Fifth in a Series: 6 Questions Your Major Gift Plan Must Answer

“Do I have the ability to stay focused and structured?”
If you’re a manager asking yourself this question, perhaps it should read like this: “Do I have the budget to let my MGOs be fully functional MGOs who stay focused on their qualified caseload?”
If you’re a MGO the question should read: “Do I have any other duties besides managing my qualified caseload full time?”
The secondary question, in both scenarios, is: “Am I using a system of major donor management that is focused and structured?”
Here’s the thing. Jeff and I encounter way too many situations where the MGO is saddled with other tasks because “we don’t have the budget to let the MGO work solely on major gift work.” And those MGOs who are allowed to solely work on their caseloads are using strategies and systems based on old major gift paradigms that don’t deliver the proper satisfactions to the donor, nor the economic return to the organization.
The result? Less than acceptable returns on investment, and donors with very high value attrition.
If you’re going to start, revitalize or expand a major gift program you must:

  1. Plan to allow your MGO to work solely with a qualified caseload of donors. And I mean solely. No other tasks or duties. In fact, if you can increase the amount of donor-facing time for your MGO, you can increase the return on investment. It is a fact. Load the MGO up with other tasks that “just need doing,” and you will hurt yourself. This point is about focus.
  2. Make sure your MGO has structure and discipline in the creation and execution of their strategy with donors. To us, at a minimum, this means:
  • Qualifying every donor on the caseload
  • Identifying the interests and passions of each donor.
  • Creating a financial goal for each donor.
  • Tiering those donors A, B, C so that there is clarity for the MGO on where to spend their time.
  • Having a customized plan for each donor that is driven by their passions and interests and communication preferences, and then executing that plan with discipline and precision.
  • Twice a year, replacing donors who are not able to participate financially at the required level.
  • Identifying one to two donors on the caseload who can give transformationally, and creating a plan to make that happen.

If all of this sounds basic to you, it’s because it is – they are very basic and logical caseload management steps. What’s amazing to Jeff and me is that most major gift programs don’t manage their major gift program with this level of basic structure. And that’s why they’re failing.
So our question to you, as you contemplate starting or revitalizing or expanding a major gift program, is to ask if you have the budget, culture and environment that will support this type of focus and disciplined structure? If you don’t, do not even think of starting, as you’ll fail.
Too many major gift thought leaders of the past promoted a focus on donor moves management and creative ways to deal with objections. They didn’t focus on how to fulfill the donors’ interests and passions, or how the MGO team functions and performs. And, in our opinion, that’s the fatal flaw.
Any major gift program that doesn’t start with the donor and their passions and interests is going to be in trouble. (Tweet it!) And any major gift program that doesn’t have a structured, disciplined approach to qualifying and managing donors will face difficult times.
That’s why focus and structure are so important. Do you have it in your program plan? Make sure you do.
Read the whole series on Questions Your Major Gift Plan Must Answer:

  1. Do I Have Enough Time? 
  2. Do I Have the Right Donors?
  3. Do I Have the Right Offers?
  4. Do I Have the Right Talent?
  5. Do I Have the Ability to Stay Focused and Structured? (this post)
  6. Do I Have the Right Performance Measurements?