Chief Development Officers Have to Connect With Donors
Twice in the past month I visited with a CEO who had the sinking feeling that it was time to replace the nonprofit's chief development officer. The reason in both instances: a failure to connect with people.
Both explained that unless pushed, their chief development officers would go to events and prefer to sit at their tables and not connect with the guests. I had met both of these fundraising professionals and I was amazed.
The similarity of these two situations is uncanny. I know many fundraising professionals who are outgoing. I know many who are more reserved. But those who are very successful share a passion for their organizations' missions and for genuinely connecting with people.
One of my fundraising heroes and a great mentor, Jerry Panas, is a charismatic person. Part of his charisma is his ability to listen intently, ask questions and genuinely care.
Whether you are more outgoing or more reserved, you have to have a passion about your mission and a driving desire to connect with people who can partner with you to fulfill your mission. I am more reserved by nature, but when I am in a role like these two chief development officers, I welcome people I do not know, engage strangers in conversation and enjoy public speaking.
You also must be sincere in this desire. That means connecting with everyone when you are in broader settings. A few years ago I stood in a football sky suite and watched the institution’s new vice president for development enter the room, scan the room for who he wanted to see and just approach one person out of a group of 30. It was transparent and obvious. I was not the only one to notice and talk of this fundraising professional’s insincerity.
To fulfill your potential and your organizations’ mission, you have to be proactive in genuinely connecting with people.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.