The Top Fundraising Enemy Standing Between Gift Officer and Donor

Major gift fundraising is hard work. It’s about growing a relationship between donor and gift officer, as they work together to advance the donor’s hero story by giving big financial gifts. What is the number one fundraising enemy standing in the way of that happening?

Before we answer, let’s be clear on why this is so important.

Every great story has a hero and a villain. In fundraising, the best outcomes for nonprofits happen when the donor becomes the hero. Why? Because as the hero, they view their donation as a powerful act that requires them to overcome fears, uncertainties, and doubts in order to give to a mission that lies close to their heart. This gift becomes part of their identity. It expresses part of who they are.

When donors give from that perspective, they give big. They give sacrificially. They give beyond their capacity rating as reported by some automated wealth screening bot. See why stories matter more than metrics.

The villain in the donor’s story is therefore any person or belief system that prevents them from giving their biggest and best gift – the way they want to give it, and in their preferred timing.

Who Is This Villain in the Donor’s Story?

According to Dr. Russell James, renowned researcher into major gifts fundraising, the principle villain archetype role is best described as the Administrator.

Now, a caveat: Not all live human nonprofit administrators are villains. Dr. James gives the villain this label because it falls in line with other story archetypes such as Ruler, Jester, Sage, and Everyman. See all 12 donor archetypes.

Whether or not your administrators stand in the way of the most effective major gifts fundraising methods, it’s the thinking and belief systems that we need to be aware of. Even a gift officer could be acting as the Administrator villain, and not realize they are working against their own best interests, as well as the organization’s.

So, with that clarified, let’s look at seven ways the Administrator archetype inhibits major gifts fundraising, and every other kind of fundraising too.

7 Traits of Fundraising Enemies

Is there an Administrator working against your fundraising? Here are seven signs of this archetypical foe:

1. Treats Donors like an ATM

The Administrator views donors as cash machines that fund what the Administrator wants to do. What they are building and achieving through their organization is more important than what donors want. But they need the donor’s money to make it happen.

To them, the donor simply ought to give, because the cause is so worthy of it.

2. Uses Guilt-Trip Fundraising

If you don’t give to our organization, there’s something wrong with you.

That’s the feeling a donor gets when interacting with an Administrator acting as a fundraiser. They feel guilty for not giving. This guilt could arise from being made to feel greedy, privileged, self-absorbed, out of touch, comfortable, calloused, having an easy life, or many other uncomfortable feelings.

And this is real. We have seen actual fundraisers – CEOs, executive directors, and others – tell donors that they need to give simply because the organization deserves the money, and knows better what to do with it than the donor does. And their cause is so worthy that if you don’t give, they don’t want to talk to you anymore.

That’s the Administrator at work. Even if they do cajole a gift using this approach, it will be the last one they’ll get from that donor, and it will be far smaller than it could have been had they used donor story fundraising.

3. Inspired By Their Own Story More than the Donor’s

Administrators love hearing their own story. They work long hours, make less money, drive older cars, and live in smaller houses than they could have if they worked in ‘business’ (or so they think) – all because they care so much about the mission of their organization.

And that all may be true. And that is a great story on its own. Sacrificing for something greater than yourself is a very noble and wonderful thing.

The problem is, that’s not what motivates a donor to give a major gift. Donors give because of their story, not yours. You have to help inspire them to tell the greatest version of their own life story – through giving a major gift. Do that, and your fundraising will explode.

4. Resents Having to Raise Money from Wealthy People

The Administrator secretly loathes the people they are forced to raise money from. The reality at this point in history is that over 90% of the budgets of many organizations come from just a small handful of wealthy donors.

The Pareto Principle of 80/20 is actually stretching to even more incredible ratios.

And the Administrator despises that. They don’t like wealthy people, because they dislike what that wealth represents, and they think their organization deserves some of it, simply because their cause is great.

This language may sound extreme, but it’s not that far off from how many nonprofit executives really think and act. If you despise wealthy people, it’s awfully difficult to forge genuine relationships with them and work at helping them enhance their lives through giving.

5. Loses Donors and Raises Less Money

Administrators stink at raising money. Their methods drive donors away and turn people off. Their belief systems make donors feel unappreciated and devalued. The results are obvious: Fewer donors, less loyal donors, smaller gifts, and less money raised. Constantly going after new donors who they believe will share their vision (and because they keep losing the existing ones).

How can you spot an Administrator at work? Whenever a nonprofit’s fundraising takes a precipitous dive, there’s a good chance that someone high up in that organization is operating like the Administrator villain archetype. It could be the CEO, the ED, a key development director, or even a gift officer. It could be the board.

Or, it could be a group effort, because Administrators will hire people who think like they do. Such people will sound the most impressive to them in interviews. The Administrator archetype can thus spread throughout an organization and eat it from within.

6. Drives Gift Officers Away

Likewise, another sign of the Administrator at work is gift officers leaving in droves. The average gift officer stays at one organization for just 16 months. And that’s an average. That means a lot of them leave much sooner.


If you see that happening over and over at the same nonprofit, there’s a good chance there is an Administrator at work.

7. Sits in Position of Power

Lastly, Administrators have power. This is implied in the name.

The good news here is, there’s hope. Why? Because if you can defeat the Administrator’s way of thinking, that person will begin using their position of power to reorient the organization around helping donors tell and advance their hero stories.

That means more and bigger major gifts, and more revenue for your organization.

And for Administrators who have enough of an open mind, sometimes they can be helped to see that a better method exists for raising far more money, and thus more effectively fulfilling the mission that they really do care about.

What can you do to help an Administrator make this change?

Get them to sign up you, your team, and themselves for Donor Story: Epic Fundraising, the most groundbreaking major gifts fundraising course ever developed.

Or, do this:

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This is not a joke or a gimmick. MarketSmart has proven it to ourselves over and over again so many times that we now confidently offer a 10:1 ROI guarantee to all our new clients.

You will make ten times what you spend on our major gifts fundraising software – which is built around helping the donor advance their hero story and not the Administrator’s or the organization’s – or we refund your money. We do this through a process called ‘tech enabled donor discovery.’

Want to see how we do it?

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