Angry managerTo tell you the truth, we have been pretty harsh on the lack of good management of major gift officers over the years in our blog. This is because Richard and I believe that the non-profit sector has done a pretty poor job of valuing and training managers. This leads to bad management of MGOs, which leads to high turnover and burnout.
All of this costs the non-profits tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year that is hidden. It’s hidden in the gifts from donors that are not realized because relationships are never fully developed with major gift officers, and it’s hidden in the cost of replacing major gift talent every 18-24 months.
If we actually brought these “hidden costs” into the light I believe CEOs and Managers would be shocked into making a change. Currently, however, the non-profit community continues to go down a path of not valuing great management. They don’t invest in it. The “costs” are still there, but they are buried, and no one talks about it.
You don’t value the role a manager has in generating long-term revenue and therefore you do stupid things like make your best MGO the Director of Major Gifts. This almost always leads to failure. Or you don’t provide any management at all to major gift fundraisers, and they are left on their own to bring you the money. Again, another sure way to fail.
This is why good talent gets wasted. Good talent is always searching for good management; they just never say it.
Until leaders and boards start to understand that there is value in having strong management that both elevates the people they manage and holds them accountable to revenue and other management goals, you will continue to tread water when trying to increase your revenue and retain good talent.
There are two ways to invest in good management. Outsource it, or develop the talent within. You might think we would only advocate outsourcing it, because this is what we do at Veritus. We work with non-profits all over the country who hire us to help them manage their major gift program and the major gift fundraiser working with donors.
For some non-profits, YES! – this is a great option, and we’re incredibly successful with those clients that hire us.
However, for many non-profits, we believe that developing your talent within the organization is the best way forward… if you actually invest in it!
I was recently reading an article in Inc. Magazine entitled “Not being a Lousy Manager Comes Down to Displaying These 3 Rare Behaviors” by Marcel Schwantes. In the article he posits that what we need to do is to model servant leadership. He says,

“The simple truth is that leadership (Management) is about people and relationships. And you can start with the proven fact that great leaders aspire to lead by serving the needs of other people.”

The problem in our non-profit sector is that we also ask managers to do everything outside of management. There are so many Directors of Major Gifts or Development Directors that Richard and I could tell you about who carry almost a full caseload of donors! These good people are supposed to manage AND do the job of an MGO.
It can’t be done effectively.
Non-profit leaders have to start investing in real management. To quote Schwantes again,

“Ultimately, a Servant Leader wants to help others thrive, and is happy to put their team’s needs before their own. They take the blame and hand out the recognition. They care about employees as people all around, and they understand that the best results are produced not through top-down delegation but by building people — and their skills — up.”

This is very difficult if you’re asking the Director of Major Gifts or Development Director to have a full caseload of donors in addition to trying to manage people.
So here are the three traits that Schwantes says are needed from good managers who have the time and talent to actually manage. You can read more in the article, but here is a summary:

  1. They elevate people through genuine caring. Great leaders support their people by showing an interest in their people’s jobs and career aspirations.
  2. They leverage empathy to build relationships and drive results. Studies have found that the ability to listen and act with empathy fosters strong relationships, which leads to great results.
  3. They are radically transparent. You have to be able to be real and straight with people. If they mess up, you have to tell them. Hold the bar high, and if it’s not a good fit, call it.

None of this will work, though, unless you as a leaders will invest your time, energy and resources into making this happen. Because at Veritus we do this every day, we see the positive results that happen when we provide strong management.
Richard and I know personally that if you do invest in management for your non-profit you CAN make a substantial difference that not only will lift your major gift fundraiser up and help them be successful, but it will also increase your revenue and decrease your costs over the long-term. It’s a win-win-win for you.
Take those “hidden” costs, bring them into the light by investing in good management. Do you have the courage to do so?