I was at a conference recently where I was asked: “What do you think about the trend to blend planned giving and major giving jobs?”
I have two answers to the question.
First, in our experience with many large and small charities in the United States, Canada and Europe, and in our research, we have not found any trend toward blending these jobs. None. In fact, most non-profits are moving away from the blended position.
Secondly, it is a bad idea with one exception – the very small non-profit, one that does not have enough donors to keep either position fully engaged, might consider a blended position. But even in that case, we would recommend hiring a MGO and having a qualified volunteer help with the planned giving side of things. But that is another topic for another day.
Here is why you should not blend the PGO and MGO job:

The logic for blending is wrong. The designers of a blended job come at it this way: “Let’s see, the thing in common with major gifts and planned giving is that they both are highly relational. And there likely is more planning involved. And you can assign a caseload or portfolio to a rep. And major givers can and will become planned givers. So, for all of these reasons, let’s combine these jobs.” Wrong. It is true that both jobs are equally relational, requiring the same skill set. But after that point they are different, much like the difference in medicine between a general practitioner and a specialist.

Both are equally skilled; both have the same value. But they operate with a different body of knowledge. And really good MGOs do not necessarily make good PGOs, and vice versa. A good PGO has different technical skills, used to create complex planned giving vehicles for donors that focus substantially on the future. A good MGO has technical skills used to create complex current giving transactions for donors that primarily focus on the present. Can one person do both? Some could, but keep reading as to why they shouldn’t.

A divided focus and priorities will make the MGO/PGO choose. Those conflicting priorities will always morph the job toward the inclination of the person holding the job, resulting in an unbalanced blend regardless of the design intent. Jeff and I have studied hundreds of these situations where a blended position has, over time, become either a planned giving job with lip service to major gifts or a major gift job with lip service to planned gifts. It looks good on paper, but it ultimately changes into the bias of the person holding the job.

We are currently working with a client where we are undoing years and years of the blended PGO/MGO job. What we have found is a very healthy planned giving program and a very dysfunctional, non-performing and wasteful major gift program. What happened? The organization hired people who had planned giving skills and who “could also do major gifts,” and over time they all morphed into PGOs. Why? Because that is what they knew and where they could make the biggest impact.

Current giving opportunities are lost. Most non-profits we work with, large and small, do not have enough PGOs or MGOs. I can’t figure out why this is true because if the authority figure did the math, he or she would look at the donor assets and quickly realize that having more boots on the ground, in both areas, is economically better. But instead, they hire a few of each or “save money” by blending. In most PG/MG blended positions we have encountered, the person holding the position has morphed toward planned giving, not major gifts. And the result is a major loss of current giving revenue.

In the situation I describe above, the organization lost, in our analysis, over $21 million of current major giving over 2½ years!! Why? The people in those positions were busy taking care of active planned giving business. And I don’t blame them. I would do the same. There was a ton of planned giving demand. So the blended people gravitated towards planned giving.

What the organization should have done is hired more MGOs – an amount equal to the PGOs they had. There were enough donors in the file to economically justify both. But they didn’t hire MGOs, and they lost a boat-load of revenue. This dynamic is true in any organization that has the blended position. Revenue IS being lost! Believe me. And if you don’t, send us your file and we will show you.

Blending any kind of job is usually driven by economic circumstance, not choice. For instance, many blended jobs in the commercial world were a result of a recession or economic downturn. Managers blended jobs to keep the work going. In the non-profit sector, these decisions should be driven by a careful analysis of the donor file. And there is usually justification to have both positions in most of the donor files we see. Think carefully about this. Don’t just be following some idea that blending is good. It rarely is, because something usually suffers as a result.