You know that philosophy, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”? For most things it’s a smart way to live. But not in major gift fundraising. Today, I want YOU to sweat the small stuff.

In major gift fundraising, most of the focus seems to be on the big stuff… long-range planning, goal-setting, strategic planning, solicitation plans, etc. All of this, of course, is extremely important and critical to your success; but what’s often overlooked are all the “little things” that can delight a donor so much.

In our experience, it’s the “little things” a major gift officer can do that make a massive difference to the donor – and to your own well-being.

So, I want you to consider and pay attention to “the little things” that will help you reap BIG rewards. Here are some to think about:

  1. Wake up grateful every day. You have the greatest job on earth. You have donors that you are helping to make a difference in the world. Every morning give thanks for that. It will help center you and strengthen your relationships with your donors.
  2. Write three thank-you notes each day to your donors. This will allow you to touch everyone on your caseload more frequently for no reason other than to surprise them with a nice note.
  3. Update your caseload records in your database. I don’t know many good MGOs who like updating their contact records and notes in their database. That’s good… if you liked it, I would be worried. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to do it. Remember, these are not your donors. They belong to your organization, and tomorrow you could get squashed by a bus. It’s so important to keep this updated.
  4. Research your “B & C” level donors for hobbies and interests. We tell the MGO’s we manage to spend half of their time on “A” level donors, but that still means half needs to be spent on the rest of the caseload. Finding out personal information about your donors, and using that to help them or correspond with them, will touch them greatly and may move a B/C to an A.
  5. Call three donors every day to thank them and see how they are doing. It may be a small thing for you, but for some donors it could be the only contact they have that day. How could you resist talking to someone who just wants to thank you and check in with you?
  6. Figure out how to connect your “A” level donors to each other. One of the best things you can do for a donor is help connect her to others who have a similar passion. Believe me, if you connected one business person to another and something good happens, your organization gets the credit.
  7. Spend a couple of hours every week visiting programs and talking to the people who are running the programs. This will come back to you in so many positive ways. Not only will you be able to eloquently talk about what you do, you will convince the program people that fundraising is fun and necessary. And your heart will be broken. No small thing.
  8. Thank your support staff for all their hard work. Gosh this is easy and needed, but we hardly ever do it… at least not enough. This goes back to showing gratitude. It’s a small thing to do, but it has a huge payoff.
  9. Read industry news and blogs every day for 30 minutes. Understand what is going on, get some good ideas, and get inspired every day.
  10. Update your boss weekly on what is going on. Communication is key with your boss. Be proactive, and alert him or her when good things and bad things happen. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
  11. Review your entire caseload, and make sure you know how each donor wants to be communicated with. Not all donors are alike. Some love e-mail, some like the phone, and others only want to hear from you once per year. Do you know which ones like a certain way to communicate? You need to. It honors the donor.
  12. Get enough sleep. You have too hard a job not to sleep enough. Good sleep is essential.
  13. Go over your tiered caseload, and make sure your donors are always in the right tier. You always want the best caseload of donors you can cultivate. Don’t waste time on donors that don’t want to be on your caseload.
  14. Be kind and courteous. I shouldn’t have to say this, but kindness and courtesy toward others make you a pleasant person to be around. Your donors will be drawn to you.

Yes, the small things. But they make a huge difference – I would say THE difference in how your donors will respond to you and allow you into their lives. And it will make you a better MGO and a better person.

Go out and sweat the small stuff!




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