handsup 2015-Apr20
I’m upset. I’m seeing too many major gift officers who play small, do enough just to get by and seem just to want to drift through their careers long enough to retire and head to Florida.
How did this happen?
I just want to take these good people (and yes they are all good people) and shake them by the shoulders and tell them to wake up! You cannot be ordinary if you are a major gift officer. Choosing a profession that asks you to bring donors and need together is, at its core, an extraordinary thing to do. There is NO “ordinary” in this profession.
Being an MGO is a vocation – a high calling. This is not something that’s “just a job.” Yet Richard and I are seeing many MGOs playing small. I refuse to say they are just ordinary MGOs. I seriously don’t believe that is possible, because the position itself demands too much and has such serious implications for donors and nonprofits – so I don’t think that anyone would choose the position if he thought of himself as ordinary.
Yet many MGOs are acting ordinary. Why are you doing this? Why have you lost your passion?
I believe our profession is in serious jeopardy. Not only is it incredibly hard to find great major gift officers today, but it’s only going to get harder to fulfill future demand, as non-profits are finally waking up to the fact they need a major gift program to be successful.
This is why if you are “playing ordinary” and you have lost your passion for this amazing work, we need you to regain that passion or consider another profession. The position and today’s nonprofits deserve only people who are absolutely passionate about being that bridge between a donor’s desire to change the world and the world’s greatest needs.
If you want to “just get by” or “skate through” or “ride the job long enough to retire,” you are in the wrong profession. And if you are new to this and that is your attitude, do NOT apply to be a major gift officer.
Being a professional major gift officer is one of hardest, most demanding professions there is. It can be brutal. Yet it’s also one of the most rewarding professions there is. That stands to reason, right? I mean anything so rewarding has to be equally difficult.
Those major gift officers that I view as extraordinary all possess the following attributes:

  1. Passionate
  2. Inquisitive
  3. Tenacious
  4. Good Natured
  5. Accountable
  6. Focused
  7. Friendly
  8. Kind
  9. Intelligent
  10. Donor-Focused
  11. Confident
  12. Compassionate
  13. Emotional
  14. Practical
  15. Loving
  16. Closers
  17. Spiritual
  18. Humble
  19. Risk-Takers
  20. Humorous

Yes, every extraordinary major gift officer I’ve ever known possesses these 20 attributes. You put all these together and there is no way you can be ordinary. No way.
If you are one of those MGOs who are playing ordinary, I ask you to look deep into your soul and figure out what is happening to you. At one time you weren’t playing ordinary. What happened? Do you think you can get yourself back on track and be the extraordinary person you are again?
I think you can. I know you can. I’ve worked with MGOs who for one reason or another lost their passion, and over time they started to look at their work as just another job. But through some coaching, management, focus and encouragement, they regained that extraordinary person that was inside of them again and became amazingly successful.
If you find yourself in that position of playing ordinary, I urge you to figure out what’s keeping you in that place. Then you have two choices. Either you regain that passion you once had, or you look for a new profession where you can find your real passion. Life is too short not to do that.
Donors deserve the best of you. Your nonprofit does, too.