centered on others.

Part 4 of a Six-Part Series: Six Reasons Your MGO Will Stay at Your Organization

Do you want to keep your good MGOs? Do you want to create a place for them where they thrive? Well then, will you allow your MGO(s) to be donor-centered?
I have a new MGO that I’m helping to manage. I’ve been working with her for a few months now, and she’s totally embracing her work and the structure I’ve set up. But even better than all that, she has a supportive CEO and Development Director who are not pressuring her to perform immediately.
I asked her what the best thing was about her job right now. She said, “Jeff, I love the work and mission, but the best thing is that I’m allowed to get to know the donors before having to ask for money from them. My development director told me that the money would come if I do the relationship stuff right.”
YES!!! Her job is going to be so much easier because she has a manager who knows what major gifts is all about.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen too often. More often, what Richard and I find is a manager or leader who is so focused on getting the money that being donor-centered is not even in his vocabulary. You would think that with so much talk in our industry about being donor-centered, donor-focused, etc. that “chasing the money” would be obsolete.
Nope. However, if you want an MGO to stay at your organization, you must embrace the concept that donors are first, and that it’s all about fulfilling their desires and passions as it relates to your mission. Here’s what that looks like practically:

  1. Don’t push the MGO to “get the money.” As a leader or manager, you have to allow the MGO to build relationships. Remember, an MGO has a revenue goal and a strategy to obtain that goal. Give her the room to do it. And recognize that a $10,000 donor will not turn into a $1MM donor overnight. It takes time. If your MGO is a good one, she will communicate with you on the progress being made on her portfolio. Allow her to be proactive with you. Don’t be looking over her shoulder. Good MGOs will perform, but you have to give them space.
  2. Provide administrative support. I understand that every non-profit has a tight budget. However, if you want to grow your major gift program and keep good major gift talent, providing administrative support is one of the most donor-centered things you can do for your MGO. Look, you want your MGOs out with donors. If they are in the office doing paperwork, attending meetings, writing up notes and doing expense reports, that is less time developing relationships with donors. Whatever you can do to allow MGOs to do what they do best (within cost limits) you should be doing it.
  3. Go on donor visits with your MGO. Being donor-centered is not just for the MGOs. That means that YOU as their manager and/or leader need to be relating to and soliciting major donors. Sadly, our team at Veritus is in discussions all the time with MGOs who tell us that their CEO will not go on donor visits because he feels fundraising is “beneath” him. Or maybe he doesn’t mind fundraising, but he will not free up time in his schedule to make a meeting work on the donor’s terms. This is extremely frustrating for an MGO. However, if you can be open to your donors and make yourself available to your MGO for donor visits, you can and will make her job so much easier. Remember, major donors want to meet with the top executives. You can support your MGO, and thus keep her, if you are amenable to going on donor visits with her.
  4. Don’t give MGOs work that takes them away from donors. If you truly want to allow your MGO to be donor-centered, you will not create work to that takes the MGO away from his caseload. The worst thing you can do for your MGO is to make him handle the details of events, or the annual fund, or to figure out how to handle in-kind gifts. None of this has anything to do with his caseload, and anything that takes him away from that work is telling the MGO that his portfolio is not as important as whatever it is you are telling him you want him to do. Let him focus on his caseload.

Great MGOs are focused on their donors. They build relationships. They are dogged about finding their donors’ passions and interests and are passionate about matching that with all the programs and projects you have to change the world. Give them the space and support to do that work, and you will see great things happen.