If anyone had said to me 10 years ago that I would write a blog post about discipline being beautiful, I would have laughed uncontrollably. But here I am.

As Richard can attest, I’m not the most disciplined person. However, over time, I have come to fully appreciate how important it is as a professional, and how it not only helps me in my own work, but how it honors other people.

You may think that discipline is a dirty word; I understand. Over the 15 years Richard and I have been working with MGOs, many of them have shuddered when we said that the only way to be successful in major gifts is that you take a disciplined approach to your work.

“What? No way… I’m a shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy,” said dozens of MGOs. “Just let me set up meetings and talk to people. I can bring in the big gifts.”

The problem with this approach is that, over time, you fail. I can’t put it any more bluntly. You will fail. Our team at Veritus knows this because we have helped dozens of organizations pick up the pieces when there is no discipline attached to major gifts.

Richard and I have said this many times, but it’s worth repeating: You can have the best donors, the best plans, all kinds of support behind you… but if you don’t have built-in accountability that keeps you focused and disciplined about working your strategic plan, you will get nowhere.

A couple of years ago, we had two very different clients. One embraced discipline and accountability, and the other didn’t. Here is what it looked like:

They Didn’t Embrace Accountability

  1. Rarely kept our weekly meetings — We set up weekly meetings with every MGO. Almost every week these MGOs canceled because there was something “more important” for them to do.
  2. Whined about creating a goal and strategic plan for every donor — The MGOs would fight us every step of the way to avoid this. And their manager would not back us up, because she was afraid if she pushed too hard they would not like her.
  3. Complained about the Qualification process — Qualifying donors takes time. The MGOs complained over and over about how long it took, and they didn’t want to take the necessary steps to create a caseload of donors that actually wanted a deeper relationship with them.
  4. MGOs didn’t keep up with entering information into their database. — This was a huge problem in that we didn’t have history of conversations with donors, didn’t understand their passion and interests… it was a complete disaster.

The result of this after a year was about 5% growth in revenue. They greatly underperformed our expectations.

Now, here is what the other organization looked like:

They Embraced Discipline

  1. Always kept meetings as sacred time — In fact, I remember that MGOs would plan ahead by two months if they were going to be out during our regularly scheduled meetings, and they’d reschedule. Why? Because the MGOs knew that accountability was the key to success.
  2. Stuck with setting goals and strategies — While it may have not been pleasant, each MGO from this organization kept at it to set goals and strategies for every donor. They accepted the concept and just plowed through the implementation of it. It wasn’t easy, but they finished it.
  3. Patience and Persistence — Qualifying donors, trying to get meetings with donors, following up with donors… each MGO kept at it.
  4. Donor Information — These MGOs were on top of entering information into the donor database. After every call, meaningful visit or email, this information was recorded. It became part of their culture.
  5. Reporting results — Every month each MGO was responsible for reporting on their own results as compared to their plan. It helped each one of them stay on track and communicate proactively if they were off plan.

The result after one year was an 85% increase in revenue from major donors. And each year they just kept growing.

Let me say this one final time: no discipline, no growth. Major gifts work is all about staying focused on the plan and working it. This requires meeting consistently with a manager to discuss what has been done and what you will be doing to nurture relationships with your donors. Do this, and you will be successful.


P.S. If you want to know more about how being disciplined can help you achieve your goals by year end, sign up for our training starting on September 26th. Click here and find out more.


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