How to Hire and
Onboard Your New MGO

Ann Fitzgerald President AC Fitzgerald author

Ann C. Fitzgerald, President

It’s an exciting milestone when a nonprofit organization is ready to hire its first dedicated fundraiser. It means the group has solid programs, a base of financial support, and the desire to grow.

Many organizations begin by hiring a major gift officer to meet and cultivate current donors while continuously identifying new prospects. This is a hard job to fill and that means it is doubly important to hire well and monitor progress.

Here’s how to make this engagement a success:

Know what you want. What is the job? Is this a senior position or one that a motivated entry-level person could take it on and learn the ropes? The latter might be a good option for your organization since fundraising personnel are a scarce commodity.

Know who the prospective donors are. Will your MGO approach individuals, foundations, or corporations? Or all three? Each segment requires a slightly different approach to relationship building.

Take the hiring process seriously. Hiring successfully for development positions takes a serious investment of time. Be committed to the process. In the freedom movement, consider tapping the experts at Talent Market for guidance and recruitment services.

Beware of easy money. If the candidate sounds too good to be true (“I know a lot of rich people.” Or: “It will be simple to raise this much money!”), he probably is. Go beyond their list of references to get independent verification of qualifications.

 Set goals and expectations up front and monitor progress. A typical full-time MGO manages 125 relationships and engages with prospective donors. You should be looking for consistent activity that culminates in solicitations and new or upgraded gifts. At a minimum, a CEO should expect regular reports from the MGO about:

  • Number of meetings and other outreach each month
  • Number of proposals / asks made
  • Amount of asks
  • Renewed, upgraded, or new gifts

 Evaluate strengths and provide training. Don’t assume a new MGO knows everything on Day One. What are his or her strengths and what are important areas for growth? Ask your new MGO for a self-evaluation to determine what support is needed – making calls to arrange meetings; setting goals for donor meetings; drafting emails or other communications; making the ask; closing on a gift; etc.

If an MGO needs deeper training, consider hiring a consultant (AC Fitzgerald is a good choice!) or take a course through The Fund Raising School at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. (Full disclosure: I’m on the faculty of the School.)

Make the first 90 days count.

Finally, don’t turn an “outside” person into an “inside” person. Too often, nonprofits swamp new MGOs with enormous amounts of administrative work; everything from database cleanup to drafting grant proposals, when they would be better utilized meeting with donors. Consider seriously the support structure your new hire needs to be successful and find a way to make it happen.

This is an important moment of growth for your organization. I hope these ideas help the process run smoothly, culminating in a great new asset to your mission!

Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.

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