Summer Checklist: Assign a Leadership Gift Officer

OK, OK, OK. It is now technically the last day of fall. But we sorta had a lot going on last week. This is the final installment of our summer checklist, so enjoy it and let us know if you’re able to put any of these strategies into action this year.

We truly believe that a leadership level gift officer is one of the most important positions you can have on a fundraising team.

There’s a lot of money on the table that’s being mostly ignored because organizations aren’t making mid-level gifts a priority for anyone in their organization. Even one person dedicated to this group could make an enormous impact on your yearly goals. 

It’s a huge group of potential donors, with lots of money on the table. Doesn’t it make sense to have someone pursuing it?

We understand that, because this position hasn’t typically existed before, it can be daunting to not only hire a person to fill it, but figure out on the fly exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Making it a bit of a risk. But you usually don’t find any success without taking risks so it might be time to jump into the deep end.

A Dedicated Resource Makes All the Difference

Your group of mid-level donors and prospects is probably bigger than you think. And the money they can collectively give to your institution is far from insignificant. It’s potentially millions of dollars. That’s more than a side-of-the-desk job for someone to tackle in their down time. To truly tap into this potential, you need a dedicated resource. 

And when you start realizing that your next generation of major gift donors is highly likely to come from this group, you could argue that the long-term potential of these relationships is worth it on its own.

So someone dedicated solely to this group now is probably worth it just for the money that could come in ten or twenty years down the line. Add in the donations they’ll secure between now and then, and it’s a no-brainer investment.

Jack of All Trades

OK, so what is that person going to, you know, actually do once they’re on staff? To be perfectly honest, a little of everything.

That’s how the University of Wisconsin-Madison is thinking of the position. Mid-level donors, at most schools, span a wide range of donation amounts. To mirror that, these gift officers need to span a wide range of skills and responsibilities.

“These officers are going to think about how we can engage with leadership level annual giving donors in a way that’s built for 2019 and beyond,” says John Grice, UW-Madison’s Director of Annual Giving. “By thinking about how we can use video, social media, SMS, phone, days of giving and more to create a really personalized yet expanded experienced for them.”

The question isn’t so much what will they do, it’s more what won’t they. Unlike a major gift officer, the prospect pool is (hopefully!) too big for them to carry a portfolio of people they’re highly engaged with individually. Digital outreach (with a solid content strategy) is likely the most efficient route. However, that doesn’t mean in-person visits or strategic video meetings are off the table. Certain mid-level donors might benefit from that kind of high-touch engagement.

They’ll also need to mine data for new prospects and to understand motivations. They’ll have to create content based on those findings and figure out the best way to deliver it. They’ll need to be adept at social media and happy to help with concerns that pop up from donors.

Basically, they’ll be part gift officer, part data geek, part content creator, part social media stud…and do it all with a big smile that gets people invested in your institution.

Grow Prospects, Grow Employees

That job description sounds incredible. That’s not an employee that you’re going to want to let go. And you shouldn’t. One of the biggest benefits of this position is the room for growth and possibility for the employee(s) to rise in your organization.

Because the role of leadership gift officer is still so open-ended, people will have a lot of room to explore different aspects of the job and learn an incredible amount about what works and what doesn’t. And as their prospects grow and mature, they can do the same along with them, mirroring the journey on the fundraiser side.

They might become your next head of annual gifts. Or they might continue to shepherd donations from their portfolio and become your best major gift officer.

The sky’s the limit for leadership gifts and your leadership gift officers. Get one on your team and watch them both take off.

That’s a wrap on our summer checklist series. If you missed any, make sure to check out all the topics, including Managing Gift Officers, Annual Giving, Gift Officers and Leadership Gifts