#2 in the series: Five Things Leaders Need to Know about Major Gifts

graphic with magnifying glass on figure of person in red hiring mgosRalph (not his real name) came off as an enthusiastic and capable professional. He seemed to have above-average relationship skills. And his resume was packed full of many impressive accomplishments. Paul, the manager for hiring MGOs, thought he would make an above-average MGO, and he was excited to offer him the job.
In less than three months, Ralph showed his real self. He was self-expressive and opinionated. He did not take guidance and instruction well. When Paul tried to offer constructive help, Ralph would start arguing and debating each point. Things were not going well. And Paul knew he had made a mistake. What seemed so good on the surface was not good at all.
As a leader/manager, you have likely faced this situation. We have. Which is why we have written a white paper that gives you our opinions on hiring MGOs and retaining them. I suggest you download it if you are in the process of or planning on hiring major gift personnel. It will be a handy guide for you as you make your MGO selections. (Download it here; you’ll also be able to register for a free webinar on the same topic.)
I do have one word of caution. The situation described above had nothing to do with the aptitude of the prospective MGO. Ralph likely had the right abilities to do the job; he just didn’t have the right attitude. And that is a deal-killer. I have written about this before, and you can read about this dynamic further in this post. Just be sure that during the interview process you ask enough questions about the person’s personal characteristics and operating style to find out WHO they are. This is so important.
Once you have that good MGO in place, you must do the necessary work to keep them. And key to keeping them is summed up in two ideas: fully support them; and be open, just and fair.
The reason MGOs (on average) last only 2.5 years in a job is because they are not supported properly. Supporting them properly means paying a reasonable wage, providing decent benefits, giving them the electronic tools they need to do the job, helping them package programs and projects to present to donors, giving them administrative support, letting them work with their donors exclusively (rather than do other things in your organization), setting reasonable goals, and evaluating them fairly.
And being open, just and fair means being the kind of leader/manager who is kind, speaks truth, is fair in all things, listens, guides and helps. In other words, treat your MGO the way you want to be treated. You know what that is. Jeff and I see so many situations where a bureaucratic boss, drunk on his own power and authority, literally pushes his good people right out the door because of his unilateral, intolerant and self-absorbed operating style. It just is not necessary.
If you support your MGO and you are kind and fair, you will beat the odds that your MGO will leave and go work somewhere else.
So now you’ve hired the right MGO, and you are doing well at keeping him. How do you know the MGO is doing well in his job? There are several key indicators as follows:

  1. The MGO has the right attitude – we talked about this earlier. His attitude is about service and teamwork. He wants to do everything he can to fulfill his donors’ passions and interests. He is a team player.
  2. The MGO has identified the passions and interests of every donor on his caseload. This is so important. Because without this information the MGO can’t properly serve the donor.
  3. The MGO has a goal and plan for every donor and is faithfully executing that plan.
  4. The MGO is achieving revenue projections.

It’s about that simple. If these four things are happening, you will know the MGO is doing well.
But what if she isn’t? When is it time to let a MGO go? Here are some suggestions. If one or more of these situations come up, and you have taken corrective action to no avail, you might have to let the MGO go:

  1. The MGO develops an attitude problem where she is not collaborative, will not take direction and will not follow a plan for every donor on the caseload.
  2. The MGO starts being political, working around her manager, triangulating etc.
  3. The MGO will not stick to her caseload, but has to be prospecting, even though she has been instructed not to do that, and is ignoring the qualified donors on the caseload.
  4. The MGO will not identify donor passions and interests and will not cultivate the donor properly to serve those interests and passions.
  5. The MGO is not thanking caseload donors promptly and thoroughly.
  6. As a consequence of all this, the MGO will not be reaching revenue goals. That is the sixth situation.

Your major gift staff are one of the most critical parts of your team. Not only are they dealing with your best donors, they are the folks that are delivering the highest return on investment in fundraising, with the exception of planned giving. So getting the right person in your major gift position is so important. And keeping that person is critical.
PS – Download that free white paper on Hiring and Retaining Great MGOs by clicking here.
Read the whole series about the Five Things Leaders Need to Know about Major Gifts:

  1. Leaders Need to Know Their Role in Major Gifts
  2. Getting and Keeping the Right MGO (this post)
  3. The Resource Every Major Gift Officer Must Have
  4. The Role of Leaders in Securing Transformational Gifts
  5. Leaders Need to Know How to Evaluate a Major Gifts Program