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6 Surprising Attributes of Extraordinary Major Gift Officers

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The very best major gift officers maintain a unique blend of talents and attributes that make them best-suited to generate the ongoing support of the nonprofit organizations they serve.

They are literally worth their weight in gold not because of how they perform, but because they are naturally individuals that everyone loves to be around and can learn from!

In chapter six of their outstanding book, “It’s Not Just About The Money,” Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels outline six surprising attributes of extraordinary major gift officers. This chapter literally jumped off of the page, as it is so special that it must be shared and expounded upon.

So what makes an outstanding major gift officer? Here are the six attributes they all share:

1) They Set Goals They Cannot Reach

This illustrates a special mindset of such top individuals. It might also explain why they surpass others and their average performance by leaps and bounds!

The book explains this may not be the published goal discussed with a manager, but may be the secret little goal kept to themselves that pushes them to greater heights of achievement.

(This may not be a bad idea for CEO’s and others to think about…)

2) They Embrace Rejection

You might be beginning to realize why the word surprising is in the title of this blog post.

Yes, rejection is hard for everyone. The best MGO’s are fearless as well as smart enough to know that rejection is part of the daily life. Pushing boundaries outward via ambitious proposals often still mean success beyond the norm even if rejection has occurred for the truly bold game changing ask.

No safety net is required as they embrace the challenge of funding the mission of the organization at higher and higher levels each year!

3) They Make Mistakes

Huge strides are usually only made by attempting new and untested strategies. Extraordinary MGO’s embrace the challenge of trying new and game changing strategies. They know mistakes and failures will happen with untested strategies. They also know many will yield breakthroughs leading to achievement.

(Notice the concept of “fearless” creeping in again.)

One of my favorite awards at my place of employment nearly three decades ago was the “Quarterly Bomb Award”.

It was literally a used military bomb shell made out of steel standing over four feet tall painted bright blue. During every third monthly meeting this award was presented to the team member who attempted the most ambitious new strategy for the quarter that was not immediately successful. The CEO positioned the award as our “Badge of Courage.” Those who won it were almost always the highest achievers.

4) They Ignore Traditional Timekeeping

Great MGO’s are neither clock-watchers or clock punchers. They know their work is based upon time slots provided by prospects and donors. They also know many of those slots will be outside of traditional business hours.

If you manage one of these top producing MGO’s you should relish in the times they are away from the office because most likely it is time building a strong relationship leading to next major gift for your mission!

5) They Don’t Have All of the Answers

The very best MGO’s are driven by curiosity.

As we all might have seen in our own lives, curiosity leads to searching out and finding unique solutions to problems/opportunities. Such solutions seem to always be better than having all of the answers.

Not having all of the answers seems to also lead one away from throwing up excuses for this or that, especially questions regarding lack of results…

6) They Never Get Comfortable

Demanding and difficult situations in and of themselves imply being uncomfortable.

Nobody, but especially MGO can respond to such situations, unless they are operating from some other vantage point than comfort. Yes, this can be more stressful, however top performers thrive on such periods of stress!

Thanks to Jeff and Richard for this outstanding list! These attributes are truly the basis of overall great nonprofit leaders.

Now that you know all six attributes, does it bring to mind any fundraisers you know? Is there anything you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Jay Love

    Thanks Bill!
  • Bill Lynerd

    Very thoughtful, Jay!
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