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Ellen Duero Rohwer, CFRE
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Stop Wasting Your Major Gift Talent


Major gift officers are a huge investment for your organization, and when they’re not productive, you need to know why. Assuming you’ve hired the right people, paired them with the right donors, and given them plenty of “attaboys,” what else might be going on?

The problem might be the relationship your gift officers have with your CRM. Does your CRM system easily support their donor cultivation, pipeline, and stewardship? If not, your gift officers are likely wasting time and losing ground rather than raising money. Many organizations inadvertently constrain major gift talent with inefficient and confusing procedures or configurations for their CRM technology.

When organizations invest in effective systems to support their major gift programs, they get the most from their personnel and IT investments. One vice president calculated she was losing more than $100,000 every year because gift officers wasted time re-creating information on spreadsheets, entering notes in varying manners that could not be easily measured, and manually re-creating massive reports that were hard to manage.

“I spend so much time identifying good gift officer candidates, hiring them, mentoring and training them, socializing them into the university culture, and helping them build a pipeline. But they grow quickly frustrated because the systems are not easy and at their fingertips, and I know I’m not getting the most from them. Then they leave, and I start all over.” ~ University Advancement Director

Empowering your major gift talent—six steps

Maximizing your investment in your major gift staff is critical for fundraising success. If you’ve recruited great talent, and want to make the most of their time, make sure they are interacting with your CRM at an optimum level. Here is what you must do:

  1. Insist on shared terminology. Establish a glossary, and insist all gift offers use the same terms when identifying, cultivating, and asking for gifts. Officers who can clearly document their activities and opportunities waste less time and raise more money. What’s more, the entire department works best when everyone is on the same page for steps, stages, and activity records.
  2. Standardize/familiarize report writing. Take time to train your officers to confidently request, pull, and view reports. You’ll be amazed at the efficiencies gained.
  3. Document goals and crediting. Nothing stalls a major gift program more than confusion about “what counts.” Determine and communicate how to track cross-discipline initiatives, manage multi-officer proposals, and credit volunteers and institutional staff for referrals or solicitation.
  4. Streamline systems of entry. Why do gift officers struggle to enter activity notes or proposal updates into your system? Establish and communicate how this needs to be done, every time, by everyone.
  5. Determine metrics. Discuss and document what you want to measure for activity, proposals, and pipeline movement. Good metrics include a key performance indicator, baseline, direction, and time frame.
  6. Create elegant outputs. Reviewing pipeline, activity, and progress for the major gifts program should be easy. When leadership can easily confer with individual officers, identify issues, and adjust approaches, each gift officer can produce the best results.