presenting to donors.  Know it, inside and out!
  5. Finance expects the MGO to represent the financial situation fully and correctly.   Finance people are often the most misunderstood people in a non-profit.  We call them bean counters and often try to make them small through our comments and attitudes toward them.  In fact, if we did not have them present in our lives, things would be in shambles.  Finance folks are a gift to us.  They make sure the economics of what we are trying to do in helping others actually works and stays on track.  That is why they get fussy when someone doesn’t follow the rules and either manages money poorly or represents a financial situation in the wrong way.  Finance is the third leg of the non-profit stool.  The other two are program and fundraising.
  6. Managers expect performance – revenue performance.  Well, you knew this one was coming didn’t you?  I find it really fascinating that a MGO will be hired to raise money, but then resent the manager who expects her to raise that money – or be upset that the manager is “clipping her wings” by asking her not to be involved in activities that are not directly related to her caseload.  There is one situation I am watching where the MGO gets really wound up when the manager curtails his non revenue producing activities – like PR and events that generate “goodwill” etc.  Crazy, but it’s true.  We need to raise the money.  That is what we are here for.

Expectations are all around us, from the donor to program, finance and management people.  And, as you think about it, their expectations are all reasonable and logical.  So when you hear them, turn and embrace them as they will make you better.  And, just as importantly, they will make your work more effective.
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