Last week alone, I heard of 10 organizations seeking new or additional gift officer positions. Unfortunately, most were replacing people they felt were not productive.  OUCH!

Why is this?  Why does our industry struggle so often with talented development professionals?

We could expound on the reasons:

  • Too few leads
  • Not the right fit
  • Lofty expectations, etc., etc.

I have taught in the past that the most important factor for fundraising professionals is passion.  Without a passion for the cause, we can be seen as just collecting checks.  I’m re-thinking this.

While passion is essential, COMPETENCE is a must – a set of skills and activities that drive results.

In the “Karate Kid,” painting the fence over and over trained the mind and muscles of the young man on how to build competence (and confidence) when his skills would be tested in the sparring arena. Too often we relegate major donor cultivation to whims and happenstance. 

The Million Dollar Caseload takes a more disciplined approach. And scientific. Using the best prospect research available and a monitored schedule of activities, the major gift officer “paints the fence” baking in the skills necessary for major donor success.

So, what must every relationship manager do?  They must master “painting the fence”


While the process goes much deeper, these pillars represent competence in the major donor world.  When we’re weak in any of the four phases, our results will show it.

Today, I’d love to offer you a free resource to encourage you in your work. It’s our resource 50 Ways to Engage Major Donors.

P.S. Applications are now open for the Million Dollar Caseload.  To learn more, click here: