6 Ways to Influence Your CEO to Love Fundraising
A common complaint Richard and I hear from major-gifts officers is how their CEO or executive director hates fundraising. Here they have a person who is supposed to be the one with vision and passion — but he or she won't talk to donors or support the development team.
It's frustrating, and quite honestly, it's hurting your organization. Now, I know it's not easy to turn CEOs around on this issue, but I've seen it happen. It is possible. Therefore, I've put together a few ideas for you to help ignite a passion in your CEO to start to love fundraising.
- Introduce your CEO to other CEOs of nonprofits who love fundraising. I know what you're thinking. "What is that going to really do?" But, think about this. Leaders are competitive. And when they see others succeeding, they want that. Getting your leader with other leaders who understand the importance of fundraising will have an effect on him or her. I've witnessed this happen when leaders get in a room with one another. They want to know how the others became successful and what works for their organizations.
- Find a way to remind the CEO that revenue generation is one of the three critical functions of a successful organization. Every CEO wants to be successful, and as I mentioned in my first point, he or she also wants to be seen as successful. Successful CEOs of commercial and nonprofit organizations value fundraising/sales/marketing as much as they do program or product or operations and administration. One source lists the four top traits of a successful CEO as product or program expertise, leadership ability, financial savvy, and ability to pitch in and close (read sales/revenue generation). A successful CEO in a nonprofit cannot be successful without revenue-generation ability.
- Take your CEO and a major donor to see one of your programs. I'm not talking about going on a donor visit. I'm talking about taking a donor to see your program and having your CEO with you. Here is what is going to happen. The CEO will hear the great things your donor will say about his or her organization's program. If the MGO is good, he or she will ask really good questions of the donor to help the CEO see the connection between bridging a donor's desire and passion with the organization's mission. The CEO will leave with a new conviction to make this happen over and over.
- Tell stories. I think we've lost the art of storytelling and how powerful it can be to change opinions and thoughts. I would make it your mission as an MGO to continually pass along stories about your donors and what a difference you're making in their lives. Then, show your CEO how they are impacting your organization. In other words, go right for the heart of your CEO ... until you break it. Don't underestimate the power of stories in how they can shape opinion and change minds.
- Show facts. After you have penetrated the heart of your CEO, you need to show the numbers. Help him or her understand how your fundraising program works. Be proactive in showing results, and always make a big deal about it. If you are enthusiastic about showing your results, it will become infectious.
- Have one of your major donors talk truth to your CEO. This is a bit tricky, but I've seen it done right. This can only be done with a donor you have a strong relationship with and who is respected by the CEO. If you can get a donor to meet with your CEO and impart his or her passion and wisdom on the importance of embracing fundraising to further the organization's mission, you will have a convert.
There you go, six ideas for you to help your CEO start to fall in love with fundraising. This is crucial. Your organization will never grow if your top leader cannot embrace fundraising and understand it's a large part of the job.
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.