From office to office.I’ve been talking to a few major gift officers who are leaving their current positions and moving on to another non-profit. They are really excited, as they are moving on to organizations that are more aligned to their passions – and they are receiving higher salaries.
In their excitement, I’ve asked each of them this question: “Are you leaving well?” They each got this quizzical look on their face and said, “What do you mean?”
What I mean is, what is it that you are doing before you leave, that would cause your manager to say, “Gosh, I really didn’t want to see her go, but you know what, she really left us in good shape so that her replacement could dive right in.”
I understand that it’s natural, when you take a new job offer, to focus on the upcoming job and not the one you are still in. “Out with the old… in with the new.”
But is that really fair to your current organization? Is that fair to your manager and your eventual replacement? Is that fair to your donors?
Absolutely not! And if you’re thinking ahead as a professional fundraiser, you never want to burn a bridge… even if you’re not leaving under the best of circumstances.
Always – always, you are the professional.
So what does “ending well” look like? Here is some advice I’ve given to other MGOs who are leaving. Use this list to finish strong and leave your portfolio of donors well taken care of.

  1. Give your manager enough notice. You have a very important job as a major gift officer. You are not working at a hamburger joint. This is why Richard and I believe you need to give AT LEAST a month’s notice if possible. And, if I’m a hiring manager and the person I’m hiring says they can come work with you in two weeks, I’d question that prospective employee – because that’s how they will leave you It takes quite a bit of time to find good major gift talent, so if you can give more than 30 days, that would be optimum. Remember, place yourself in the shoes of your manager.
  2. Let go of any anger or resentment about your old job. This goes to being a professional. Too many times I’ve heard non-profit professionals who want to “prove a point” or “take it out on bad management” by not taking the higher road and forgetting that the person who is taking over for you doesn’t deserve the same bad treatment you had. Remember that.
  3. Don’t “carry on” about your new job with other employees. Yes, it’s great that you have a new position, but your co-workers are still here. Be respectful and kind, and continue to affirm the mission of your current organization. Richard and I have heard horror stories of employees who are moving on and they trash the organization, leadership and management with current employees. There is no reason for it, and you will look bad.
  4. Have empathy for the new major gift officer replacing you. You may never get to meet this person, but it doesn’t matter. If you can leave your position in a better place than when you found it, you’re leaving a great gift to the person replacing you. Is the database up to date and cleaned up? Have you recorded all of your meeting notes in there? Would someone be able to read what is in your donor’s records and know exactly what her passions and interests are? Would they know how your meetings went? Would it be clear what the donor’s goals and strategy are, month by month? I have a major gift officer who is leaving right before the beginning of the new fiscal year. He has made sure that everyone in his portfolio has a revenue goal and a complete 12-month strategic plan before he leaves. Think about how wonderful a gift that is to the person replacing him.
  5. Is your current job description reflective of what you actually do? Now, this is technically the manager’s job, but pulling out your job description and then figuring out what is left out – and talking to the manager about changing it so that it actually matches – will do the next person who has your job a huge favor.
  6. Have empathy for the donor. Understand that your donors love the mission of the organization you are leaving. If you know who is replacing you, writing a letter to your donors introducing her to them is extremely kind and helpful. In that letter you should reaffirm that donor’s love of the mission and thank them. If you don’t know who is replacing you, that letter is still very important. Leave them feeling good about their decision to give to that organization.
  7. Affirm the new major gift officer. You may know that it’s a tradition for the outgoing President of the United States to leave a personal note to the President-Elect, giving words of wisdom and encouragement. If possible, I think you should do this too. Affirm the new major gift officer, reminding them that they are the bridge between the donor, their desire to change the world, and all the things that your organization is doing that is making an impact. This is a great gift for you to leave.

Ending well. You can really make a difference for the person taking your place when you leave with professionalism, and you will feel good that you have done all you can to make the transition as smooth and life-giving as possible. (Tweet it!)