Best Practices in Major Gift Officer Professional Development
By Bowen Marshall, Ph.D. – Executive Director for Teaching and Coaching
A recent article from the Harvard Business Review cited that in just six days after attending a training workshop, employees forget 75% of what they learned if they have no chance to utilize their newfound knowledge (Glaveski, 2019, Harvard Business Review*).
Coming from a background in higher education, the concept of forgetting information was not a new concept to me. After all, educators have long battled the dreaded “summer learning loss” which causes students to lose as much as a month’s worth of learning over summer break (Quinn & Polikoff, 2017, Brookings±). Still, the idea that we can lose three-quarters of what we previously had 100% retention of in just six days took me aback.
And even though forgetting is a natural part of life and must be addressed directly in professional development programs, we see time and time again programs that ignore the forgetting curve, result in zero behavioral change, and provide a near zero.
In my job at GG+A, it is my responsibility to ensure that our teaching and coaching programs are structured to deliver the greatest value to our clients. Across skill-building activities, whether that is working with gift officers to improve qualification outcomes or helping them create compelling gift proposals, I have identified six common practices we use to ensure gift officers not only understand best practices but that they remember and utilize them as well.
Group workshops are the first brick in the foundation of professional development. They provide the necessary concepts, ways of thinking, and language to equip gift officers with the tools to do their jobs.
- Structured practice and application are integrated components of all of our workshops ensuring that gift officers not only understand the theory of major gifts development work but also put it into practical use almost immediately.
- Individual coaching sessions follow our group workshops allowing gift officers to apply their recently learned skills directly to their portfolios and work through real-time and real-life instances impeding prospects’ movements toward solicitation.
- By working with a group of gift officers, we encourage cohort accountability that serves to reinforce lessons learned through peer interactions, peer check-ins, and peer support.
- Focusing on outcomes and metrics allows us to help gift officers track the progress of their prospects through the major gifts cycle and equip them with tools to enable them to better manage their portfolios and reach goals.
- Lastly, assessment of our program and gift officer performance allows us to understand concept retention, program impact, and adoption of best practice skills and behaviors.
GG+A’s commitment to this comprehensive set of practices is driven by our desire to help our clients meet and exceed their fundraising goals.
If you need assistance planning your next professional program or workshop, we are here to help.