The cost of bad leaders.

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

I use the word “incompetent” in the title to show how an MGO really feels when he or she is working for someone who just cannot do the job they are in. Jeff and I have heard even stronger descriptors like “he/she is so stupid” or “they are drunk on their own power” or “arrogant and self-interested.”

These are unfortunate and unnecessary labels. They really are.

A more generous description of what is really going on is “their abilities and motivations just do not match the job.” And that is the truth. The very sad thing is that some managers should not be in their jobs. They are in them because another manager made an error in judgment or there was some set of circumstances where a decision-maker was just not thinking clearly.

I say it’s sad because it truly is. And in my next and last post in this series, I will write about how this same thing happens with MGOs as well. But we’re talking about managers here, and the negative effect they can have on the MGO.

Here are some of the most common situations we see when there is a mismatch of a manager to his or her job:

  1. They really do not understand fundraising or major gifts. They actually think fundraising is about money, rather than helping a donor fulfill her passions and interests. So their orientation is toward getting the money, now! They use donors as a means to their end. They do not value the long term.
  2. They don’t understand that donors need to know they are making a difference through their giving. So they do not invest in back-office, back-end systems and processes that (a) thank the donor promptly and properly, and (b) report back on how the donor’s gift made a difference.
  3. They are oriented more toward growth than toward effectiveness. Rather than have an almost obsessive preoccupation with the proof of performance of the programs the non-profit is running, they are more interested in showing boards and others that they can “grow the thing.”
  4. They have endless meetings where they showcase their knowledge or run through the details of policies, protocols or process, rather than giving MGOs the time and space to do their work. Jeff and I have seen this happen so often, even after we tell the manager that a MGO has very little time available in any week to be with his caseload donors. They still book the meetings, and the meetings last way too long and are of little value.
  5. They don’t understand that a MGO needs financial and program information to be successful. The life-blood of a MGO is the “product” he or she can “sell” to the donor. That product is a combination of program and financial information that matches the donor’s interests and passions. Without this product, which we call a donor offer, the MGO will fail. And many of them do because their manager tells them to “just get out there and tell our story.” This basic lack of understanding is what keeps major gift programs in their infancy, and it is a major contributor to a lack of success.
  6. They don’t have fair and published crediting policies. So one week the MGO gets credit for this one thing. And the other week they don’t. And planned giving gets credit for this, but the MGO doesn’t, even though it’s their donor that gave. And so on and so on… Or the MGO is given a poor evaluation, but that evaluation was based on a different set of crediting criteria, one for the manager and another for the MGO. And the two did not talk about it prior to the beginning of the financial period but now judgment is coming down – unfairly.
  7. They set arbitrary goals that are not asset-based. Using real donors with real giving history results in creating real goals. Just making numbers up to meet a growth goal or to pay for rising expenses is not real or practical.
  8. They pull MGOs away from their caseload work. This happens so often. The MGO has a full caseload of qualified donors, and the manager is yanking them off of caseload management to do any number of “things that just need to get done.” This one is so amazing to me. It’s like having an employee in a commercial setting who has a quota to produce 100 widgets a day, but then asking that employee to leave their widget-making area for four hours to do something else – then being mad at them (and punishing them) for producing 50 widgets! What!! Are you crazy??

There could easily be many other situations like these that you have experienced. But these are the most common, in our experience. I find it so sad that this happens because, most often, the manager does not know that what he or she is doing is having a negative effect. It is mostly about ignorance, rather than active intent.

So what can you do about this? Here are some suggestions:

  1. If you are a MGO reading this, genuinely care about your manager. He or she was placed in the job by someone else who, most likely, was trying to do the right thing. He wants to be successful just like you do. Try to understand and have compassion. That is what you would want.
  2. If you are a manager reading this, try to understand the effects of your behavior on your MGO. We even suggest talking to each of them and asking how things are going, and how you can be a better manager for them.
  3. Whether you are a MGO or a manager reading this, the best thing is Educate, Educate, Educate. Take the time and make the effort, in small ways, to educate yourself (as a manager) or to educate your manager, if you are a MGO. This education is about how fundraising works, why donors need to know they are making a difference, how your MGO needs time to be with your donors rather than in meetings, why your MGO needs information for donor offers, why it is important to your MGO to have clear crediting policies and fair evaluations, how goals should be set and how helping a MGO staying focused on his or her caseload assures success, rather than helping with other things. This education could take the form of the MGO and the manager talking, reading blogs, books and info on the subject, passing on news articles, meeting with donors, etc. (It might even involve the manager taking our Major Gift Academy course next year, designed just for managers and executives.) Anything either of you can do can to move the needle on this subject is good. But do not get adversarial. That will not help. Each of you can speak up and present a point of view. And if you are a reasonable and good manager, you will listen and eventually change.
  4. Engage others in your organization. Get others in your division or department talking about these topics. Organize lunch around a topic. It is amazing how one person’s opinion can be changed by an aroused public opinion. It works. I know.
  5. Move on. If you are a MGO reading this and all your efforts to change things have failed, you might consider changing jobs. Reasonable leaders who value input and success will listen and change. You may want to get away from the ones that don’t. If you are a manager reading this and the job just doesn’t seem to work for you (you know it if you are honest) then consider moving to another job. It is not wise to stay in a slot where your lack of skills and/or motivations are hurting others and yourself.

There is a real cost to bad management and leadership. In major gifts we can measure it. Bad systems and strategies, and the undergirding philosophies that keep them bad, cause giving from current donors to drop from between 40-60% each year. In many non-profits that means millions and millions of dollars lost every year!

In addition to that, good MGOs are fleeing, costing the organization even more money to recruit and train new MGOs. And once those new MGOs are in place, there is an additional cost of the lag in performance as they work themselves up to be fully functional.

All of this can be avoided by having good management in place.

My next and final post in this series deals with the situation where the MGO does not match the job and why that causes MGO attrition. Stay tuned.

Richard

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
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