The three elements of a successful major gift program are good program to present to donors, good donors, and good major gift staff. Jeff and I have seen many major gift situations where one of these elements was missing, and it was impossible for a major gift program to really get traction.
One of the most frustrating things a major gift officer faces is not having any program to present to donors. We have talked about this quite a bit – where the authority figure says to the MGO: “Just get out to program and find something.” This frustrates the MGO, instead of really helping her by framing the organization’s program(s) into an offer the donor can understand and support.
And then there are those situations where a good MGO is expected to “land some really big gifts,” but she is given a caseload of donors that cannot deliver on that expectation.
No program and no donors is a sure path to failure in major gifts. But here’s the thing. Many times it is the MGO himself that is not working toward success – he is mired in ways of doing things and a work style that is counterproductive.
One of the core beliefs Jeff and I hold is that creating and maintaining a system of major gifts fundraising and then helping a MGO work consistently within that system is the key to success in major gifts. I place emphasis on the words system and consistently. Major gifts work is as much about discipline and work style as it is program and donors.
That is why I was so interested in an article on SuccessStory.com about Habits of Unsuccessful People vs. Successful People. The article contains a very helpful infographic that details the habits of unsuccessful and successful people. Take a look at it. The writers make three points, and I quote them here:
- Some of the habits of highly successful people include tracking progress, learning from mistakes, thinking of long term goals, being humble, taking risks while maintaining balance in life, being organizational, embracing changes and handling problems well.
- On the other hand, some habits which are common among unsuccessful people are wasting time, getting distracted easily, blaming others, not setting goals, fearing change, holding grudges and wanting others to fail, thinking negative thoughts and thinking that they know everything.
- It is a fact that those who think that they have achieved success tend to be 100% successful in the future, whereas those who think that they can achieve it have only 80% chance of being successful. Similarly, those who doubt themselves and think that they might achieve it have only a 60% chance, whereas those who think that they definitely won’t have a 0% chance!
Here are some steps for MGOs (and others) to do, to move toward success:
- First of all, embrace the fact that you are a key factor in your success. It is way too easy to blame everyone and everything outside yourself for your lack of success. One of my mentors got in my face once and said: “Richard, the longer you keep looking outside of yourself for solutions, the longer it will take you to find them.” So I have made it a practice to constantly examine how I do things and why I do them. And I have made it a practice to continually solicit the input of others in this area, no matter how painful it is, so that I can be a better person. YOU – and how you operate – are a key factor to your success.
- Take a look at the list of characteristics of unsuccessful and successful people, and identify which ones belong to you. You might even ask for input from someone you trust. Get a good grasp on how you operate, both good and bad, so you get an objective view of yourself.
- Pick out those traits that you know make you successful, and give yourself some affirmation for having and maintaining them.
- Then pick out those traits that cause you to be unsuccessful. You know what they are. Now DO something about them. Tackle them one at a time. Have someone you trust hold you accountable in those areas where you tend to fall down.
- Lastly, start carrying positive thoughts and beliefs about your future success. If you walk around with a defeatist attitude, you will most certainly be defeated. You are what you believe.
One of the keys to your success as a MGO is you. That is why it is good to take inventory regularly of how you are operating. As you take that inventory, remember that you are way better than you think. It is a fact.