10 Questions to Determine If You Are on the Same Page With Your CEO
How did we choose this crazy profession? For some of us it was a passion to make a difference. For others it was a lucky or perhaps unlucky choice.
Many of us did not grow up and state on career day in school that we want to be fundraising professionals. When I began this career many moons ago I thought development was real estate development. I had no clue it involved the process of asking for money.
When I was younger, the introvert in me was scared and could not consistently gather the courage to call for the question of a gift. The extrovert in me loved a challenge and was always striving for ultimate fundraising success. Life is always a balancing act, and you need to be in balance if you want to succeed long term in this demanding field.
As a senior professional in this career you will have a mountain of obstacles to overcome. In my opinion, the most important determining factor in your job security, job satisfaction and job success is being on the "same page" as your CEO or president. If this is not the case, quit reading this blog and begin polishing your résumé.
I have been blessed or cursed to work with a number of presidents at nonprofits in my career. These individuals displayed a variety of talents and abilities. I worked with young and old leaders. Many individuals, while saying they understood philanthropy, were in fact clueless. Some completely understood resource development and the role the chief development officer played in the institution. Others were indifferent to the global importance of generating time, talent and treasure for the organization. The factor of personality and style always came into play.
The best presidents I worked under knew that resource development goal attainment was critical to the institution's success and the chief development officer's success.
If you are uncertain if you and your president are on the same page, ask yourself these 10 questions:
- Does your leader have a history of successful fundraising campaign leadership?
- If you asked your leader how important philanthropy was to him or her, would you get the answer you need?
- Does your president tell you how much he or she loves asking for money?
- Are you given the time required to take your leader on community engagement calls?
- Do you sit down with the executive team and review ongoing major fundraising priorities agreed upon by all concerned?
- Do you receive the time and access with your president and board chair to review funding plans and prospects?
- Do you and your CEO role play and strategically rehearse "asks," plus go on significant asks as a team?
- Does your president give you scheduled time each month to meet one-on-one to discuss your agenda?
- Does your president praise you publicly in front of others and have confidence in you?
- Do you and your leader have chemistry, and do your personalities blend?
These are tough questions, but you have a tough job. Have a green and red marker handy. Answer the 10 questions, and if you have positive answers mark the questions green. If you have negative answers, mark the questions red. If you have red lines, sit down with your president or CEO and strive to make all 10 lines green. You have no choice in this matter.
The dynamics of a relationship between two people are amazing and fluid. There are so many factors involved in the engagement of a senior development professional and his or her president. Unfortunately, you do not have total control of most situations. By knowing your leader and being proactive to his or her strengths and weaknesses, you should be given an amount of time to make the marriage work.
Continued high-level fundraising success helps a great deal, but even that element doesn't guarantee long-term job security. Never take anything for granted. Expect the unexpected. Whether you like it or not, you are writing a chapter in the book of the institution together for this period of time. Make sure to the best of your ability you are on the same page. Before you know it, another president will await your arrival. It is the nature of this business.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.