Many times when Veritus Group begins to work with a major gifts officer, the MGO gets a little cranky. He or she will get cranky having a sense that we are going to bring a new level of structure and accountability to their work than they have ever experienced before.
I don’t blame them. Hey, if I had free reign to do what I wanted, and then all of a sudden that was taken away, I’d be a little cranky as well.
But when the major gift officer finds out that the structure actually allows them to be free and they see the results, the MGO fully embraces it. They realize that within structure is freedom.
It seems counter-intuitive, and it’s probably the reason Richard and I see so many major gift programs with absolutely no structure at all, why we have MGO’s who are “gunslingers” out there. Oh, how we wish we could just wrap our arms around these good people and let them know they could actually be more successful if they just embraced the concept that structure = freedom.
We have been getting a lot of folks responding to our Major Gift Academy survey who have asked us, “What is the right way to do Major Gifts?” Well, I’m going to tell you.
Richard and I believe that the ONLY way your major gift program will be successful is if you have a structure in place. Then you must allow the MGO to have the freedom to work within that structure. Here is what we mean by that. It’s very simple:

  1. No more than 150 donors in the portfolio of a full-time major gift officer.
  2. A revenue goal attached to every donor, cash-flowed by month.
  3. A communication and solicitation strategy attached to every donor for how you are going to attain the goal.
  4. The caseload tiered A through C.
  5. A weekly meeting with a manager to stay accountable and focused.

That is it. That’s the structure. The beautiful thing about all this is that within this structure, you as the MGO can do almost anything you need to do, to deepen your relationship with donors. Notice I’m not telling you how many calls per day you have to make, or how many visits in a year you have to hit.
If you are meeting or exceeding your monthly revenue goals with your donors, and you are entering all the information in the database, I personally don’t care if you are working 25 or 60 hours a week to get that accomplished. I don’t care if you are out of the office four days a week. I don’t care if you are going to a matinee movie on a Wednesday afternoon. Why? Because you have been given the freedom to succeed in whatever way works for you.
From our experience working with great MGOs over the years, I will tell you definitively that freedom without structure (or structure without freedom) does not work. Structure with freedom is what makes a major gift program – and a major gift officer – successful.
The only time that freedom is abated is if you are doing two things: 1) consistently not making your monthly revenue goals, and 2) failing to communicate with your manager about your donors in a proactive way.
When that happens, your freedom must become more regulated into micro-management of what you are doing with your time. I will want to know your phone calls, visits, solicitations per week, month and year until you get back on track. It’s not fun.
You know those cranky MGOs I told you about at the beginning of this post? Well, once they start realizing that the structure is there to work for them, and that they still have the freedom to do their work… they get very happy. And when an MGO is happy, so are their donors… and then they see success. It’s beautiful.