There are just a TON of fundraising resources out there right now, about how to deal with the coronavirus crisis. I mean, everything from how to do virtual events to how to do your work from home, while you’re teaching your kids “new math,” while walking your dog.
All good, and it’s helpful, but I’m sure it’s overwhelming, too.
There’s another word that keeps coming up in this crisis, “pivot.” Everyone is recommending pivoting. All that is good too… except “pivoting” implies that once this crisis is over, it’s okay to go back to what you were doing before.
Instead, this crisis gives us all an opportunity to permanently CHANGE how we evaluate performance in major gift fundraising. And if we change how we evaluate performance, we change how we DO major gift fundraising.
This is a key point. What we evaluate or deem successful drives how we do something. For too long now (and this is something Veritus has been shouting from the rooftops since our beginning), we’ve said that major gift fundraising is NOT about the money. The money is the result. Major gift fundraising is about building authentic relationships.
But when money is the focus on major gift fundraising, this is what is evaluated:

  1. Total Dollars Raised
  2. # of Face to Face Visits
  3. # of Asks
  4. # of Gifts Closed
  5. # of Stewardship Calls
  6. # of Prospects Identified
  7. # of Discovery Calls Made
  8. # of Cold Calls Made
  9. # of Moves

Does this look familiar? This is what a majority of non-profits and institutions are using to evaluate the performance of major gift officers right now. And it’s off point; it’s not right.
At Veritus, picture us with a massive megaphone announcing “NOW is the time to change all this permanently!”
While we’ve been talking forever about what major gifts is truly about, and our “Veritus Way” has been adopted by hundreds of our clients and thousands of training participants over the years, it’s still not widely practiced in our industry.
This pandemic and economic crisis presents all of us with an opportunity not just to pivot, but to fundamentally change our focus of major gifts and to evaluate it properly. Here’s what we believe you should evaluate:

  1. Total Revenue by the Major Gift Officer
  2. Number of meaningful connections each month
  3. Are they working the plan?

Now, what we mean by total revenue is this: Does every donor have a revenue goal that is cash-flowed? This will ensure that you’re not only looking at overall revenue, but revenue by donor – this allows you to evaluate donor value retention.
Evaluating the number of meaningful connections really means that a major gift officer is creating both written and verbal communications for a donor, in a way that either moves the relationship deeper and/or helps that donor toward making a significant gift.
And if the manager is meeting regularly with the major gift officer, “working the plan” is simply reviewing if the major gift officer is actually executing the plan they set out for each of their donors.
That’s it. If a major gift officer is approaching their work in this manner, they are building (or trying to build) authentic relationships with donors. If they do that, the money (the goal) will be a result of that good work.
This crisis has already shone a spotlight on this approach to major gift fundraising, showing it’s the right approach with donors. Our clients and those who have gone through our trainings are reporting that donors are responding in incredibly generous ways. For the clients we serve, it’s their major gift program that is either holding steady or showing revenue increases during this pandemic.
Why? Because relationships have already been formed, and the major gift officer already had a plan in place. The MGO knew exactly what to do with everyone in their caseload, even if that meant changing the plan. Because they had a plan and they were creating meaningful connections WITHOUT being forced to meet some metric, they were already prepared to handle this pandemic.
This terrible crisis is giving us an opportunity. Are we going to merely pivot, or will we fundamentally change how we evaluate our work, and thus change how we do major gift fundraising in the future?