Top Challenges Managing MGOs – Part Two

In the blog just before this one, I talked about four challenges that major gift managers experience with MGOs:

  1. A MGO who is territorial and non-collaborative
  2. A MGO who does not set aggressive goals
  3. A MGO who does not plan properly
  4. A MGO who is not memorializing interactions with donors

I presented different points of view on these challenges and what you, as a MGO, can do about each one. Now on to the next four challenges.

Remember to take in this feedback as a way of understanding your manager’s concerns. While some of these statements may sound like judgments, in reality (most of the time) they are simply an expression of the manager’s fears summed up in the worry: “Will I be able to deliver on the revenue expectations I have committed to?”

If you look at it this way, and get into your manager’s skin, you may be able to understand and empathize more with him or her.

Here we go. Many managers face challenges with:

A MGO who is in the office too much

We hear this concern regularly: “Why is MGO NAME constantly in the office? He should be out with donors!” Yes, he should. And this is an area to watch. How much time are you spending in the office rather than out with donors? Jeff and I have seen MGOs who spend way more time in the office than they should.

I remember one situation where the MGO was hardly ever out with donors. When we dug into the reason why, we discovered that she was afraid of asking and rejection. But here is the MGO’s side of the story. Many MGOs do not have the administrative support they need and, because of that, they need to be in the office doing research, processing paperwork, planning, gathering resources, etc. – most of the things that a good admin support person could be doing. Our team is constantly reminding managers and decision-makers that their MGOs will raise significantly more money if they provide admin support for their MGOs.

You do need to be in the office; there is no doubt about that. But be sure your time in the office is spent on things that only you can do. And it is always good to have a conversation with your manager where you directly tell him or her what you are doing, so you can allay any fears they may have in this area.

A MGO who is too reliant on mail and other direct marketing strategies

Often, a MGO defaults to mail and direct marketing strategies rather than personal contact (phone, email, face-to-face) because it is “easier” and seems more efficient. For some MGOs, face-to-face meetings are intimidating, and they choose to send an ask letter and follow it up with a phone call. Managers notice this. And good managers know that good major gifts fundraising IS about personal connections. Take a look at the contact strategies for the donors on your caseload and make sure you are not a MGO who is too reliant on direct marketing.

A MGO who relies too much on events

Well, this one can go both ways. We have seen managers who can’t seem to let their MGOs get OUT of events. That is a problem because the MGO is spending precious time playing some coordination or management role for an event that, most assuredly, will be a waste of time and money compared to their other work.

But there is also the MGO who relies on events as a key moves management strategy for their caseload donors. Good managers who know major gifts know that this is not a good use of the MGO’s time, and they have expressed concern about this. Check and see what you are doing with events. More often than not, they are not a strategy you should be using for building relationships with your donors.

A MGO who is not securing larger gifts

This is a common concern we hear from managers in most every client situation we are involved with. If your caseload donor has been giving the same amount from one year to the next, you will find yourself under scrutiny by a good manager. Why? Because they believe, as we do, that if that donor is properly cultivated – if you know the passions and interests of that donor and are serving those passions and interests outrageously, and if you have compelling donor offers to present to the donor – then there is a logical reason for the manager to ask the question: “why aren’t they giving more?”

Now, in defense of the MGO (and this is a point we always make with managers who express a concern in this area), just keeping the donor giving the same amount is a major achievement that many managers are either not aware of, nor do they appreciate it as they should. In every organization we do our analysis with, most donors are giving 40-60% less than they did the year before. Keeping them at par is an accomplishment.

So what is the right position on this concern? In our experience and opinion, every MGO who has a mature caseload, in addition to maintaining year over year giving, should have a small percentage of donors on that caseload who give larger gifts.

Let me give you an example. A MGO we work with had been cultivating a particular donor. The relationship had grown to a level such that the donor said, “I would like to see some projects in the five- to six-figure range.” So the MGO (with help from our client manager) put together a list of six projects with price points in the $75,000 – $150,000 range. The MGO went back to the donor with this list, and he picked two – for a total gift of $125,000! He had only ever given $5,000 previously!

We have seen this happen over and over again, where a MGO effectively matches the donor’s passions and interests with a compelling offer, and the pattern of same year-to-year giving is changed.

Our suggestion on this topic is to accept your manager’s expression of concern in this area not as a judgment of you or your performance, but as a reminder that you need constantly to be looking at your caseload for those two to three donors who could give transformationally, and those five to ten donors who could give larger gifts. Focus that way, and it will be good for you.

That’s our list of eight concerns (this blog and the last one) that we have heard from managers of large and small organizations, and our comments on how to relate to each of them. If you have other concerns we have not addressed here, please write us so we can talk about them.

As we have said many times, most managers are reasonable people who are on your side. They just want to know that you are doing everything you can to help them reach the revenue goals that everyone has agreed on.

Richard

PS — For more reading on this subject, download our free White Paper, “Six Ways to Do What’s Expected in Major Gifts.”

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2 Comments

  • Leslie Ari says:

    Hello Richard,

    I read your blog avariciously every day and I’ve become a better Development Director (1 person shop). But here’s my one small problem. It seems like so much of what you write is directed at very large shops and/or universities. I don’t mean the philosophies – those are universal. But the idea of presenting donors with projects and choices. I work for a VNA & Hospice – we take care of folks in their homes, provide physical therapy and/or hospice them. That’s it. No special projects, no shiny toys. How does one go about increasing gifts in that environment? Any insight at all will be appreciated.

  • Richard Perry says:

    Hi, Leslie. Thanks for writing. Even a small shop has categories and sub-categories of projects and programs. They are just smaller than the larger organizations. So, work at identifying what they all are, no matter the size, and then attach budget numbers to each of them. Once you do that you have the making of a donor offer. Then match that offer to a donor and their passions and interests. The major point is to make sure you match your donor’s passions and interests to those portions of your work that are related to the passions and interests. That is what you can do, no matter the size of your organization. I hope this helps.

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