Where are you?
“I just can’t get a meeting with any of my donors,” said thousands of major gift officers. It’s probably one of the biggest complaints we hear from the large numbers of MGOs we have worked with. It sounds like this:
Veritus: “So, [MGO] I’ve noticed that we’re halfway through the month and you’re only 10% of the way toward your revenue goal. What do you think is going on? How can I help you?”
MGO: “I’m telling you, no one wants to talk to me. I’ve been calling and emailing, and no one ever gets back to me. And if I do get ahold of someone on the phone, they tell me they’re too busy to meet anyway. This is so frustrating!”
Have you ever been part of a conversation like this?
In part, this is why Richard and I believe that you have one of the hardest jobs in the non-profit industry. Working with major donors, while immensely satisfying, can be excruciatingly difficult and frustrating.
I will tell you this. It IS hard to get a meeting with a donor. Being a major gift officer is hard work, but that is part of the job – being patient and persistent enough to connect with your donors.
Usually when an MGO tells me that he “can’t get ahold of any of my donors,” I start asking questions:

  1. Are you sure they are qualified? Have all of your portfolio donors indicated they want a deeper relationship with you? Many times I find out that a donor they haven’t heard back from are NOT qualified, and it just may be that the donor doesn’t want to relate to you.
  2. Do you know the donor’s communication preference? It may be that donor is not getting back to you because you are not communicating with the donor properly. Understanding how a donor wants to be connecting to you is so important. It shows that you honor them, and that you are listening to them.
  3. Do you know the donor’s passion and interests? This is huge. If you know the donor’s passions and interests, then you are managing their touch points to show them you know them. You not only need to understand their passions and interests as it relates to your organization, but really get to know what makes your donor tick. I knew one MGO who tried for four months to get a meeting with a donor by sending the donor great information that the donor was interested in. That meant not only information about the great projects the non-profit was doing, but also about this donor’s love of opera. Yes, opera. It finally cracked open the window of the donor, and the MGO got the meeting – and eventually an amazing gift.

Those are the first, big “overall” questions I ask. Then I go into these:

  1. How many times have you tried reaching the donor? On average, I find the MGO says 2-3 times. This is where I go into a pretty long story of multiple MGOs I know who found success in connecting and getting a meeting after 7 to 9 tries. Yep, that’s a lot of follow up, but they stayed with it.
  2. Have you mixed up the type of communication and the times you try and reach out to donors? If you know that your donor doesn’t mind getting calls, personal notes or mail, then try all of these methods and try them at different times in the day or week.
  3. Have you tried connecting with someone the donor knows, to get more information on that donor? In other words, perhaps you can reach out to an indirect connection with that donor, and ask for some advice or insight on how best to connect with your donor. Just the other day I spoke to an MGO who knows the son of one of her caseload donors, and she asked the son how best to connect.
  4. When you are on the phone with a donor, do you know what to say? My hope is that you know exactly what you are trying communicate with the donor and where you want to take the conversation. Unfortunately, sometimes the donor throws curveballs. Have you thought how you might respond to some of them? If you need some help on knowing what to say you can download our white paper on “The Art of Soliciting a Donor.” It’s free, and I know it will help you.
  5. Do you realize you are not the center of the universe? Huh? What I’m really trying to say is that many times an MGO will tell himself a story that just because the donor hasn’t responded to him, he thinks they don’t like him, or they don’t like the organization any more, or they are trying to avoid him… the self-talk can go on and on. You need to understand that while this is your focus, for the donor this is one of a hundred different things they are thinking about. Donors have a life. They are busy. Don’t go negative if you don’t hear back from a donor. It’s really your job to reach out to them.

Usually a few of these questions spark something in the MGO I’m talking with, and things seem always to get back on track… and amazingly a meeting actually does happen.
Hang in there, stick with it and remain positive. Love your donors, and they will (eventually) love you back.