MGOs Will Leave with Too Many Changing Expectations

Disruption ahead!

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

A colleague recently told me about a MGO who been hired to do some amazing major gift work at a large food bank in a big city. The problem was that this MGO’s manager kept changing the MGO’s job description. The manager didn’t actually revise the written job description that had been given to the MGO and recorded in HR. Nope. He would just keep asking the MGO to do all kinds of work that was not major gift or MGO caseload related.

“Once,” my friend said, “the MGO was in the middle of important donor work and his manager came in and announced that a gift of potatoes had just arrived in the parking lot – the MGO was ‘needed immediately’ to help unload them and get them in the warehouse.”

How should the MGO interpret this request? Is he supposed to do major gift work? Or is he supposed to unload gifted product? What is the manager really expecting from a major gift officer?

When this happens over and over again – this changing of expectations – the MGO gets confused about what his job should be. And that is not good.

And of course, when it comes time for performance evaluation, believe me: the MGO will be judged on how much revenue was raised, not on how many potatoes were unloaded.

This is a tragic reality in far too many organizations.

One MGO I know, who works for a major east coast organization, spends 80% of her time doing non-major gift work. 80%! And when I asked her manager why this is happening, she responded: “Well, we need to get that work done.” And when I ask about the expectation around revenue for that MGO the manager says: “Well, we need to get the revenue as well.”

Huh? How is this supposed to work? It doesn’t.

But the topic of changing expectations is not only about asking the MGO to help out in areas other than major gift work. It is also about changing goals in the middle of the financial period. Or changing policies on who gets credit for certain gifts.

We’ve seen finance departments suddenly announce that the organization needed more money and “now your goal is X.” Wow, is the MGO expected to go rob a bank to meet this new goal?

Or one month the MGO cannot get credit for one type of situation, but next month a colleague of hers DOES get credit. There is no set policy that is published. Or if it is, it is not applied consistently.

If you want to literally chase your MGO out the door, keep changing the rules of engagement. That will do the job. What we all want, in all of our relationships, is to clearly understand what is expected of us and to know, with some certainty, that those expectations will be consistently applied.

You, as a manager, can change this by doing three things:

  1. Help the MGO stay focused on the job she was hired to do, and don’t pull her into other things.
  2. Stick to the goals that were set, and don’t change them unless there is some real donor-related reason to change them.
  3. Publish the rules of engagement (credit policies, activity measurements, evaluation criteria, etc.), and stick to them.

My next post is on the fifth reason your MGO will leave your organization: Incompetent Management.

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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2 Comments

  • Drew says:

    Another excellent piece. I have found that management will sometimes decree that a certain geo territory is now of importance without analyzing whether that area has enough of the type of good qualified donors that are necessary to make it worth the time. And, this takes officers away from donors who are geo closer and with whom likely easier to connect. More likely in higher ed where alums live across country. What do you typically recommend when it comes to assigning territories to officers that are outside the region of the organization?

  • Richard Perry says:

    Our recommendation is data driven, Drew. “Go where the donors are.” I don’t know how anyone could make a different decision. It might be a nice idea to “want to” have a MGO in X geo. But if there is no economic basis for it it makes no economic sense.

    When assigning territories to MGOs we recommend that a geo area have at least 450 donors who have given a gift equal to the major gift criteria in the last two calendar years. That number assures that, when the MGO qualifies the donors there are enough in the caseload pool (the 450) to qualify down to 150.

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