"It takes more than a good heart."
These were words spoken to me by the Senior Pastor at my church when he was convincing me to take a major role in the upcoming capital campaign. He was right. You know yourself in today’s competitive fundraising environment that it takes more than a staff with a love for your cause to secure a major gift from an individual or a corporation. It takes talent to be a successful development officer.
Talent is different than skills. Skills can be learned. Talent is innate. So if you are facing a big increase in your fundraising budget this year or next, the most important thing you can do is employ fundraising professionals with the innate behaviors that will allow them to ask for and receive major gifts from a wide variety of donors.
But what talents, what innate behaviors, should you look for? Based on research with thousands of professionals whose role is to seek commitment, we suggest strongly that you look for these eight key talents:
1. Intensity for the work effort.
Getting in front of key donors is hard work and uncovering their underlying needs and goals for giving requires effort as does fashioning a tailored solution. The best fundraising professionals love to work and go about their work in a very focused manner. They work hard, they work smart, and they work long.
The very best have standards for excellence and produce quality work. They can manage details easily and spin multiple plates, rarely dropping a single one.
3. Successful development officers are not afraid to ask.
They have a certain command about them that allows them to persuade and convince naturally. They are very comfortable with the notion that they must bring others around to their way of thinking.
4. The very best are great problem solvers.
They gather more information, they ask better questions, and they devise more creative solutions.
5. We see that top performers have a positive outlook.
For these people, the glass is always half full, they deal with change well, and they have a wide circle of people who like them.
6. The best are also blessed with a “sixth sense” that allows them to pick up on how someone is feeling at the moment.
This genius-level empathy allows them to know how and when to proceed. Donors feel a real sense of being cared about—because they are.
7. In order to ask for big donations, you have to feel as though you deserve a big donation.
Top people see themselves as significant, worthy of sitting with high-net-worth individuals and top corporate officers. They can make a “big ask” because it lines up with their self-image.
8. If you are going to meet a goal you have to think in terms of measurement and winning.
Top performers are constantly striving to best last year’s, last month’s, and even yesterday’s performance. They think in terms of winning, and when they are winning for your cause, everyone wins.