You’ve been called into a meeting to review how you are doing against goals. The primary question that is being asked is, essentially, “how’s the money coming in?”
The question needs to be framed that way because the finance office needs to know. They can’t pay the bills with air! You have to remember that having goals sets an expectation that a certain amount of money will come in. So it is a fair question: how is it going?
There are scores of reports that try to answer that question in your organization. Everyone associated with fundraising needs to report in. That’s comforting. At least you aren’t the only one who’s on the hot seat.
This is one of those questions that you as a MGO just cannot and will not get away from. Ever. As long as you are a major gift officer, you will need to live with the fact that others need to know how you are doing on the money thing.
And that voice – that genuine drive for knowing about the money – will pull you off course if you don’t watch it.
Here’s how you will get off track if you don’t manage it.
You’re in the office in a meeting and someone, either your manager or your manager’s manager (or the CEO or the CFO) will ask about the money. And you will feel the pressure of that inquiry. You’ll also get emails to report on progress of giving from your caseload donors. There will be regular meetings you need to be in, where the question will be asked. You will have to submit regular reports. It’s a constant thing.
And that steady inquiry that comes in meetings, on email and on the phone, seems to permeate the air. You can almost breathe in the expectation. You can certainly feel it. And if you aren’t careful, you will start to think that this whole thing is about the money. It’s normal. Everyone is talking about it. Always. So it must be about the money!
Then you start to change how you treat your caseload donors. You start to look at them as a source of money – a way to get to your goal. And that is when things start to go bad.
I want to be clear that this is a normal progression of things. You start with clarity that major gifts is not about the money and then, over time, as all the money messages hit you, you begin a migration to the money point of view.
This is where you have to catch yourself. Here is an exercise you should do every day to remind yourself that your work is not about money. You can do this any time, although I think that the best time to do it is in the morning before you get going on your work. Do these three things:
- Notice the level of anxiety you have about getting the money. Talk to yourself about the reality that the money is best achieved by serving your caseload donors.
- Say the following statement out loud: “My work with my donors is not about the money. It is about helping each of them fulfill their passions and interests. Today I will focus on how to do that better.”
- Then think of the donors you will work with today to do what you have said. Or if you are sending a touch-point that goes to a group of your caseload donors, think of them as a group, and set your mind to organize your content so it fulfills their passions and interests.
If you do these three things, you will actively combat your tendency to believe that your work is about money. The result will be happier and more fulfilled donors. (And you’ll get the money.)