There are very few reasons for failure in the major gift business.
Often the major cause of failure for the MGO is the organization itself. It just does not have the program to present to donors – or if it does, it has not prepared, packaged and priced the program as it should.
Sometimes the MGO should really not be in the job. He or she does not have the talent or ability to do it well.
But often, the reason MGOs fail is not because of the organization or because they do not have the talent or ability. It is simply that they are not DOING the job properly. And Jeff and I have been around this work enough years to see what “not doing the job” means. It can basically summed up in one or more of the following six reasons.

  1. Failure to understand the joy of giving: We have said this over and over again, but it bears repeating. If you think the whole thing is ultimately about the money, you will fail. If this is a new concept to you or you have forgotten our writing on this, go back into this blog and read the posts on this subject again. It is not about the money.
  2. Failure to have passion and vision for the organization: If you don’t really care about the cause of the organization you are working for and believe it is all about a paycheck, you will not succeed. You have to have passion and vision for the cause – you need to have positive energy and be excited about it.
  3. Failure to listen and understand the donor and put their interests first: I can’t tell you how often this happens. An MGO is so focused on getting the money (first mistake) that he or she doesn’t listen (second mistake) to the donors and therefore does not know their interests or how to serve them (the last fatal mistake). It IS about the donor, remember?
  4. Failure to understand the concept of moves management: Moves management is the fancy term for relationship building. We do it when we are dating or courting. We do it when we are looking for a job. We do it when we want something and it requires finesse and influence. But for some reason we just don’t get it through our heads that we need to build a relationship with the donor. We have to make those “high touch” cultivation calls and moves and build the relationship over time.
  5. Failure to ask when we could: I have seen very bold and assertive MGOs just not ask when they could or should. They wilt back into the corner, forget that the act of giving for the donor is one of real joy – and they just do not ask. It happens more than you know. And it’s probably happened to you.
  6. Failure to understand time and priority management: One of the most frequent questions I ask MGOs when I am working them is “Why did you do that?” And it usually has to do with either a priority (spending too much time with a “C” donor vs. an “A” donor), wasting time on non-caseload activity (like spending two days on an event for the organization has that has nothing to do with your caseload) or sitting in the office when you should be out with the donor. Why are you doing that? Jeff and I have spent a great deal of time in this blog outlining what is important. If you seem to be out of time or off focus it is time to get back to the discipline of doing the right things at the right time.

If you are experiencing failure in your job right now I know how unsettling that can be. But if you feel you are in the right job and working for the right organization, then the reason, likely, has something to do with you.
So take a look at these six reasons for failure, and try to discern if any of them apply to you. If so, take steps to correct each one. You know what to do. Just make a decision to do it. And I promise you will get to a happier place.
PS – To help you discern if being an MGO is right for you, click here to read about and request our White Paper on the subject.
A version of this post was first published in June 2012.