You’ve experienced it. Everyone has. In a meeting, on a call or via email, the person talking (or calling or writing) is blathering on about all the features and benefits of their favorite service or product.
But you have a niggle in your mind. Something is not quite right. You don’t know what it is, but it’s not right.
That little niggle – that tiny uneasiness – is your internal fact-checker asking the question: “Yes, all of what you are saying seems nice, good and right. But does it work?” Good question.
Several weeks ago I was having trouble connecting my computer to two external screens. I googled the situation and found just the right solution – a little gizmo for sale on I read about all the features and benefits. It was really cool. It was just what I needed. But I had that niggle. Would it really work? I didn’t know. And there were no reviews to tell me the experience of others. So I ordered it, I set it all up, and it did not work.
It seemed like it would work. The promise from the manufacturer said it would. The advertising copy gave me assurances it would. But it did not work.
Donors think this way. First, they want to know that their giving is actually doing some good, which is what my last post was about. And then they want to know that it actually works.
Jeff and I are regularly approached to work with organizations that need help with their major gift programs. We have seen a variety of offers and propositions out there. Some of them would shock you (who in their right mind would support that?!).
And because we’ve seen so many different approaches to the needs of our planet and its people, we are hardly ever surprised by what we see, and we’re rarely taken in by some new and wonderful thing that seems right but isn’t.
We had been successful at not getting taken in by an organization and its alleged mission until we worked with an organization that promised some innovative and creative solutions to a core problem on our planet. When we heard about the problem and then listened to the founder and her staff describe the solution, we were immediately drawn in. We had never heard stuff like this before. It sounded so good. It seemed so right. And there were some pretty heavy hitters jumping on board to support this cause, which gave it even more credibility.
These were bright people. Well-schooled. Well-connected. Smart, persuasive, etc. And it all seemed so good. But it wasn’t. It was just a bunch of people self-expressing and persuading a whole lot of other people to get on board. And the money was flowing. I know for a fact that this organization will not last for very long. Why? Because someone will finally ask “does it work?” And the answer will be “no.”
Remember this: your job, as a major gift officer, is to secure financial resources for the organization you serve by fulfilling the interests and passions of your caseload donors. The promise you are making to your donor is that her giving will (a) do good, and (b) actually work, i.e. really and fundamentally provide a life-changing or lasting solution to a problem.
Some of your donors will just believe that you are fulfilling on that promise without further information. But many of them will want to have “proof of performance” – they will want to have the facts. And you will need to give them that information if you intend to keep them in a positive and rewarding relationship with you.
There are two reasons why this is so important.
The first is this. If you believe as Jeff and I do, that major gifts is not about the money but a thing of the heart, then you know that one of the heart “satisfiers” is for a donor to know, deep inside themselves, that their giving is actually making a difference – that they are not just throwing money away – that a life has been saved or forever changed, that an environmental problem has been solved – that an animal has been rescued – that an unjust system has been tossed out and replaced with one that honors people and our planet. This is what satisfies the donor at a very deep level. This is why you have to prove to the donor that it actually works!
And the second reason is about the money. If you don’t take care of the donor and satisfy their most basic desire to cause change through their giving, they will go away and you will lose their giving. Why give if you’re not making a difference?
Jeff and I hope that your core motivation in your major gift work is to provide proof of performance – to show that things actually do work. Doing this will bring great joy, fulfillment and satisfaction to the donor. That is what will also bring you job satisfaction and give you that certain knowledge that you are doing the right thing.
Read the whole series: