Are you a hiring manager looking to add new talent to your team? Or are you in annual giving, donor relations, or a related role and think you’d like to become a major gifts officer? Maybe you know someone in sales whom you think could be successful in fundraising.

How do you assess whether someone (yourself, perhaps) is capable and ready for major gift responsibilities?

Competencies for major gifts professionals can be grouped into three significant areas:

1. Communication:

These skills not only include phone and written communications abilities, but also touch on presentation skills and the capability to effectively present a case for support that inspires and persuades donors.

Perhaps the most important communication skill is listening. Listening is key to understanding how to customize your other interactions for maximum impact.

2. Values:

This area includes ethics, trust, drive, and expertise. While some aspects of these values can be specific to organizational cultures and geographic locations, they address several dimensions of an honest, action-oriented, and productive work commitment that must be present for a development professional to truly succeed.

Keeping momentum going in donor relationships is vital if contributions are to be secured. Fundraisers without proactive work habits frequently miss opportunities to influence donor deliberations at key steps along the way.

Of course, development professionals must act with integrity if they are to build trust-based relationships with internal and external constituencies. Additionally, strong knowledge of the professional landscape, industry trends, and giving policies and procedures help position a top performer to fulfill the role of trusted philanthropic advisor in donor interactions.

3. Association:

While the ability to focus on the donor, rather than one’s organization, is a necessary skill in the toolkit of successful development professionals, so are approachability and the willingness to be vulnerable in interactions that elicit the donor’s personal story.

Compassion and interpersonal savvy, which inform timing and empathy, are especially important in the development profession. Strong association skills are significant factors in differentiating “sales” people from those who truly care about philanthropy and engage a donor-centric philosophy in their interactions with donors and potential donors.


Taking a detailed and purposeful look at the entire range of attributes that contribute to fundraising success can help identify those who are ready for their next professional step, and assist in recognizing who would benefit most from customized professional development to address skills and abilities that need strengthening.


Click below to download “Competencies for Major Gift Professionals” —a structured approach to assess skills among prospective new major gifts officers.

Download “Competencies for Major Gift Professionals”