If you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that Richard and I regularly write about focusing on the donor, not the dollars. We’ve written about it so many times we’ve actually had discussions about whether we need to keep saying it.
But then we get letters from some of you that, in our mind, make it absolutely essential to continue to focus on the subject.
I think sometimes major gift officers get brain damage. Somehow they lose the fact that their job is all about creating and nurturing relationships, not chasing dollars. When this occurs, they do stupid things.
Below is an actual, real-life story of one of your colleagues in the field. I have changed the names and type of organization, but the story speaks volumes about this issue. I was blown away when I read this, because it highlights the problem in our industry of what happens when we lose our focus on people. So here is her story, in her words:
“I used to work for an organization that helped people with breast cancer. I recently drove a cancer patient, ‘Jane,’ who was one of my major donors from the previous organization, to the funeral of another cancer patient, ‘Mary.’ I had been close with both of the patients, and Jane needed a ride as she is now in a wheelchair and can’t drive herself.
The patient who died was in the process of setting up a named fund at a local hospital. I had taken Jane to an interested parties meeting for the fund a few weeks ago. She wanted to hear what they were going to do to help cancer patients. And she and Mary were friends. Mary died a few weeks after that meeting.
At the funeral reception, the Major Gift Officer from the hospital made a beeline to Jane as we waited in the line to give our condolences to the family. She recognized her from the interested parties meeting. She began to tell her all that was going on with the fund and about a smaller grant that one of the cancer researchers had received.
There was no small talk to open the conversation – no mention of Mary who had just died and whose funeral we had just attended. Nothing to address the loss Jane was feeling, as her friend had died. Nothing to ask how Jane herself was feeling – she is dying of the same cancer as the woman whose funeral we had just attended. It was a hard day for Jane and she was contemplating her own mortality.
She at no point acknowledged my presence or made any eye contact with me. It was all moves management and working Jane for a future ask. She seemed to have forgotten that we were at a funeral and that there is human emotion involved with the day.
She left for a while and then returned when we were talking with Mary’s widower. She hung next to us as we tried to have what should have been a private conversation with the widower. She never said a word; just stood there at my elbow, I guess waiting to be included in conversation. It was very awkward.
When we left, Jane told me that she was offended. It was all about the money for the Major Gift Officer, nothing about Jane’s feelings. As I watched this all go down, I knew that somewhere in her training no one bothered to tell the MGO that is it not only about the money, but also about the donor.”
Wow, can you believe that? Obviously this MGO has lost her way. But this kind of thing is happening all over. If you or one of your colleagues is behaving this way, you’ve got to tell him or her to stop.
Donors are human beings who deserve your compassion, love, understanding and acceptance. Nothing short of that is acceptable.