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Congratulations to Kristina DeMain – Winner of the PLAN-Master Gift Officer Fellowship

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. 2012’s event runs from April 27th through April 30th.

In 2011, we launched our PLAN-MGO Fellowship, awarded to an applicant who’s application essay best reflected MGO potential. This proved marvelously successful and we decided to offer the opportunity again for our 2012 training event. We received many outstanding entries this go-round, but this particular one deeply resonated with the judging panel.

Announcing our 2012 winner of PLAN-MGO’s Fellowship: Kristina DeMain, Development Manager, from the Washington Office on Latin America, Washington, DC. Kristina writes:

A few years ago, I learned that my friends had coined a phrase for taking me to parties. They called it “going fishing,” and it involved most of my friends standing in a corner while they “cast me off” to meet everyone in the room and bring back the interesting ones. I fell for it every time, lured by the thrill of meeting new people, the challenge of breaking the ice, and the satisfaction of making a connection. “There are no strangers,” I would tell my friends, “just friends I haven’t met yet.” It was a surprising realization at the time that I did those things instinctively—and well. After learning of their game, I concluded I was in the wrong job. So I quit my coveted programmatic job at one of the most influential human rights organizations in the world and took a job in development at WOLA, a smaller human rights organization that I knew well and to which I was deeply committed. The position is as a fundraising generalist, but also involves helping to build a major gifts program from the ground up. From the moment I started, I was hooked.

Finding a job you like and excel at depends on understanding your natural talents. Mine are establishing authentic, personal connections with people and persuading them of the value of my organization’s work. These natural inclinations are a big part of what motivates me to become a major gifts officer. I love doing this work. If I were not being paid, I would likely be doing it for free in my spare time. I am also passionately committed to my organization’s mission of promoting human rights, and by becoming a master gifts officer I hope to ensure that my organization can keep doing this important work.

Not long ago, my organization’s Director of Development left to take another position. At the age of 28 and in my first development job, I find myself in the position of heading the department in the interim. For my organization, shifting our energies to raise more funds through major gifts is critical and the need is immediate. I have an energetic Executive Director, a committed board, and natural people and organizing skills. But I know that passion and talent are only part of what it takes to become a master gift officer. In the wake of my Director’s departure, I have had the opportunity to be mentored by two seasoned development professionals. They are enthusiastic about my potential, but unequivocal in urging me to seek out formal training on major gifts. Receiving the PLAN-MGO fellowship will allow me to participate in training my agency could not otherwise afford. I have ambitious major gifts targets this year, and I believe that PLAN-MGO can provide me with exactly these needed skills to help me succeed.

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. Kristina’s letter clearly demonstrates most of these key points, plus the passion and the drive to both learn and internalize the art of the ask. This formalized training, as suggested by her mentors that know her best, is “just what the doctor ordered!” Congratulations, Kristina!

Your takes:

  1. True MGOs see the upside in all opportunities – anticipated or not.
  2. Find good mentors and listen to them – their advice and direction can take you farther than you ever anticipated possible.
  3. It is always the right time for new skills and training, wherever you are in the career spectrum.

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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.