First in the series Six Reasons Your MGO Will Leave Your Organization

It’s a sad reality: MGOs don’t stay very long in most organizations. In fact, the average length of their stay is 2½ years, with many MGOs leaving sooner than that.
That’s why Jeff and I are going to write two series of blogs on the subject, starting with this new series that starts today called Six Reasons Your MGO Will Leave Your Organization. Following my series, Jeff will write on Six Reasons Your MGO Will Stay at Your Organization.
We hope that writing about this subject will help managers and MGOs sort out the blocks to success in their major gift program, and change their focus from problems and production to potential, possibility and positivity. So let’s get started.
The first reason a MGO will leave your organization is that there is a culture that focuses on money, rather than on the cause.
Several weeks ago a MGO, who was attending a conference Jeff and I were speaking at, came up to me and said: “Richard, I really thought these people (her colleagues and leaders) were here because they wanted to promote the cause. But all we talk about is how we are going to get the money. I never hear stories about what we are doing, the problems we face in our sector, how we are addressing them and changing lives. It is very discouraging.”
Jeff and I hear some version of this conversation repeatedly, in non-profits large and small. And it represents a failure on the part of leadership and management to focus on the right things. There is no doubt that a MGO needs to “get the money” because, if they don’t, the organization will not be able to finance their mission. We clearly understand that.
But the path to getting the money is fulfilling the passions and interests of donors – individual donors, corporate donors, even institutional donors like foundations and government. Each of these donors has an “interest”: a leaning, an institutional mandate, etc. And the job of the MGO is to uncover that interest and passion, and then to serve it outrageously. We’ve written about this extensively.
If a manager or leader does not understand that THIS is the path (serving donors’ passions and interests, not grabbing the money), then the whole exercise of finding funding for his or her great cause is lost.
So what can be done to change from a focus on money to a focus on the cause? I have three suggestions for leaders and managers, as well as MGOs:

  1. Gain a clear understanding that monetary gifts are a result of matching donor passions and interests to the need the organization is addressing. This is the path I was writing about earlier. All leaders, managers and MGOs need to have this understanding and then talk about it with staff – all the time.
  2. Set your mind to talk about need and outcomes constantly. In most every conversation or meeting, no matter what it is about, a manager should always bring the staff back to remembering “why we are here,” telling stories of needs and outcomes so that the heart and spirit of each staff member is “filled with the cause.” This is easy to do. You just have to purpose to do it.
  3. Stay close to the need, and make sure your staff does as well. At least once a week, put yourself and your staff right into the need. If you are in social services, sit with a homeless person. If you are in cancer research, sit with a cancer patient. If you are in conservation, walk through a decimated forest or polluted river or stream. If you are in education, sit with that graduate who is on the front line helping others and benefiting society, and get in touch with the real thing that is going on. (You get the picture.) Get into and stay close to the need. If you don’t do this, your mind will slide over to the money.

These are three simple but effective things you can do as a leader/manager (and as a MGO) that will start to bring everyone back to the cause. It will fill their hearts with hope, and it will give purpose and meaning to every staff member and MGO. And that will cause retention. Believe me.
Stay tuned for the next reason your MGO will leave your organization – that there is nothing to offer donors.
Read the whole series, Six Reasons Your MGO Will Leave Your Organization:

  1. MGOs Will Leave a Culture that Focuses on Money vs The Cause
  2. MGOs Leave If They Have Nothing to Offer Donors
  3. MGOs Will Leave If You Give Them Unrealistic Goals
  4. MGOs Will Leave with Too Many Changing Expectations
  5. MGOs Will Leave Incompetent Managers
  6. MGOs Leave When the Job Doesn’t Fit