The CEO Is the Quarterback for Organizational Fundraising
I just learned that the CEO of my organization is leaving in three months, and his successor has been named. In my organization, executive rotation is the norm after a period of years. Still, leadership change is unsettling especially when you are the chief development officer engaged in a silent phase campaign.
I have worked with many CEOs in my career. Some understood what their role in fundraising was going to be. Others knew exactly what their role was, but chose not to engage.
According to Nonprofit Kinect, many development directors long for the CEO to be a partner in the fundraising process. Instead, many CEOs think when they hire a good development director, they do not have to be part of the fundraising process. Boards routinely think the same way, but it is just the opposite. A good development director brings out the best in each team member to achieve fundraising results.
But the point is successful fundraising is a team approach, not a one-person show. Each team member will help identify prospective donors, cultivate prospective donors, advocate for the nonprofit, ask for support from donors, recognize donor contributions and engage donors deeply in the mission. Since major donors especially want and demand to see the CEO, their role as “chief fundraising officer” is critical to fundraising success.
How do you empower a CEO to be the chief fundraiser? ELEVATE pursues this question. For a nonprofit organization to reach its full fundraising potential, the CEO must understand the role of fundraising and be a true partner to the development team in the fundraising process. CEOs must be “networkers in chief.” It is the job of the development professional to explain the role of fundraising to the CEO and help them understand the powerful role they can play.
Development officers must understand the CEO’s strengths and weaknesses in this process.
Seven ways you can encourage CEOs to be more engaged in the fundraising process are to create a strategic fundraising plan, hold strategy sessions, set calendar appointments with the CEO to review contacts, share success stories, have coaching sessions and lead. Hold CEOs accountable for their engagement in organizational fundraising.
Inc. reveals 10 personality traits that successful CEOs share:
- Ability to learn from the past
- Strong communication skills
- Building relationships
- Realistic optimism
- Listening skills
- Willingness to take calculated risks
- Reading people and adapting to necessary management styles
- Coaching employees effectively
- Thinking outside the box
Every nonprofit must have a successful resource development program to survive and thrive. The CEO/ executive director and development director/CDO relationship is vitally important to success. According to Raise Funds, this relationship can be one made in heaven or hell.
In a nonprofit organization, no single internal relationship is more important than that between the organizational leader and development program leader. One carries the responsibility of leading the organization in achieving its mission and the other must find money to make it possible. In many ways, these two individuals should be joined at the hip.
The CEO’s job is to be organization-centered and the CDO’s job is to be donor-centered. This is a basic difference that the CEO must recognize and appreciate. Together, they must be on the same page with respect to programming and fundraising.
A CDO needs to have the right temperament to work with a CEO. The CDO needs optimism, determination and the right style to work effectively with the CEO. Good CEOs set up the development staff to succeed. A CEO is the team’s quarterback and CDO/development staff is the team’s offensive line. One cannot achieve maximum results without the other.
In summary, a NonProfit PRO article hit the nail on the head. Many CEOs often restrict their fundraising to the parts of the process they are most comfortable with. The CDO needs to understand that the CEO has the prestige often required and demanded by the prospect to close significant gifts. They also have strategic information not known by the CDO that can enhance the ability for greater storytelling case enhancement, and simply to answer deep dive operational questions.
The CEO needs to understand the role of the CDO and respect that position for what it brings to the table. A CEO that understands the fundraising from a coaching perspective will win the day. Both the CEO and CDO must team up to score gifts. The competition is fierce, and working closely together is the only way you can be competitive in the fundraising arena.
I await the new CEO fundraising “quarterback” and optimistically look forward to the possibilities. By the way, I did play on the offensive line in high school football, so I am more than willing to protect my quarterback!
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.