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Top Five Reasons for Major Gift Officers to Develop their Emotional Intelligence Skills

Top Five Reasons for Major Gift Officers to Develop their Emotional Intelligence Skills

Written by: Diana Curran, M.P.A.

When it comes to working as a Major Gifts Officer there is no shortage of roadblocks, detours, traffic jams, or accidents that we encounter along our journey. I’m sure we’ve all experienced times when: conversations go off course (despite hours of planning and rehearsing), you’ve been with faced with an unexpected donor request/bequest, or when a prospects pet jumps up and licks your face. Yuck! In my case, I can vividly recall a cute 3-legged cat that jumped on my lap during an in-home meeting and I’m allergic them. You can imagine the frantic sound of my internal scream as I patted Mr. Fluffy ever so lovingly.

Needless to say, we’ve all faced a time in our career when we needed to “play it cool.” It takes a lot of self-awareness and skills to prevent the bandwagon’s wheels from spinning out of control or falling off during these types of visits but I’m here to tell you that there is good news. As a Major Gifts Officer, learning how to home in and develop Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills to get through the donor cycle more productively and efficiently while yielding results is possible.

Using EQ, MGO’s can navigate through these five common roadblocks ➔Getting the visit ➔ Navigating the conversationMaking the askClosing the gift ➔ Stewarding the Gift and relationship while strengthening and building trusting relationships.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ) anyway? EQ consists of personal and social competencies. Unlike IQ it is not fixed and with proper training can grow and strengthen, like a muscle. These competencies allow us to increase our: self-awareness, self-expression and self-management, social awareness, interpersonal, decision making, stress tolerance and social management skills If you’re still awake, you might be wondering “Why does any of this matter?” Well, it matters because MGO’s are in the business of building relationships and raising money and according to author Shawn Andrews, “these competencies lead to better interpersonal relationships and decision-making skills.

Below are the top five reasons for investing in the EQ development of Major Gifts officers.

Top 5 Reasons for Major Gift Officers to Develop Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

1. Emotional intelligences combine to help form better interpersonal relationships and self-awareness. It allows you to develop a greater sense of awareness and empathy which creates connecting and new ways of understanding various ways in which people communicate.

2. MGO’s depend on their ability to build trusted relationships with donors, and the ability to see decisions in the human context becomes an essential and strategic advantage.

3. By cultivating EQ skills and really listening to what a donor is saying you develop empathy and understanding which leads to a deeper interpersonal connection leading to an increase in trust. Trust is necessary for success.

4. Increasing trust leads to better relationships and a deeper connection to the MGO representing the university making the processing of “asking” for the gift a more joyful experience for the MGO and most importantly– joyful for the donor.

5. As a non-profit professional you have the opportunity to help others experience the joy of giving.

EI will help you be authentic, tap into the donors emotions, know the “why” and tell stories that are authentic and powerful, cut down cultivation time (getting to know donor) through EI*, ask questions, get to know their “why, know how to better pace the ask and thank them knowing their their preferred method of communication and stewardship, read the signs or hints of when a donor is ready to give, and listen more actively.

Now a days people yearn to feel connected with in new virtual spaces. EQ is a useful tool that MGO’s can use to navigate through the donor cycle by strengthen the ability and skills needed to successfully navigate what I call the “Three C’s”: conversation, connection, and closing–calmly and more confidentially during COVID. (Hmm…maybe that should be Six-C’s?) All this, meanwhile generating revenue, reducing costs and sustaining the mission of the institutions you serve is all possible with cultivating your Emotional Intelligence Skills.

Resources, Recommended Readings and Trainings: Emotional Intelligence Mastery Bible by Brandon Cooper, Start with Heart, B.Crouch, Assessing Your Emotional Intelligence: 4 Tools We Love, Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., Whillans, A. V., Grant, A. M., & Norton, M. I. (2013). Making a Difference Matters: Impact Unlocks the Emotional Benefits of Prosocial Spending. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 88 90-95, Start With Heart, B.Crouch


MG360: A Holistic Approach to Major Gifts Fundraising