You might be reading the title to this blog post and seriously wondering if I’ve gone off the deep end.
Do less? Yes, that is my third resolution for the new year. Will you join me? Here’s what I’m getting at. You and I have been conditioned, I guess you could say, since birth, that more is better. Doing more is always better. Doing so many things, even all at once and for a long period of time is really, really better.
That is our culture, our life, and our profession. One could argue that in the non-profit world this doing more stuff is even more heightened.
But if you really think about your job in major gift fundraising and are honest with yourself, doing more often pays you back with less. Consider something with me.
Why don’t you have a caseload of 500 donors? Because you cannot possibly serve them all well. Believe me, I’ve seen MGOs try it. Richard and I have never seen anyone succeed at it. In fact, we get into tremendous arguments with MGOs who want to keep adding to their caseload because they think it will help them look good on paper and show more revenue.
The bottom line is you actually end up bringing in less revenue because you don’t have the ability to spend quality time with your donors. So, the whole thing backfires. This is why we limit the number of donors MGOs can work with. And, then tier them so you end up spending at least half of your time working with 15-20 donors.
Quality, not quantity is the key to major gift fundraising, and, I would argue, to fundraising in general. It feels counterintuitive, I know. (In fact, so does this blog post, but Richard and I have been doing this a long time. This is the approach that works.)
I know the pressure is on for you to constantly do more and more. But in this new year I urge you to resist this pressure, and put your faith in practicing quality relationship building and donor stewardship. Here are a few practical tips to help you put this into practice:
- From your year’s list of professional priorities, when figuring out your strategies to achieve that list, focus on one or two strategies to make them happen. You will want to do 8-10. Resist that urge and focus on one or two. Then, really work them.
- Focus on your “A” level donors. I know you’re a real people person and you love to meet with many folks, but if you can focus your time and energy on those 15-20 individuals, you will see a huge dividend.
- Don’t allow yourself to get involved in “other” activities outside cultivating and stewarding your caseload. This is one of the biggest problems I see with MGOs. There are two things happening here: a) You love being creative and self-expressing so you allow yourself to veer off into something that takes you off track, and/ or, b) You have a manager or executive director who doesn’t understand the concept of major gift fundraising and pressures you to accomplish a variety of other activities. This is the year you resist this pressure and say, “no.” You and your manager need to understand that the way to grow your revenue is to focus on your caseload donors.
- Of your “A” list of donors, spend 20% of your time on the top 2-3 donors. Yes, I know that is a tremendous amount of time. If you want to quantify it, it’s about 400 hours a year. You would not believe the results we have seen when an MGO spends a tremendous amount of time figuring out what these 2 or 3 donors are passionate about, understands what makes them tick and goes out of his or her way to provide unbelievable service to them. Keep saying to yourself, “less will be more.”
- Go back to your “personal priorities” list. You know, the one that has 4-5 top priorities. Now, see if you can cut it in half. The more “clutter” in your life, the less focused and less open you will be toward others. The happier and more fulfilled you become in your personal life, the more rewarded you will feel in your professional life. You cannot separate the two. Not in this chosen profession.
I’m not going to lie and say this is going to be easy. But if you hang in there, over time you will understand that, while counter to all you have been conditioned for, doing less will ultimately bring you so much more.
Here’s to doing less in the new year! Cheers!
Yes Jeff, Living this life would be easier if we would all adhere to your guidlines. Have a great New Year