At Veritus Group, we love to help MGOs become all they can be. We love to help those who may be discouraged and help them make a breakthrough. We can’t help but feel proud when the MGOs we manage not only exceed their goals, but also have fun doing it. Most of all, we just get ecstatic when MGOs find joy in their work.
We love all this because when these things happen to MGOs, we know that donors are being served and great things are happening to help make the world a better place.
But sometimes, there are MGOs who are “just getting by,” struggling to succeed and finding it hard to feel good about their work. In many cases (if not most), management of these MGOs is really lacking. No one (I hope) is purposely managing anyone to fail. However, in many cases Richard and I find MGO managers who haven’t had the proper training to be a good manager, or they don’t have the right personality. Sometimes the manager just needs a little inspiration and confidence in knowing what to do.
So I want to give you six tips on how to manage your MGO – or anyone on your team that is working with major donors – to propel them toward greatness. That is what we want to do, right? Help good people become the best they can be in their work – especially if those good people are working with donors.
These are my six tips to manage MGOs to greatness:
- Assume your MGOs are great. I see more managers go into a situation already making judgments about how good an MGO is in a matter of minutes. Don’t do that. If you start out with a positive attitude about your team, you will naturally lead in that way. Doing the opposite will create a self-fulfilling prophecy of negativity and problems.
- Creating structure and boundaries is a must. MGOs need structure and boundaries. Keep them focused on their caseload, and you will set them up for success. Allowing them to get involved in non-caseload matters will get them in trouble. If you can keep them focused, they will be on the road to greatness.
- Accountability equals success. Your MGOs may not like you at first when you introduce them to accountability, but stick with it. Believe me, they will love you later. I’m thoroughly convinced that holding your MGO accountable is the most important step toward MGO greatness.
- Be proactive. MGOs need you to meet with them. They need to talk about their donors and have a listening ear. They need someone that can keep them on the right path and steer them in the right direction when they go off a bit. They need someone to bounce ideas off of. They need someone they can be vulnerable with, without fearing that you will think less of them. As their manager, you can do that for them. So set up a regular time to meet with them – and be consistent. You have no idea what that will do for them.
- Be their cheerleader. MGOs need encouragement. As their manager, you need to be their biggest cheerleader. Richard and I hear from so many MGOs who say their managers don’t support them. If you want successful MGOs, then you have to be their #1 fan. They need it and many times crave it. If they help foster a large gift, celebrate it! I’ve heard horror stories from MGOs talk about the million dollar gift they brought in only to barely get a nod from their manager. Don’t be that manager.
- Pay them. Most great MGOs are not in this business because they are going to get rich. But great MGOs should get paid a good salary. If your MGO is performing and they are bringing in a healthy ROI on their caseload, then why would you not compensate them well? I know this may not sit well with you as their manager, but you should not be afraid to pay a great MGO more than what you are getting paid. In the for-profit world, most great salespeople make way more than their managers. In some cases, more than the C-level executive team. I don’t like it when an MGO leaves because they see 50-75% more salary potential somewhere else. Non-profits who let great MGOs go because they don’t want to pay them are being short-sighted and are only thinking short-term.
If you would follow these six ways of managing a major gifts officer, you would manage that MGO to greatness. Managing a major gift program is a high calling. It takes great skill to be a great manager. But a great MGO will only be great because of your incredible management.
Go out and help make great MGOs.