Control, Ego Stifles Culture of Philanthropy
This week I was visiting with a great mentor—an incredible philanthropist, board member and fundraiser. We are both fans of a friend who recently left a university where the president did not allow anyone else to engage with its top donors and prospective donors.
While some CEOs may have this stance because they believe that top donors deserve access to the organization’s leader, others may have this stance for control of donors, control of their boards and to develop the perception that they are the indispensable fundraisers.
In any case, this approach does not build a culture of philanthropy or teamwork among volunteers or staff. Last year, I received an update from a CEO to his campaign steering committee. It noted all the visits that he had been making—no recognition of what the volunteers were doing, just a list of their visits. This doesn’t motivate a volunteer—he or she would be happy to just let the CEO make all of the visits.
Years ago, when I was chief development officer for a major nonprofit, my CEO really got the concept that John R. Mott so well-articulated—the multiplier effect. If you have more people engaged in fundraising and relationship building, you can do more. So, at this nonprofit, my CEO had many of the top prospective donors in his portfolio, but I had many others and some other key staff had yet others. The CEO realized that some personalities and approaches resonate more with some donors. It was a tailored approach for the donors—not for the CEO’s ego or control.
To be the most effective CEO, you have to put ego and a desire to control aside. Fundraising is a team endeavor. Be wary of those who want to control every aspect and who are drawn to the limelight.
You’ll need to build a volunteer and staff team, focus on the donor needs and interests, and not be afraid to put others in the spotlight. Then, your star will burn brighter and longer. Your organization will be stronger. You will be far more successful and your donors will have a far better experience!
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.