We are often asked for a sample job description for a Major Gift Officer.
I have read enough of them out there in the marketplace to wonder if anyone knows how to write one that will assure the MGO is on point and effective.  I know that sounds a bit elitist but, honestly, when you read a job description that has everything in it you could imagine, it’s no wonder that the MGO is walking around with his or her head spinning, wondering, “What should I do first?  What are my priorities?”, etc.
I mean, there are job descriptions that run the range of doing admin work, PR work, communications work and a host of other informational/marketing tasks in which you can barely find anything about fundraising, let alone a caseload of donors.
When writing a MGO job description, what I like to think about are the values that should be represented in each section.  So that is how I have organized this post.  Stick with me and see if you agree.  Here are the sections:
The Title:  There should be two titles: an inside one (that’s for HR etc.) and an outside one – the one that really matters and relates to donors.  The inside one is the functional, organizational position title, like Major Gifts Officer.  The outside one should NEVER mention money or fundraising.  I suggest Donor Relations Director because it has to do with donors and the relationship with the donors.
Who The Position Reports To:  Please have only ONE person.  No splits.
Who Relates Closely With The Position:  These are mostly other MGO’s, program people and finance.  Don’t put PR, marketing or communications in here – we are talking fundraising.
Purpose of position:  Here is where it gets dicey.  I like to state this very simply as follows:  “To secure funds for the organization by managing a group of assigned donors (caseload), assuring that as many as possible are retained as continuing donors to the organization and are upgraded in their giving and involvement”.
There are several key values here.  The major purpose is to secure funds, NOT make impressions or deal with volunteers or be a community activist or a whole load of other baloney that I read in most job descriptions.  Raise money.  Period. Then it’s about raising money from an assigned group of donors.  Then two other values: retention and upgrading.  That’s it.  No other purpose.
Approximate hours per week required by position:  Gotta put this in here.  AND you really have to set up an expectation for travel here.  Remember, the MGO function is about being out of the office – travel.  I can’t tell you how many MGO’s really expect NOT to travel.  So you need to set an expectation.
Benefits of this position:  Here’s the reason this goes in here.  It’s important to tell the prospective employee what you believe the benefits are to doing the job.  Read carefully.  Here is what I say:  “The benefit of this position will be the satisfaction of helping donors fulfill their passions and interests through their giving to (name of organization).”  Hmmmm.  Notice I don’t mention money.  It is about helping the donors realize THEIR interests and passions.  This is important.
Ongoing responsibilitiesNow we finally get to the major categories of work.  I usually restrict this list to not MORE than 5 main categories, along with the required “catch-all” category, as follows:

  1. Will qualify a group of caseload donors.
  2. Will create individual goals for each person on his or her caseload based on the donor’s history of giving and the organization’s knowledge of that donor’s potential.
  3. Will create a plan for each donor that will serve as a foundational communication and marketing plan for each person on the caseload.  Will faithfully and, in a timely manner, execute that plan so that individuals on the caseload are retained and upgraded.
  4. Will work with the program and the communications departments to  secure appropriate project information, including budgets, and create offers, proposals and asks that will be used with persons on the caseload to secure gifts.
  5. Will create monthly reports as required by management that accurately reflect caseload activity and performance.
  6. Will perform other major donor activities as may be required.

Notice how simple and to the point this is.  I have seen job descriptions where this list is 15 to 25 items!!  I was tired just reading it.  Crazy.  I asked the person why he HAD to have so many.  “Because HR requires it!”  Whew – get rid of the HR department.  This is nuts.
Accountability – Performance will be measured by:  OK, this is the accountability section.  It is important to note that this section MIRRORS the responsibility section.  Here’s why.  For everything we ask you to do, we are going to tell you how we will measure you in that area.  Makes sense, doesn’t it? Then why don’t more folks do it?  Especially when MGO’s are wondering how they will be evaluated.  So here are what the mirror points read like:

  1. Ability to qualify caseload donors who represent the highest giving potential for the organization.
  2. Ability to create reasonable financial goals for each donor which are based on their giving and their potential
  3. Ability to create a personal contact and ask  plan that takes into account the individual donor’s interest, motivations, giving patterns and ask preferences, for each donor on his or her caseload, in a timely and cost effective manner, and retain and upgrade them.
  4. Ability to secure project and organization information and create and write effective offers, proposals and asks.  Ability to secure information that can be sent back to donors to report on how their money was used.
  5. Ability to create timely reports that reflect caseload and MGO performance.
  6. Ability to manage people, process, deadlines and budget while adhering to the policies and procedures of the organization and ability to get along with peers, subordinates and management, and maintain a positive and constructive attitude while solving problems.   Ability to protect the mission, goals and values of the organization. (Sorry, this one is a little wordy, but you can see there are important values in here).

So that sums up what we believe is the ideal MGO job description.  It states things very succinctly and tells the MGO how they will be evaluated.  And, it sets an expectation for performance and attitude, two very important aspects for evaluation.
Please be very diligent to write good job descriptions for each MGO. It is so important that these good people: (a) know what they are supposed to do, and (b) know how they will be evaluated.
Believe me, very few MGO’s know these two things.  And it is tragic.  I find a great deal of fulfillment in being a tiny part of changing this.  Write and tell me your stories in this area.  I would love to hear them.