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Destined For Mastery

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Master Gift Officer. Just the words alone conjure up confidence, optimism, energy, and success. And the phrase embodies what we all strive for: demonstrating the highest level of ability, talent, and dedication within the development profession. Today, the job title isn’t on the tip of the tongue of most nonprofit fundraising professionals or organizations, and hasn’t been spotted on a resume – yet. But that should change soon.

Copley Raff, Inc.’s annual PLAN-MGO (Philanthropy Leadership Advancement Nexus – Master Gift Officer) training program is a four day immersion experience that rapidly equips development professionals to revolutionize their donor relationships, conduct comfortable and effective asks, and ensure dramatic fundraising success. In essence, attendees walk into the program as fundraisers and walk out as Master Gift Officers or MGOs. 2011’s event launches October 29th and runs through November 1st.

This year, CRI offered the first ever PLAN-MGO Fellowship, awarded to an applicant whose application essay best reflected MGO potential. We received many outstanding entries, but this particular one deeply resonated with the judging panel.

Announcing the first annual winner of PLAN-MGO’s Fellowship: Leisha LeCouvie, Director, Parent and Affinity Programs at McGill University, Montreal. Leisha writes:

“I have had the honour of working at McGill University for 10 years. During this time I have worn many hats and have had many opportunities. Originally hired as a manager to oversee the alumni association’s affinity programs (credit cards, insurance and travel programs), my portfolio has now grown to include board and volunteer relations, student engagement initiatives, and more recently, the development of a comprehensive and robust parents program.

My newest opportunity, and challenge, is spearheading the fundraising aspect of the Parents Program. As a life-long alumni relations professional this is a natural, albeit terrifying, career progression. After 20 years in the business, I am an expert in connecting and engaging people. If you need to plan a party or a presidential installation, I am the one to call. But asking people for money? Now that’s hard work.
I could have turned down this promotion and continued connecting and engaging. Alumni Relations is exciting and meaningful, and a profession that I believe in and support. I also believe in and support stretching oneself both professionally and personally. Major gift fundraising is the professional equivalent of zip lining for me: something I never thought I would be able to accomplish, but exhilarating and thrilling. The first step off the platform though, is always the hardest.

The PLAN-MGO Fellowship would be the greatest gift for me toward that first step. McGill is the finest university in Canada and ranks amongst the top universities worldwide. We are part way through a $750 million dollar comprehensive campaign and I feel strongly that I want to help the institution reach its goal. At this point in my career I feel it is my duty to take parents and alumni through the entire identification, engagement, cultivation, and solicitation cycle. Considering my background, I think I am uniquely qualified to do this. The only thing holding me back from completing the cycle is the gift officer training. I am seasoned enough to know how to research donors and ask for money, but I want to know how to do it well. I want to be the best. McGill has given me so many exciting opportunities and challenges, now it is time for me to return the favour by being the best fundraiser I can be.”

And just what traits make a fundraising professional a Master Gift Officer – or indicate that someone has the potential to reach this highest level of professional achievement? Our colleague and PLAN-MGO instructor Diane Blumenson has identified 16 key characteristics and suggests that true Master Gift Officers demonstrate at least ten of them. The full list can be found here. Leisha’s letter clearly demonstrates most of these key points, plus the passion to both learn and internalize the art of the ask. This experience seems to be the one piece missing from her MGO portfolio, but not for long. Congratulations Leisha!

Your takes:
  1. True MGOs see the upside in all opportunities – anticipated or not.
  2. The ability to acknowledge job related fear and ask for help are clear signs of strength and the ability to grow professionally.
  3. Passion is contagious. Share some of yours today!

For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of not for profit consulting services, please see

Have a development, executive recruitment, or campaign strategy or management challenge? Let’s talk! Click here to connect with Rebekah Kaufman, Director of Consulting Services at CRI.