I’ve been in a ton of meetings recently with Executive Directors, CEOs and Development Directors, and they all seem to heave a collective sigh when talking about their major gift officers.
That collective sigh is followed by something like this, “I just wish my MGOs were ‘on it.’ It seems like I have to be all over them to get out there in front of donors and get stuff done.”
Are you an MGO that is “on it?” This is what your boss and what all bosses want, but are you delivering on it? Perhaps I should spell out for you what these executives want.
When I was listening to them complaining about their MGOs, I asked them to tell me all the traits they wanted to see in the people they managed. I said, “what would you want to see in your employee? What is it that you are looking for?
Here is what they told me:

  1. Anticipate needs — This was on everyone’s list. Good managers want the people they manage to be proactive and to take charge. They want you to be able to see ahead, anticipate potential problems and work through them.
  2. Respect the relationship of manager vs. subordinate — The executives I talked with told me that something has changed over the last 10 years with how managers are viewed. In their words, “people think that everyone is the same, that we should all do the same work and get paid the same. It seems like there is a blurred line between the managers and those whom they manage.” They wanted those who are managed to respect those who are in management, and understand that they got there through hard work and hard knocks. I get that, but I also told them that many MGOs have had terrible managers – the key is to have a strong leader in that position that garners the respect of the MGO.
  3. Manage Up — Leaders want their MGOs to manage up. It may sound counter-intuitive, but in this case it makes perfect sense. As an MGO, you may not be the person who actually solicits a gift from everyone on your caseload. In fact, there will be many “A” tier donors that will only be asked by the Executive Director. However, it’s your job to manage that process and tell the ED what you want from her. Believe it or not, this is what your boss wants from you.
  4. Make the boss look good to her boss — This is honest insight from executives. Everyone reports to someone in an organization, and if you are doing your job well it will reflect positively on your boss. In a well-run organization, everyone has the attitude that they want each other to win! As an MGO, you want your manager to win. If they win, you win.
  5. Don’t present problems without solutions — This one was huge with these executives. Think about it, that’s essentially all these executives deal with every day – problems. You will really stand out if you can come up with solutions to a problem before you present the problem. I know personally as a manager that this was one of the greatest gifts my team could give me. Even if it wasn’t the best solution, I knew they wanted to help me come up with the solution. I can’t tell you how wonderful that is.
  6. Go above and beyond — Most leaders and managers are in that position because they are the type of person that went above and beyond what was expected of them. So they naturally want to surround themselves with people who do the same. I think one of the biggest laments of leadership is that they have too many people on their team who just do what is expected and nothing more. Richard and I have written many times about what makes a great MGO, and this is on the top of our list as well. The key of course is to be rewarded for going above and beyond. Good leaders and managers will “get it” and see that you get the recognition and pay to support your great work.

So these are some pretty solid insights from non-profit executives to help you in their relationship with them and the organization. Will everything be perfect if you just always follow these six? No, but if you really think about it, the relationship you have with your boss will be so much stronger; they will shine, and so will you.