Part 2 of a Six-Part Series on Six Reasons Your MGO Will Stay at Your Organization

Have you ever been picked last to participate in a team sport? Were you ever left out of activities that the “in” group was involved in? Have you ever been left out of a meeting of senior leaders in your organization when you felt you should have been included?
It doesn’t feel very good. I’ve certainly experienced this; it leaves a knot in your stomach, and you feel awful.
But let’s turn this around. Do you know the feeling of being picked first? How about the feeling of all your friends wanting to hang out at your house in high school, because they liked being around you and your family? Or the feeling of being one of the “thought leaders” of your organization and being respected by your colleagues because of the important work you do every day?
Those are the moments you feel on top of the world. I too have felt those moments, and believe me they are much better than the knot-in-your-stomach-stuff.
When I talk to successful MGOs who have a long history with their non-profit, one thing that I hear quite often is that they feel important and supported by management and leadership.
Important, meaning leadership places incredible value on their role within the organization. This plays out practically in that they are invited to leadership meetings that discuss donor strategy; they have the ear of the Executive Director; and they have respect from finance and program.
Now, all of that is earned because of the great work the MGO has done. It demands respect, and therefore more value is placed on the MGO. Good organizations recognize this. However, many do not… too many do not.
Richard and I have worked with amazing major gift officers who, while incredible at their craft, have been regulated to “second-class” citizens within their organizations. For some reason, mainly because of bad management, major gift officers are looked down on as “sales people who are just out having fun having dinners with rich cats.”
And because many times the MGOs are not actually IN the office – they are instead out meeting with donors – they are often thought of as sort of contract workers.
Believe me, the MGOs who stay with an organization are the ones who feel they matter to the organization. Their position has standing, and they are recognized by leadership as being integral to the success of the organization.
MGOs that stay are also supported, meaning that overall, they know their manager has their backs. Here’s what I mean:

  1. They are paid well and receive raises for a job well done. Too many MGOs in our industry are drastically underpaid. If you have a good MGO, pay him well. And if he meets or exceeds his revenue goals, give him a raise to reflect his good work. While an MGO probably won’t leave because of salary, he will work harder and be happier if you reward him with a good salary. In fact, if you have a great MGO, he should probably be paid higher than his manager. Yep, you heard me right. Richard and I believe that if you have an incredibly skilled major gift officer that consistently exceeds goals, brings in 6 and 7 figure gifts routinely and has incredible relationships with donors, he should be well compensated.
  2. Their good work is acknowledged. This is not about money, not one bit. When I talk to long-staying MGOs, they have story after story about how their manager and CEO tell them how great they are doing, both privately and publicly. Why managers don’t do this more with their staff is beyond me. In almost every survey I read about job satisfaction, having a manager acknowledge good work has an incredibly positive effect on employees. (And it’s free!)
  3. They have freedom to work outside the system. Great MGOs don’t work 9 to 5. They work 6 am to 11 pm sometimes. They work weekends. They fly down to Florida in the winter to meet with their donors. Too many times, we see non-profit management put shackles on their MGOs because it wouldn’t be fair to treat them differently than the other employees. Hogwash! Great MGOs who stay at their organizations have managers who support their odd hours, working from home, flying off to solicit donors – and the manager will put up a firewall between them and “the system.”
  4. Managers protect them from the organizational hairball. I’ve written about the “corporate hairball” before, but in addition to supporting an MGO’s freedom, the manager also protects her from all the “stuff” that takes the MGO away from the donor. Stuff like endless meetings, tons of paperwork, planning and implementing the logistics of events, and spending a bunch of her week doing administrative tasks. Great MGOs who stay at organizations have managers that keep them out of all that.

Look, if you have a fantastic MGO that you want to keep for the long haul, you need to show her she creates and has value, and that you will support her to help make her successful. This is what your major gift officer needs from you.