I had given a decent gift to the organization – not a large one, but enough to qualify for major gift status. And I was immediately assigned to a major gift officer. Because I was an involved supporter of this organization, I was in their offices in Washington, D.C. and the MGO came over to see me. Here is the conversation we had:
MGO: “Oh hi, Richard, it is so good to see you. I’m NAME, the person here at ORGANIZATION who will be working with you to answer any questions you might have. Thank you so much for all you’re doing! We really appreciate it. By the way, I will be in Seattle next month and was wondering if I could stop by and see you?”
Richard: “Good to meet you, NAME. And thanks for being my contact here at ORGANIZATION. As far as coming by to see me, I don’t think it would be useful to stop in and see me, as I am already on board. Spend your time, instead, with other donors in the Seattle area. I think that would be a better use of your time. Plus, I am more of an email guy – so anything you want to communicate to me would be better received if you email me. And then, if I want to engage, I will let you know.”
MGO: “OK, but maybe if I have time, I will just stop by to say hello.”
Richard: “Like I said, there is no need to do that. Good to meet you.”
Now, I think that’s pretty clear, don’t you? I told the MGO my communication preference. I told her I was on board. I told her how to get me more engaged. And I specifically told her what NOT to do. So what happened? Here is the play-by-play three weeks later:
Receptionist at my company: “Richard, there’s a [NAME of MGO] here who just stopped by and wants to see you.”
Richard: (Frustrated) “OK, I’ll be right out.” I go out to the reception area to greet the MGO, and we stand in the lobby.
Richard: “Hi, NAME. It was nice of you to stop by, but I thought I was pretty clear that wasn’t necessary. Do you remember the conversation we had back in D.C. just three weeks ago?”
MGO: “Yes, but I was just in the area and thought I would just stop in for a second to say hello. I hope that’s OK.”
Richard: “Well, actually it isn’t, NAME. I specifically told you my preferences, and you ignored them. I don’t want to be rude. But I am frustrated that you did not listen to me and just went ahead and came to my office and interrupted my day when I asked you not to do that. This does not help you or your cause, NAME, when you push yourself on donors like this. Please use your time to visit with donors who want to talk to you in person.”
I ended the conversation as best as I could, and I never again gave a penny to that organization.
Here’s the thing (Jeff and I have repeated this over and over again in our blogs): a respectful relationship with your donor starts with you knowing his interests and passions, then serving those interests in passions in the manner the donor directs.
- Serving the donor’s passions and interests.
- In the manner the donor directs.
There is never any excuse to do this any other way. And if you are truly serving the donor’s passions and interests – truly – then the donor will want to engage, will want to see you, and will welcome your presence. This is how it works.
It is so fascinating to me how many major gift gurus out in the marketplace can spend so much time teaching moves management and how to use just the right words to motivate the donor to act, and yet spend so little time helping good MGOs learn the basics of HOW the transaction works relationally – that it starts with the deep need of a donor to do good on the planet, and ends with the MGO showing the donor how that deep need can be fulfilled through a gift.
If you do all of that right, your donor will welcome you as a partner, rather than view you as a bother. And that is a valuable place to be.