One of the most frustrating things about being a frontline fundraiser is that donors don’t do what you want them to. I mean, if they would just answer your email, pick up the phone, agree to your meeting, and say yes every time you asked for a gift, your life would be so much easier, right?

I listen to so many major gift officers who are frustrated because they’ve been working with a donor for a long time, and just when they feel they are making headway in the relationship, the donor pulls back and stops answering their emails or calls.

And with a portfolio of 150 donors, there are probably quite a few donors who are in this hot-or-cold state with you.

It can be terribly frustrating.

This is where Richard and I witness what we call the “breaking point” for a major gift fundraiser. A breaking point is where you could go one of two ways: 1. You decide this is too frustrating for you, so you leave the profession, or 2. You realize this is just part of the job, and you know that if you’re persistent, it will always pay off.

And I don’t judge those who decide to leave. As Richard and I have said many times, we believe being a major gift officer is one of the hardest jobs out there. Not only is it a lot of work; it’s a lot of rejection and disappointment.

But, for those who do decide to stay, the reward is amazing. Connecting donors who want to make the world a better place through your mission is incredibly fulfilling.

The key to all this, after years and years of coaching and strategizing with thousands of major gift officers, is that fundraisers need to remain persistent in developing an authentic relationship with the donor.

I can guarantee that if you are persistent and you work your plan with each of your donors, only good things will happen. Now, does that mean you will always be successful in developing the relationship, or that a gift is guaranteed? No.

“But Jeff, you just said good things will happen.” Yes, I did. And yes, even if you are persistent and work your plan, some donors either won’t want to give or have a deeper relationship with you and your organization. And now you know you can move on from that relationship and focus on those donors that do.

That is a good thing!

Your goal is to be able to say you’ve done all you could to develop that relationship. And, honestly, that’s all you have control of.

Having worked with thousands of fundraisers for almost two decades, sometimes it can take 12-18 months to really move a relationship forward. Sometimes, it takes years! It feels something like this: the donor gives consistently each year $2,500, but you know they have incredible capacity. You work your plan, you do all the right things, you match their passions and interests up with your programs and projects, but they continue to give $2,500. Maybe an extra $1,000 here and there.

But you persist. You thank them properly, you report on their impact, and then one day out of the blue, they take your call or respond to your email and say they would love to meet. When you meet with them, they thank you for how well you have communicated with them and made them feel honored in their relationship with you and the organization.

Then, they say they are now ready to make a larger impact and want to hear about a project that they could give a transformational gift to.

This happens all the time!

But it takes persistence and a willingness to work your plan for that donor and to honor how the donor wants to respond to it.

So, look at your portfolio today. Who are those donors that are frustrating to you? Figure out if you are really working your plan for them. Or have you let them go a bit, because they just don’t engage like you’d like them to? Be honest.

Then, commit to keep on it. To keep persisting. To do all the right things to honor your donor and build the relationship. Eventually, it will pay off.