Beyond and expectations.First in a Four-Part Series

As a major gift fundraiser, there are all kinds of expectations of you that, if met, would show everyone you’re doing a good job.
Your manager, executive director, and yes, even your donors all expect that you will do things that would cause them all to say at the end of the day, “Yep, she’s a good major gift officer and she’s competent in her job.”
But do you just want to be a good major gift fundraiser? I don’t think so. I think you want to be a great one. And being a great one means you need to go beyond what is expected of you and set yourself apart in the minds of your managers, your leaders, and your donors.
So over the next four posts, I’m going to touch on one aspect of how you can go beyond what’s expected of you as a major gift fundraiser, to help make you a great one. Because – why be anything less?
Before I can talk about “going beyond” what is expected, let’s quickly talk about what is reasonably expected of you.

  1. You are working with a qualified caseload of no more than 150 donors.
  2. You have goals and strategies attached to every donor in your caseload.
  3. You have your caseload tiered A-C.
  4. You are creating at least one touch point per month for every one of your caseload donors.
  5. You are making meaningful connections with your donors to move the relationship forward.
  6. You know your donor’s passions and interests so you can match them to your programs and projects that need funding.
  7. You thank your donors quickly and appropriately.
  8. You report on the impact of their gifts.
  9. You are communicating with your manager and your organization’s leadership on the status and performance of your portfolio.
  10. You are in contact with other departments like finance and program to help you create offers for your donors.
  11. You are meeting your revenue goals.

Okay, that is what is EXPECTED. If you are doing this and it’s resulting in making your revenue goals, you would be considered a good major gift officer. Now, let’s take it to another level.
Richard, our team and I have worked with hundreds of major gift officers over the years. Some of them have been truly exceptional. Now, I could probably list dozens of things that these exceptional major gift fundraisers do every day that sets them apart; but in this series, I’m going to focus on four of them. The first one is:

Really Knowing Your Donor

We are always talking to you about knowing your donors. Knowing them means you know the passions and interests of each of your donors, so you can create offers that they will want to invest in.
Exceptional major gift fundraisers go beyond that. They find out the why behind the what. Here is what great major gift fundraisers do that goes beyond expectations – things that you too can put into practice:

  1. Initial contact with the donor (whether it’s through a face to face meeting, an email or a telephone conversation) is centered on the donor and why they give to the organization and what they are passionate about. You are not satisfied with the answer, “I just love what you do.” You probe deeper. You listen intently. Your goal is to get to the core of their passions and interests.
  2. Subsequent contact with the donor is all about creating a deeper connection between the donor and the organization. This means you are asking more personal questions to understand who the donor is as a person. What makes them tick? What other organizations do they support? Who are people they admire? What led them to care about your organization’s mission? Is there anything the donor would change about what your organization does?
  3. You record everything. Exceptional major gift fundraisers record everything in their database. Every interaction with a donor provides nuggets of information that can be turned into relationship-building gold. But unless you record it all, it will go to waste. When it’s recorded, you’re able to recall it immediately, and you create a wealth of information for your organization and anyone down the line who will be working with that donor.
  4. You use the information to deepen the relationship. One really amazing major gift officer I worked with created an information grid spreadsheet for each of his A-level donors. It included columns titled, “personal information” (hobbies, clubs, etc.), “passion and interests,” “programs funded” and “other organizations supported.” This allowed him to be as personal as possible with the donor in every interaction. He would get cards from his donors thanking him for being so thoughtful.

Knowing your donors’ passions and interests are what is expected, but you’ll exceed expectations when you put in the time and effort to understand them and their deepest desires so that you can create the best experience possible. (Tweet it!) This is what will delight your donors, and as a result, revenue will soar.
My next post about “going beyond expectations” is all about “being real” with donors. Stay tuned.
Read the whole series on Going Beyond What is Expected of You:

  1. Really Knowing Your Donor (this post)
  2. Being Real
  3. Providing Outrageous Service
  4. Helping Create a Culture of Philanthropy