It was a new relationship – an MGO meeting our Veritus team and approach for the first time. When we first met there was a great deal of emotion and suspicion present in the room. There were a lot of questions.
What were we up to? What was our motive? What are we going to do? What do we care about?
A colleague of ours put it this way: “When I first met Paul (not his real name) and he said ‘Veritus’, it was like a curse word. He did not like what we stood for or our careful process of donor identification, qualification, stewardship and cultivation.”
So the going was a little rough. It usually is. In fact, Jeff and I regularly tell our associates that doing major gifts the Veritus way is often not easy at the beginning. But once the MGO gets used to the system and process and, more importantly, once the MGO realizes we are trustworthy people who are coming alongside them vs. judging them, things tend to get better very quickly.
In fact, let me digress a bit on this point. There are many organizations that allow MGOs to suffer under management that is reckless and abusive. There is hardly any training. The goals and recommended process keep changing. There is little, if any, program to present to donors. And the primary vibe of the place is one of fear vs. hope, opportunity, relationship and partnership. It’s no wonder that often, when we start with a new client, the MGOs are fearful and suspicious.
That’s what we encountered in this situation.
But we pressed on and introduced our system, process and strategy to the MGO. And we insisted, as we always do, that it be precisely followed in order for the MGO to achieve a positive outcome with his donors. So, Paul, being a good person and wanting to do a good job, followed what we told him, which, essentially, is summed up in the following seven points:
- We helped him find the right donors to have on his caseload.
- We qualified those donors to determine their interest in relating to Paul.
- We made sure Paul worked at identifying the passions and interests of the donor.
- We made sure Paul had a personalized plan for every donor on his caseload.
- We set goals for every donor.
- We made sure there were credible program offers that Paul could use to create offers for his donors.
- And we set up an accountability system to make sure everything happened as planned.
We set up a system for Paul – the very system that, at first, he was afraid of and rejected.
Let me pause again on this point. There is something about a system that seems, to many people, to be in conflict with the free flowing, spontaneous, “take it as it comes” approach of many MGOs. They feel as if they are in a box, constrained from doing their very best and acting in the moment. It feels limiting and repressive.
I understand this, and it may be your point of view. You may think that it is better just to “go with the moment” and see what happens. And maybe that has worked for you, to some extent, in the past.
But let me assure you, no matter how much success you have had with your “free-flow” approach, you would have had double the success had you been working within a system that harnessed that energy and directed it towards high value activity. Believe me.
That is why Jeff and I feel so strongly that the creating and maintaining of a major gifts system, one that carefully monitors activity and moves the MGO through the different stages of relationship with a donor, is critical to major gift success.
So, this is why I am writing this post just a few days before Christmas. We are now just days away from a big celebration of giving. For people of faith it is about the “greatest gift.” For others it is about gratitude and giving. For some it is about obligation. For many it is mixture of all of these things.
But one thing is for sure, it is an emotional and celebratory time when everyone is in a spontaneous, free-flowing mode of expressing thankfulness, joy, relationship and connection.
It certainly is NOT a time to be installing a system, is it? Nope. And I am not asking you to.
But I am asking you consider installing one in the new year if you do not have one. Why? So you will be successful in major gifts in 2014. But does it really work, you ask? Yes it does.
Consider this recent message we received from Paul, the MGO who had a difficult start with the system. The donor he is speaking of gave a previous gift of $5,000. This year he gave $15,000. Here is what Paul said:
“I have to eat a little crow. I have to admit that it was the repeated touches that made the difference – the Veritus process made the difference. I knew Mr. B from a previous non-profit and never saw this level of giving before. It’s living proof that this process works. Even if they’re not responding to me, clearly, it’s making a difference to them.”
Well, what can I say? Jeff and I have seen this working for many years, in many non-profits and in the lives of many donors. Why does it work? Because it forces the organization and the MGO to treat the donor as a partner vs. a source of cash. And that makes all the difference.
P.S. If you are ready to “buy into” a real system for major gifts and you need help doing it, we’d love to work with you. Please reach out to Jeff and he’ll tell you about our free audit to get the process rolling. In the subject line, write “I’m ready!” and Jeff will be back to you very quickly.