checklist 2014-May30
In my previous post, I vented about the things that bug me about most job descriptions, and I outlined the six areas where most job descriptions go wrong.
Today I want to get positive and practical; let’s talk about the anatomy of a great major gift job description. You may find these suggestions simple – that’s fine. One thing is for sure: they are not simplistic. A good job description is complex and serious, but that does not mean it needs to be long and detailed. As I said previously, many managers and HR departments use the job description to tell the employee HOW to do the job. And that’s why the job description is longer than the two pages it needs to be.
My first point on writing job descriptions for MGOs is to get to the point – avoid trying to fit every detail into it. If you just have to say or include other things in the “contract” with the employee, put those things into other documents and have the employee sign those documents to make sure you are legally covered. But keep the job description focused and on point.
So what makes up a good MGO job description? Here are our opinions:

  1. Have a donor-centered title. It could be Donor Services Manager, Donor Relations Director or just Donor Relations. Do not put the words gift, money, financial or anything related to those words in the title. Make it about the donor. (One of our clients has a MGO with NO title. The business card simply lists the name of the MGO. That’s an interesting idea.) Also, if HR or someone inside needs to have a more descriptive title, consider two titles – an internal title, like Major Gift Officer, and an external title: Donor Relations Director. That way everyone, inside and out, is happy.
  2. Make sure the MGO reports to only one person. No split reporting relationships. Keep this very clear. An employee cannot serve two bosses.
  3. Be very clear about the purpose/objective statement of the job. It could be something like this: “To secure funds for the organization by fulfilling the interests and passions of donors to (name of the organization) by providing them with giving opportunities and encouraging them to give.” Notice that this is about fulfilling the donors’ wants and needs, and that the result is giving. This is a key philosophical and strategic point. Jeff and I believe that in major gifts, money is a result, not an objective. If the MGO fulfills donor’s passions and interests properly, the result will be the money the organization needs to operate its programs.
  4. Leave out all the other stuff. Put the organization’s history, values and rules of conduct in a separate document. Your HR department may want to include it in the job description; argue against it. Just put all this other stuff in a separate document and have the employee acknowledge in writing that they have read it. That should satisfy HR. Please keep the job description free from all these details, as well as any prescriptive ideas on how the MGO should DO the job. If your job description has more than five categories under the “Responsibilities” section, then you are putting in extra unnecessary things. If you just have to “create understanding” with your MGO on those things, put them in another document! They do not belong in the job description.
  5. There should only be five categories of work in every MGO job description. Here is what they are:
  • Qualify donors for a caseload.
  • Create individual goals for each donor on the caseload.
  • Create a contact, marketing and communication plan for each donor on the caseload that is focused on fulfilling the donor’s interests and passions. Execute that plan and modify it as circumstances change.
  • Work with program staff to secure project information for creating donor offers (front-end) and reporting to donors on how their giving made a difference (back-end).
  • Perform other major gift officer duties as required, including monthly reporting to management that accurately reflects caseload activity and performance.

I know you may look at this very simple to-the-point list and get anxious about something being left out. Believe me, this is it. It really is! If your MGO does these five things she will be successful. If you load in a bunch of other stuff, she will fail. It is that simple.

  1. Include an accountability section. I actually label that section: “Accountability: Performance will be measured by:” and then I list a “mirror” of each of the five categories of work above and state how the employee will be evaluated. I also add a couple of other points about the employee’s ability to manage people, process, deadlines and budget, and their ability to relate to others, both of which are important performance evaluation items.

And that’s it. Basic. Simple. To-the-point. And effective. If you would like to have a sample of how we would write an actual job description, click here.
Job descriptions have gotten too complicated and verbose, reflecting a society frightened by lawsuits, and managers who feel compelled to tell MGOs how to do their jobs. I truly believe that the resulting five- to eight-page documents that come from that fear and that compulsion are causing MGOs to be less focused and less effective.
Please review this core contract with your MGO and simplify it. It will really help each of your good MGOs to be more focused and successful.