Accountability. I’m going to be blunt. A lack of accountability is where it all goes wrong in major gift fundraising.  Left to their own devices, many major gift officers just do NOT stay focused…and they fail.
It’s not their fault.  That is how most of them are wired.  They love the action, the people, the latest deal.  They love meeting NEW people and getting involved in many things all at the same time.  They tire easily of working on the same things day after day.  They need constant outside stimulation to stay engaged.
But unless they are managed correctly, learning accountability and made to stay focused, these good people will get lost.
I have to tell you, Richard and I have never met a great MGO who did not have a solid manager keeping him or her accountable and focused.
Ask any great salesperson to name why, apart from innate ability,  he or she has found success and you will hear, ”Because I had someone to keep me on track – someone to check in with and to keep me focused.”
Many people shudder at the word, “accountability.”  They think it’s meant to stifle creativity and ingenuity.  But, in reality, accountability helps you become MORE creative than you ever thought possible.
Richard and I have managed dozens of major gift officers over the years.  We know for an absolute fact that if you give major gift officers good boundaries and goals and keep them focused, they will succeed.
Conversely, when major gift officers have no accountability and little management to keep them focused, they lose their way, don’t make their goals and can even lose their passion very quickly.
This happens every time.  I’m not making this up.  If your major gift officers do not have a good manager to keep them accountable they will fail.  Period.
The most outrageous major gift fundraising failure for non-profits today is the total lack of management of those cultivating a caseload of donors.  Richard and I have story after story of auditing a non-profit’s major gift program and witnessing dismal failure.  And, when you peel away all the possible reasons, it always comes down to a failure to properly manage and keep people accountable to do what they say they are going to do.
Here’s the really sad thing.  In most cases it’s not because the MGO is actually bad at his or her job.  It’s that non-profit leaders fail to see the importance of good management.  We hire good people to cultivate a caseload of donors and then basically ask them to go out on their own and make it or break it.  And, most of the time it’s the latter.
Seriously, look at the average tenure of an MGO at a non-profit.  It’s about 2.3 years!  Why?  Bad management.
Why is there bad management?  Because most people put into positions of management are so busy with their non-management work, that they can’t adequately provide the right focus and accountability their MGO’s need.  Or, leadership hires or promotes people who have no business managing others.
It’s clear to us that many non-profit leaders do not appreciate the role of management.  Either they don’t spend the money to hire managers or they create a system in which the only way to grow professionally at a non-profit is to move into management.  This takes good “salespeople” (MGO’s), using the skills they were born with, to now sit behind a desk and do something they are very bad at (managing).
Folks, this is a crisis for non-profits.
Here is how you can stop this turnstile of good people coming and going, and start to see your major gift program begin to grow by leaps and bounds.

  1. Hire good managers who love to develop people and know how to motivate and hold their folks accountable.  99% of the time these are not people who are good major gift officers.  So, don’t “promote” a major gift officer into this role.
  2. Make sure major gift officers have a revenue goal for each donor.
  3. Every revenue goal must have a plan to secure it.  Make sure that plan is completely outlined by the MGO for each month.
  4. Meet with your MGO’s every week to make sure they followed the plan you discussed the week before and update you on their progress.  Now, you might get pushback from your MGO’s about this.  I don’t care.  Over time, they will realize this actually helps them.  Not only are they reporting back to YOU, but it forces them to spend time each week reflecting on what they did and where there they need to go.
  5. Every month, go over their caseload revenue together.  Are they on track?  If not they must explain why.
  6. Stress to your MGO’s that their caseload is the only priority.  Do NOT allow them to get sucked into events or chasing prospects who have shown no propensity to give to the organization.  Keep them focused on their caseload.
  7. Every quarter have a half-day strategy session with each MGO to recalibrate the plan for the donors on his or her caseload.
  8. Keep track of significant touches, such as phone calls, event attendance and personal visits with their donors.  The more significant touches will result in more revenue so you want to track this.
  9. If you don’t have the internal resources to properly manage your major gift officers and program, look for outside help.  Needing outside counsel does not mean you have failed.  It means you are smart enough to know that this is a priority for your organization and the revenue gains you will realize will far exceed the investment you make.

Richard and I know that if you follow these suggestions you will succeed.  We know this because we do this everyday for our clients.  We have seen tremendous results, year after year when we can successfully keep major gift officers focused and accountable to goals and implementing strategy.
Look, I’ll be honest; most major gift officers we start working with don’t like it when they have to finally be held accountable.  But, over time, the good ones realize what a gift it is to have someone come alongside them to help them succeed by giving them solid parameters to work within.  Paradoxically, they finally find real freedom within those parameters and they become wildly successful.
This is why we love our work and why you will too.