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Top 5 Tips for National Major Gifts Officers

Top 5 Tips for National Major Gifts Officers

julie beckettAh, the life of a jet-setting Major gifts officer.  Calgary one week, Cornwall the next! Working with donors from across the country has its perks, but it certainly also has its challenges.

I reached out to Julie Beckett, CFRE, who is Manager, Fundraising at Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada to ask her what her top 5 pieces of advice would be to Major Gifts Officers with national portfolios.  She’s been at the Co-operative Foundation for over 5 years, and many of these tips have become second nature to her. For context, Julie manages approximately 1500 donors across Canada, and she’s travelling approximately once a month. And boy, does she pack in a lot of things on those visits!

1 Know the issues going on at the local level

A little bit of reconnaissance about what’s going on locally will serve you very well. Tailor your conversations to the geography where your donor lives. For example, if you’re out in Calgary, you’re going to have to have some context for what’s up in the oil industry, and how that’s affecting business and gifts. It will also help you navigate the social conversations that happen over coffee and tea. Bottom line – donors are important to you, so you show them that by talking about their local issues, issues that matter to them

2 Get on that plane…but be strategic

Donors are always concerned about administration costs. Julie uses the analogy of an “anchor event” that she bundles her travel with: an event that many local donors may attend. Then she builds out an itinerary that includes individual visits with donors around that date. Prioritize your activities around your most promising and most loyal donors. Batching face-to-face meetings will make you AND your donors happy.

3 Champions and volunteers are key

Julie is incredibly proud of and grateful for her team of volunteer champions. She has cultivated representatives from all major geographic areas of the country, and they often act as her “stand in” at local events that she cannot attend in person. She spends time working with them to help them stay on script via phone call or conference call with a bunch of ambassadors, and also by sharing materials that they need in order to get the good news messages out to the community. Some of her greatest successes have come from donors stepping into the role of ambassador.

4 Spread the love across the regions

Be methodical about your touch points, and be sure to track them! It’s easy to overlook the Yukon, or some other region. Find ways to spread the love when you can’t be there in person: phone, email, social media are all ways to stay top-of-mind with donors. Julie shared the example of her regional golf tournaments. She can’t be there in person, but she is in touch with her local champions, and she is sure to pass on information to the communications team so they can post those local successes in the national organization’s social media feeds.

5 Always be looking for creative ways to keep people engaged in your work

Co-operative Development work happens thousands of miles away on another continent.  Julie gets creative when it comes to showing impact of donor-supported programs.  Videos are great multi-purpose tools that can be shared easily at AGMs or at corporate head offices. The Rolls Royce experience of “how to keep people engaged in your work” is the study tour: donors fund their own travel to go overseas to meet with partners and experience first-hand the impact of their gifts.  Julie has found that these donors often become the next generation of champions for the organization.

Final thoughts

Be strategic about travel, work around anchor events for your scheduling, and be sure to read the local newspaper or donor impact reports before your first meeting in town. Julie’s built a great team of ambassadors on the ground working for her, and you can too!

If you’d like to connect with Julie Beckett, CFRE,  reach out to her via LinkedIn . Thanks for sharing your advice Julie!

Interested in getting more out of your Major Gifts program? Hop over to my Major Gifts Mastery Course. It’s designed to help you start (or re-start) your MG program over 5 weeks. Build your top ten prospect list for Major Gift success!