The right one.
It seems like everyone is trying to hire a major gift officer. Rightly, non-profits are finally realizing that creating or increasing the capacity of their major gift program will bring in much-needed net revenue.
This is a good thing. The tough part is actually finding a good major gift officer to work with a caseload of major donors.
Heather Joslyn recently wrote an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled, “The Scramble to Hire Big-Gift Fundraisers.” For the article she interviewed scores of people at organizations who are ramping up their major gift efforts, and she highlights the trouble they are having finding good people to fill those positions.
Right now, at least 8 organizations we work with are desperately trying to find good MGO talent. What some of these organizations don’t realize is that they have to really compete to attract good talent. If you are a manager looking to hire an MGO, or you’re an MGO looking for great organizations to work for, here are some thoughts on how an organization can attract the best MGOs:

  1. Have an investment mentality — Richard and I have seen too many organizations trying to do everything on the cheap. If you are going to have a successful major gift program, you have to invest in it properly. That means you are going to pay MGOs a competitive salary, offer good benefits and have an investment plan for growth (request our White Paper on Evaluating and Rewarding MGOs for our thoughts on the proper levels of compensation). Unfortunately, non-profits can no longer just rely on their mission attracting talent. Showing the potential MGO you are willing to invest in major gifts over time shows you have a successful environment for growth.
  2. Promote your mission — Now, I know you’re thinking that this might be a contradiction to what I just said above, but it’s not. While you can’t just rely on your mission to attract great talent, you can promote it as a good reason to want to work at your organization. What you do IS a selling point. Make sure you promote it. Understand that while people want to make a decent living, most of us really do want to help change the world. Make sure you stress it.
  3. Have a structure in place — Nothing is worse for a prospective MGO than if they are basically told, “Well, you can do pretty much anything you want because we don’t really have a major gift program.” That might sound good to some people, but great MGOs like working within a structure. I’m serious about that. Unless you are trying to hire a Director of Major Gifts who will put that structure together, hiring an MGO is a different story. MGOs want to feel secure that your organization values major gifts. Valuing major gifts means you have management, protocols, processes and structure in place.
  4. Value the long-term — It’s also terrible for a potential MGO to hear that if they come on board, they have six months to show significant progress and bring in large gifts. Believe me, Richard and I have seen organizations do this to MGOs after they have been hired. It forces the MGO to “go after the money,” rather than form solid relationships with donors. Instead, let the prospective MGO know up front that you value relationships, and know that it will take time to see significant increases. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t still have to make her revenue goals and work her plan, but overall the MGO knows she has time to develop those relationships and turn that into much larger gifts.

If you can create an environment for your organization like I’ve outlined above, you will be able to attract good talent, even when that talent is scarce. Like the article highlights, major gifts is where organizations are finally realizing they need to invest. Just do it the right way.