First in a Series: What Should I Do If…? A Six-Part Series Inspired by You
Recently, Richard and I asked our Passionate Giving Blog Subscribers to let us know what you’d like us to cover in the blog. We received a tremendous amount of ideas. It was awesome. Many of you asked for more specific ideas on how to handle different problems you’re encountering every day. In other words, it sounded like this, “I’m running into this situation… What should I do?”
So today begins a six-part series answering the question, “What should I do if…?” The first one I want to tackle came up frequently, and it’s a question that Richard and I get all the time when we speak or when people write to us. That is, “What should I do if my leadership is not entirely on board with a donor-centered major gift program?
Sadly, this is a problem everywhere. It’s so pervasive that it plays a big role in the book Richard and I are writing on the role leaders and managers have to play in creating a successful major gift program.
First, let me list some of the specific problems you’re encountering from leaders:

  1. Leadership wants you to chase down wealthy people who haven’t previously donated to your organization.
  2. Leadership wants you to bring in large sums of money quickly.
  3. Leadership wants you to plan events.
  4. Leadership doesn’t understand why you need a list of your programs and projects with all costs associated with them.
  5. Leadership won’t invest in the infrastructure necessary to sufficiently report back to donors the impact of their gifts.

There are many more, but overall the problem you’re encountering with leadership is that they “don’t get” and “don’t support” a major gift program in the way it needs to be, to be successful.
So here’s what you do:

  1. Make sure you have a revenue goal and a strategic plan for every one of your donors in your portfolio. This will be the basis for your argument on why you must focus your efforts entirely on your donors. Many non-profit leaders have no idea how a major gift officer does their work. Showing them that you have a plan for every one of your donors, that they have a revenue goal, and that it’s cash-flowed – this will shock them.
  2. Create a meeting with leadership and your manager. Show them the plan for your portfolio. Let them know your overall goal and what you’re trying to accomplish with each of your donors. Emphasize the following points based on your plan:
    • There’s no room to chase after wealthy non-donors, because you barely have enough time to cultivate your portfolio. If a leader wants someone to do that, it can’t be you.
    • Because you have a precise plan with a revenue goal attached to every donor, and it’s cash-flowed, there’s no need to get anxious about when the money is coming in. You tell leadership they’ll get a monthly report on how well you’re doing compared to your goals, and that you’ll be meeting with your manager weekly to ensure you’re staying on track.
    • Because you have a detailed plan on how you’re going to achieve your goals, tell leadership that anything they might ask you to do outside that plan would threaten those goals. An event may take you away from working your caseload anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.
    • Point out the donors in your portfolio (typically your “A” level tiered donors) that to obtain a high five, six, or a seven-figure gift, you must create offers that match that level of giving. Explain that your donors have specific passions and interests, and they’ll give MORE if the organization can be specific in our programs and the associated costs (including overhead). This means getting program, finance, and leadership together to come up with all program-related costs.
    • Report on impact. Stress to leaders that the #1 reason donors stop giving or give less is that they don’t know their gifts made a difference. (Tweet it!) This is why program, finance, and leadership have to spend the money, time, and effort to get you the information on what happened with a donor’s gift. And that’s why it’s important to give the donor consistent updates on those projects and programs they’re funding.
    • Again, stress your caseload revenue goal. Without all of the above, you’ll experience higher value attrition if you’re not allowed to:
      1. concentrate on your donors,
      2. give them the type of offers they need to give a large gift,
      3. and help them understand how they made an impact with those gifts.

Here’s what Richard and I have learned over the years about the dynamic between leadership, managers, and the front-line MGOs. If you (the MGO or manager) can show the leader that:

  • you already have a solid plan in place with a specific revenue goal,
  • you’re proactive in your communication on how you’re progressing toward that goal,
  • all of this is predicated on building solid relationships with your donors,

– then the leader will get it. And they will give you the support you need to do your job.
This is what you should do if your leadership is not entirely on board with your donor-centered major gift program.
Read the whole series, What Should I Do If…?

What If Leadership Is NOT Entirely on Board with a Donor-Centered Program? (This post)
What If I’m Trying to Upgrade a Mid-Level Donor and No One Has Ever Talked to Them?
What If My Older Donor Stops Giving, but They Tell Us They’ve Made a Planned Gift?
What If I’m Trying to Promote Better Collaboration Between Departments?
What If I Can’t Get a Donor to Talk to Me?