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10 traits of terrible major and legacy gift fundraisers

Sadly, I’ve witnessed all of these but I truly believe #1 is the worst.

Here are my top 10 traits of terrible fundraisers that drive major donors away: 

10. Showing up late;

9.  Failing to do something that was promised;

8.  Talking about how great they are at raising money;

7.  Pitching or presenting instead of collaborating;

6.  Forgetting what was discussed last time;

5.  Lacking gratitude and appreciation;

4.  Pressuring, guilting or shaming;

3.  Noticeably lacking true passion for the cause;

2.  Focusing too much on organizational needs instead of on each donor’s needs;

1.  Talking too much, listening too little;

What do you think? Agree with #1? Witnessed any others? Want to add to my list?

Related Posts:

>>Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Major Donor Letters
>>Blog post: 5 traits that make a great gift officer great


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  1. evan bohnen May 30, 2018 Reply

    Well said, Greg!
    Could discuss each of the top 10 “terrible” traits in some detail. As I have worked with major gift/fund raising teams, I often spend time on # 2 with some modification. We (the institution) are not needy, but we have priorities, initiatives, and aspirations. Then, how do our priorities match up with the philanthropic interests, priorities, and objectives of our donors?

  2. David Rutledge May 30, 2018 Reply

    This is good. I was recently approached by a seminary that I graduated from, for a $100,000 donation. (They asked for a particular amount) The person who took me out for lunch talked about himself, and what he had done in the past. He has some printed material (his cost approximate $2) in his hand to give me, he never did. I never received a Thank You for my time from him.

    I felt I was treated rudely. No, I did give any money

    • Author
      Greg Warner May 30, 2018 Reply

      Sounds like he was what I call a “show-up-and-throw-up fundraiser”. Thanks for the story David. Sorry to hear that happened.

  3. Kevin Feldman May 30, 2018 Reply

    I agree, Gregory.

    Now let’s see how we remedy the situation. A bad major gifts officer doesn’t have to stay that way.

    • Author
      Greg Warner May 30, 2018 Reply

      Agreed. I think it begins with leadership and training.

  4. Failing to get their story
    Failing to validate their story

  5. Marci Seamples May 30, 2018 Reply

    Several of these are terrible traits in ANY profession. #6 is a personal pet peeve.

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