In this series of seven posts, you have learned the indispensable categories of work that we at Veritus believe are required for any major gift program to be successful. (You can read all of these together in our free White Paper.) In my last entry, I talked about how corporations and foundations are also a part of any good major gift program. To finish this series, I want to address something that scares many MGOs, but it’s a necessary part of any program: accountability. If you like what you’re hearing, you may want to pass this on to your manager, or whoever you report to.

Pillar #7: What You Get Done Matters!

We were shocked when the MGO closed the door and told us about how her manager related to her. “No one ever asked me for a goal for the year,” she said.  “In fact, I didn’t even have a work plan.  My job description was vague and general.  And – listen to this – my manager hardly ever checked in to see how things were going.”
That conversation happened quite a few years ago.  As time has gone on, we have become less shocked – actually numbed – to the reality that management and accountability don’t seem to matter much in the fundraising world. That is why this last and final Key to the successful major gift organization has to be the subject of management and accountability.
Believe it or not, management of a process and people is as important as getting the money for program.  However, you would never know it by looking at the inner workings of many non-profits today.  There is so little value placed on setting goals, measuring progress against those goals and holding people accountable to do good and effective work. The whole issue can be extremely frustrating!
We sit with good folks who are trying to help people or the environment through really good programs and all we can see is money being lost, labor being wasted, laziness being rewarded, and a lot of mindless activity being tolerated.  So the organization spirals down.  It is so sad. That is why this subject is so important.  At times, when the subject of management and accountability is brought up, we can see the defensiveness increase, the back stiffen and that preparation for conflict begin.  All this as if we were trying to actually ruin someone’s life by suggesting that what they accomplish actually matters; that we have a responsibility to our donors to use their money wisely, and, that it is important to know we are effective.
Let’s stop and think about this for a second.  We are all certainly in touch with that part of ourselves that is unmotivated and lazy – the part that wants to play – the part that is just plain sick of working – the part that just can’t do some of this job as well as someone else can – the part that is tired, gets discouraged and doesn’t know how to go on.  We are all in touch with that part. We are also in touch with the fact that how we feel about ourselves is directly related to a confluence of two things:  WHO we are (being) and WHAT we get done (doing).  If we have the being part right, but the doing is out of whack, we can’t truly love and respect ourselves, which means we’re not happy and we won’t do very well in a lot of areas of our lives.
You know what this is like.  You have the nagging feeling that there is a gap between what is expected of you and what you are actually delivering.  That gap – that nasty little gap – is what will tear you down.
That is also why it is important for a kind and friendly management process (and person) to come alongside and get rid of the gap, so that you are performing to expectations. We at Veritus have never viewed management and accountability as a punitive and negative thing, although many managers use it that way – to their shame and discredit! Management and accountability systems and processes should be a kind, honest, direct way of helping a person meet expectations – their own expectations, and the expectations of the group.
When management and accountability are done right, it is HELPFUL, not HURTFUL – and that is a beautiful thing! And it is needed.  Why?  So that every person on the team does his or her part to meet expectations – so that the team will succeed, and the individual person will succeed. Management and accountability, done right, is an important key to the successful major gift organization because, without it, leaders will not lead as they should, MGOs will not perform as they should, and the funds for program will not be raised as they should.
Our philosophy and approach to management and accountability is quite simple and is covered in the following three points: First, there has to be an economic destination for the team and each MGO.  Call it a goal. Second, help needs to be given to individual MGOs so they:

  • …focus on caseload rather than prospecting (none allowed) – love the donor you have, not the one you might possibly acquire.
  • …focus on retention of donors first, then upgrading.
  • …relate to donors on caseload as individuals, rather than as clusters or a group.
  • …keep learning how to deal with objections and problems.
  • …keep learning how to structure asks and proposals.
  • …value, understand and report on their performance in a positive manner, not a punitive one.

And, third, make sure management reporting happens in five areas:

  1. How the same donors last year are performing this year.
  2. How the donors are performing against individual goals.
  3. How many visits, contacts and asks the MGO is making.
  4. Report on unusual gains and losses for any donor on the caseload to make sure other numbers are not being skewed.
  5. How the MGO is performing.

Just do this, kindly and positively, and you will have happy and productive MGOs.  And we all know that happy and productive MGOs equals happy donors. Happy donors means that programs are funded, which is what we all set out to do in the first place!
In this series, we have tried to show that the entire effort is not just about revenue streams and strategy.  It is also about how we think, analyze and manage.  Put together, the 7 Keys are a powerful combination of “what and how” that, when implemented, will give you the success you are searching for.
You can read all of our Seven Keys together in one document by requesting our free White Paper – click here.
Series details: