Learn, unlearn, re-learn.
“Our donors are very different; they are not like other donors.” “You know, we really don’t have a vision in our organization and this is why we can’t raise major gifts.” “We don’t have any truly high-dollar donors in our database, and we don’t even have any high-dollar programs or projects to show them if we did.”
I could go on and on.
This month marks seven years that I have been fortunate to partner with my good friend and colleague Richard Perry at Veritus Group. We have had a blast together helping non-profits all over the country get their major gift programs together, and we’ve seen amazing gifts happen as a result.
However, over those seven years we have heard just about every line in the book about why creating or having a successful major gift program won’t work for some non-profit. Richard and I will tell you that in EVERY situation that we’ve encountered, all of the “excuse making” and negative assumptions are wrong.
No, your donors are not different than every other organization’s donors. Are their nuances here and there? Sure; but fundamentally donors behave the same. Treat them with care, understand their passion and interests, and match those up with programs and projects related to your mission – and they will fund them.
We also hear over and over how the organization either doesn’t have vision enough for a major donor or the organization doesn’t have high-dollar projects for major donors to fund.
Again, this is not true. This is a story that you have made up in your head about your organization that allows you to excuse yourself from building your major gift program and asking major donors to support you.
Now, I can guess that you may be upset with me for saying that. But if you really dug deep into your heart and soul about this, you’d have to agree that you’ve programmed yourself to believe all this about your donors and organization, instead of doing the hard work that major gifts requires.
Richard and I are pleading with you… no begging you: de-program yourself of all the excuses you’ve come up with, and turn your mind and heart around to allow the “yes, I can” to take over in you.
I think that besides not have a solid structure for major gifts (150 qualified donors per caseload, tiered, revenue goals and a strategic plan for every donor, built in accountability), the things that prevent success in major gifts are attitude and the ability to be patient and persistent.
Believe me, Richard and I (along with our associates) have helped create beautiful structures for a major gift program to thrive. But all of that goes down the drain if the MGO (or anyone working with major donors) doesn’t believe it can work. Because if you really believe in it, you will create in yourself the patience and persistence to make major gifts work.
It’s an incredible thing to watch when an MGO embraces this. An MGO that has an amazing attitude doesn’t allow herself to get caught up in the negativity of the office. She will seek out the vision of the organization. She will find the high-dollar programs and projects, even if she has to help create them with the program staff. She will get out and get to know her donors.
She will keep at it day after day, knowing that some days will be tough, but keeping her eyes forward, she knows that there will be a breakthrough at some point.
If you’re caught in a negative storyline about either your donors or your organization, the good news is that you can “de-program” yourself and change your attitude about your situation.
Why do I believe this? Because as many times as Richard and I have seen bad attitudes and heard excuses, we’ve also witnessed amazing turnarounds from MGOs who have embraced the “yes I can” attitude and have become wildly successful and happy in their work.
You can too.