Nearly everyone in the nonprofit world sees the chronic shortage of qualified gift officers as a critical issue. We hear it every day. But when we seek to analyze why organizations can’t find enough talent to fill open positions regardless of the type of organization, location, or salary, one has to ask the question why?
Perhaps we are confusing “qualifications” with the ability to be successful in the position. A search of ads for major gift officers often reveals language like “must have a proven track record of success in major gift fundraising” or “must be able to meet or exceed metric driven goals.” Some organizations come across as viewing major gift officers as sales persons who simply need to be given sales goals and then held accountable.
We wouldn’t argue that development staff need to have clear goals and accountability measures, but if I look around at some of the gift officers who are very successful, I come to a striking conclusion. Many of them had no previous history in major gift fundraising. Many didn’t come from development backgrounds at all. Some of the best major gift officers are individuals who have come out of other parts of their organizations or even have come from beyond the nonprofit world.
What they do seem to have in common is a great passion for their organizations. They believe in what their organization is doing and donors pick up on this passion and believe in them as gift officers. Major gift officers must have strong interpersonal communication skills and they must understand and be able to interpret the mission of their organization. They must have a work ethic that takes them beyond the 40 hour week, they must be adaptable and they must be able to accept rejection. But none of this necessarily relates to “a proven track record of success in fundraising.”
In looking for the next great major gift officer, perhaps the person who has the greatest passion for what you do and can effectively convey that message to prospects might be worth a look.