Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Be a Great Major Gift Officer

Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels

Passionate Giving is a terrific blog penned by Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry, the founders of the major gift agency Veritus Group. At the end of 2011 Jeff posted a wonderful series entitled: Six New Year's Resolutions that will Change Your Life...or at least make you a better major gift officer. 

I am sharing snippets from each of the six but I encourage you to visit their blog and read each one in its entirety. If every major gift officer resolved to enact each one in 2012, they would surely experience success, satisfaction, and great joy. And as Jeff states “…2012 will be an incredible year for you, your donors and your organization.”
       1.    Serve your donor, don’t sell them
To drive home his point in this posting, Jeff relates a story of visiting an Apple store in an attempt to fix a software problem with his MacBook Pro laptop. From the get-go he was impressed by how the Apple attendants interacted with their customers. (If his Apple store was anything like the one I visited recently, it was packed with people waiting to be served, browsing, or receiving instructions for their new purchases.)
He was asked if he had an appointment, which he did not. No problem. Someone would be right with him.
Then, I asked him point blank, “Why are you not trying to sell this thing to me?.”  He said he was there to make my experience the best it could be, show me the product and let the product sell itself.  “We don’t get commission on sales”, he said.  “It’s all about serving the needs of the customer.”

He wandered over to the iPad display and was soon joined by a salesperson. Jeff asked the salesperson about the differences between an iPad, laptop, or an Amazon Kindle e-reader and received an unbiased assessment of the pros and cons of each. Jeff relates:
Here are snippets from the rest of Jeff’s posts.
I’m telling you that if you’re finding you have to “sell” your programs, organization or project to donors, you’ve already lost.  However, if you are truly “serving” your donors, you will understand what brings them passion and present projects and programs they will find joy in.
        2.   Love your work
If you don’t love your work in major gifts you either need to figure out what has to be overcome to love it, or you have to leave. I know that sounds harsh, but this major gift work is too difficult, frustrating and draining to NOT love it. 
        3.   Set better goals
…goal setting allows me to have a direction and something to aspire to.   And, it works! Surprisingly, many major gift officers whom I’ve worked with often don’t have goals- neither caseload, professional or personal.
This is tragic.
        4.   Make mistakes
I think our natural tendency is to play it safe.  It takes “something extra” for a person to take a risk and fall flat on his face.  Look, of course no one sets out to make mistakes.  But if you want to break through with your work, you have to walk through that fire of fear and risk failure. And when you do, one of two things will happen:  1) you will become wildly successful, or  2) you will fail, but at the same time will have learned an incredible lesson and moved forward. 
        5.    Be curious – ask questions
In my experience, one of the major reasons MGO’s get stuck in their work with donors is that they fail to ask good questions.  And they fail to ask good questions because they are not curious enough about their donors, their own organization or the projects they are raising money for.
        6.   Seek joy
When you have served your donor well, when you realize that you can’t wait to get to work in the morning, when you have set goals for your caseload, when you have a plan to take risks during the year and when you’re asking great questions left and right…YOU will find joy. 
Seek joy this year and it will find you.

Amen Jeff. 

If every Major Gift Officer resolved to enact each resolution, 2012 would indeed be an incredible year for you, your donors and your organization!


  1. love the "make Mistakes" part. Here's a great article on how Steve Jobs taught us "how to fail."

    Fact is, if he hadn't failed at the end of the early years at Apple, he wouldn't have come back, humbled, and created the "iWorld."

    1. Thanks Coach! Steve Jobs is the penultimate example of failure leading to world-changing success.