picture of buttons that say love and joy major gift fundraisingA few weeks ago after lunch, I was walking with a major gift officer I work with. She was lamenting that she felt that there were “so many things” keeping her from meeting with donors. She just “wished she had the time” to just get to know them.
I knew the backstory, though. I knew that over the last several months she had been making excuse after excuse why she was not contacting her donors and making meaningful connections. Of course there was some merit to her excuses, but because I had been in constant contact with her manager, I knew that really wasn’t the reason she was not seeing donors. In fact, I knew early on that in her heart she just didn’t quite believe in what she was doing.
The real story (one that Richard and I see quite often) is that she did not see fundraising as a worthy endeavor. She did not feel that asking donors to give away their money was a good thing. She was uncomfortable talking about money. She felt embarrassed about approaching donors to support the mission of her organization.
You see, she was great at thanking her donors when they gave a gift through some direct mail piece or on their own volition. She loved creating little handwritten notes to her donors and sending little gifts. All that was fine. She also liked to involve herself in side projects that had nothing to do with her caseload. And essentially, her overall attitude was pretty negative when it came to creating strategies to get donors to meet with her.
I’ve seen this all before.
So here I was on the streets of San Francisco with her and I stopped her in mid-sentence. “Susan [not her real name], do you know that your donors want to give? Do you believe in your heart that donors need to give and that when they do, they feel incredible joy? Why would delay in giving them that? Do you understand that as a major gift officer your most important role is to be a “broker of love”? That you are the bridge between a donor’s desire the change the world and all the programs and projects your organization has to do just that?
She looked at me for a long time. And then she said the most courageous thing she ever said to me. “You know, Jeff, I just don’t. I don’t have that desire to do that with a donor. I mean, I get it intellectually, but I don’t feel it in my heart. I wish I did, but I don’t think I want to do this kind of work anymore.”
Wow! I was shocked. I’ve never had a major gift fundraiser be so honest and say that to me. What was even more wonderful, though, was that right after the moment she said all that, she looked like a completely different person. She had unburdened herself with this pressure that she could no longer keep. Her face looked so calm and happy.
And yes, it was wonderful. Why? Because Susan was finally being true to herself and admitting that being a major gift officer was not her passion. I just looked at her and said, “It’s okay – the best thing you can do is figure out what your passion is, and do that. Don’t do this because you think you have to. Do something you love.”
At Veritus we work and have worked with hundreds of major gift fundraisers. Some are just incredible. Some have real potential, and some should not be in this profession. It’s okay – it’s not for everyone. The key is to look into your heart and ask yourself if you believe you are that “broker of love.” Are you someone that takes great joy in helping others find joy through their giving?
Major gift fundraising is incredibly difficult, and it can be emotionally draining. If you don’t have that fire inside of you to be that bridge I was talking about, you won’t be able to survive the challenges of this profession.
Susan is moving on. She is incredibly happy, and I’m happy for her.
Are you a “broker of love”?
P.S. – If you want to read more about how you fit into this profession, click here to download our free white paper, “Why You Should be a Major Gift Officer.”