Hello - I am your coach.

When you ask a great player from any sport what inspired him or her, they always talk about a coach that was instrumental in their development as a player, one who helped make them who they are.

The same can be said for successful presidents, social change leaders, teachers and businesspeople. Everyone can point to someone in her life that encouraged her, challenged her and told her the truth.

Similarly, all of the great major gift officers I’ve known can also point to having someone who took him under his wing, showed him the ropes, and provided guidance, focus and counsel.

Recently, Richard and I have asked our Passionate Giving community to tell us what is important to them as we develop our online Major Gift Academy. We found it fascinating how many folks mentioned the desire to have ongoing coaching, for someone to come alongside of them to give them guidance on whether or not they are doing the right things.

Unfortunately, many MGOs don’t have effective managers that can provide this coaching for them. Either the manager doesn’t have the time, or they don’t have the skills that are required. I think this is probably the biggest reason why so many MGOs are begging for help.

Are you hungry for coaching?

Or are you one of those major gift officers that think they don’t need coaching? You see, that is the other side of this. As many people as Richard and I run into who desire coaching and management, we find another camp of major gift officers who think they can do it on their own.

Either they think it’s a sign of weakness to have someone manage their work, guide their use of time and give them strategic advice, or they have a “lone wolf” mentality that they should be just left on their own.

Honestly, these major gift officers are nowhere near as effective as they could be, nor do they have long careers. Conversely, when we see major gift officers who allow another person or persons to manage and coach them, we see dramatic changes not only in their performance, but also in their own happiness level.

Here is what good coaching and management will do:

  • Encouragement — Major gift officers need to be encouraged daily in their work. It helps fuel their fire to do great work.
  • Truth-telling — A good coach or manager will be able to tell the MGO the truth about her work and her interactions with donors. Someone has to be a truth-teller in your life.
  • Strategic Guidance — Major gift officers need to bounce ideas off of someone. They also need someone to offer ideas and strategy on how to approach a donor, work through a problem and work on specific moves with a donor.
  • A Listener — As a major gift officer, you need someone who will listen to you. A good coach or manager will do that for you. Sometimes you just need to blow off steam or talk about a problem you are having, without someone solving it for you.

Now if you had someone in your life that could provide this to you, do you think you would be a better major gift officer? Do you believe you would be more focused, effective, strategic, successful and happier? Yes, you would.

A good coach should be something you seek as a vital part of your ongoing career development. If you are resistant, spend some considerable time figuring out why. Remember, all those successful people I talked about – from sports stars to teachers to businesspeople – can all point to a coach who helped them along the way.

Who is helping you along your way?




  • Mike Osborn says:

    Jeff – I’d like to adapt this article for use in a missionary partnership development context. I’m a PD Coach with a large international missions organization and your article is a perfect encouragement for them to have and use a PD Coach. Could I please have permission to use this source, retaining your names as writers of the original article, and modify it slightly from being “Major Gift Officer” oriented to missionary oriented?

    thank you

  • Stephanie says:

    I have been in fundraising almost ten years. I am noticing a trend with the younger generation demanding mentorship and I think it is a mistake. If you find mentorship that is great but in my experience, the vast majority of MGOs are not interested in mentoring because they are too competitive. Either you work with the person and they are afraid you will steal donors from their portfolio -or- they work at another shop and are afraid you will steal their ideas. It seems very few people are able to set aside their own hang ups for the greater good of advancing the profession.

    • Hey Stephanie, I hope you are one of those MGO’s that freely gives their time to the younger generation. I don’t believe it’s a mistake for the younger generation to seek out mentors. My experience is that whenever you hold on too tightly to something, things go wrong. And, the more you give away of yourself, the more that comes back to you. Perhaps you can start champion to your more experienced colleagues to become mentors and put aside their competitive nature for the good of the profession. Thanks for writing.

      • Stephanie says:

        I definitely do mentor when I can. I, however, do try to caution the younger generation to discern requesting mentorship versus demanding it as a requirement of an employer. I feel more often than not it is taught as a given right in business school and that often doesn’t jibe with their reality. This causes a rough and bumpy ride for millennials entering the working world.

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