picture of hands holding piece of paper saying "just do it" held to the sky donorsAt Veritus Group, we have worked with many major gift officers. When we ask them how they’re doing with meeting and deepening their relationships with donors, we often get a response like this:
“Well, I haven’t been having much donor contact; I’m just not finished with all my planning for my caseload, and I have to get my goals done, and I really need to get more understanding of our programs… then I’ll be able to visit and get to know my donors.”
Basically the MGO is saying, “I have to get all my ducks in a row before I can really start building relationships with donors.”
The fact is, you don’t.
Now, do you need to build the correct structure, qualify donors, tier them, set goals, create strategic plans, know all about your programs and projects, etc.? Yes, of course. You will not be successful without it.
But you don’t have to wait until ALL of that is complete to get out there and start forming meaningful relationships with your donors. You can do the relationship thing AND create the structure you need to be successful, at the same time.
Many times we hear from MGOs who are qualifying donors, and they tell us they haven’t worked their plan with their already-qualified donors because they are just focused on the qualifying.
This sometimes goes on for many, many months!
I could tear my hair out.
When Richard and I hear this from MGOs, we’ve figured out there are two possible things happening.

  1. The MGO just doesn’t understand that you can do two things at once, but more likely it’s…
  2. The MGO is doing everything to AVOID talking with and meeting donors.

Now, you may be wondering – why would an MGO avoid talking with or meeting donors?
This is quite common, unfortunately. For various reasons, there are scores of MGOs out there who are not comfortable developing relationships with donors, and they constantly find reasons (excuses) not to meet with them. They turn out to be great at the planning stuff – they love getting to know the programs and projects – but they are NOT wired to be out in front of donors.
If you are a manager of a major gift officer and you hear from your MGO that he can’t meet with donors until he has all of his T’s crossed and I’s dotted, it’s a major warning sign.
Great MGOs work hard to create a solid structure for their success, but they’re also eager to get out and start talking to donors. So as a manager, a key sign of success will be that your MGO is not only doing all the right things by building that structure (qualifying, tiering, goal-setting, strategic plans for every donor) – they will, at the same time, be out building relationships.
And if you are a major gift fundraiser, know that you can do both of these things simultaneously. You don’t have to wait until your entire structure is complete to start meeting with donors. In fact, you can’t wait.
If you find yourself using that as an excuse, be honest with yourself and do some soul-searching to discover if major gift fundraising is the right fit for you. It may not be – and that is okay.
But if you know you love this work, Richard and I are giving you permission to get out and just start doing it! Your donors are waiting to hear from you.