Talk and conversation.Lately, I’ve been in several conversations with major gift officers asking me essentially the same thing:
“What should I do when I can’t get something done with [fill in the blank with a department or person], when it would really help move the relationship forward with a donor?”
This question (or several iterations of this question) gets brought up constantly. It’s so frustrating because there is a fairly basic answer:
Talk to the person that can help you.
Richard and I are amazed by how little this happens at organizations.
I was just speaking at a conference the other day, and I was remarking how difficult the job of a major gift officer is – because not only do you need to form relationships with donors on a daily basis, you also need to have solid, trusting relationships with folks in your own organization.
However, I don’t think you’re taking that part of your work as seriously as you do the work of building relationships with your donors.
If you step back and think about it, serving your donor means being able to create amazing offers, to thank them with creativity, to report back on the impact they are making and to make that donor feel part of your mission at all times.
You cannot do that alone.
You need a team of people from all departments – Board members, CEO, Finance, Program, Administrative support – to help you serve your donors. In fact, you cannot serve your donors without them.
So I’m going to suggest something to help you see their importance to your work. I suggest you create a 12-month strategic communication plan for the internal staff whose help you need to serve your donors.
Yep, that’s right.
You can download our Marketing Impact Chart template for a good place to start. And, just as you would for your donors, you can create a touch point plan for all of your colleagues whose help you will need.
Why not send a couple of thank you notes per year to each one? Every quarter take your colleagues to lunch (at separate times) to get to know them. Invite board members to coffee. Go volunteer with your programs. Give these folks a status update on how your caseload is performing. Set up a meeting to tell stories about your donors. There are many creative ways to communicate with your colleagues.
Will this take up a bunch of your time? Yes!
But this is part of the job of a major gift officer. You see, if you take these steps you will be serving your donor outrageously. Why? Because your colleagues will be there to help you when you need their expertise to bring an offer or report to the donor.
Over the years, we have observed many outstanding major gift officers. Every one of them has a solid relationship with their co-workers. They don’t have extended roadblocks put in front of them. And when there is a conflict that comes up (because there will always be some conflicts), those conflicts don’t last long – because a relationship of trust has been already built.
Do yourself and your donors a favor: talk to your colleagues. (Tweet it!) Get to know them. Earn their trust. Help them in their work. Show them what you do every day. Tell them stories about the donors that are supporting the work.
You’ll be much more effective.