Dear CEO: Are You Living up
to Your (Fundraising) Responsibilities?
Ann C. Fitzgerald, President
I get it.
As CEO, you probably feel like you are at the bottom of an avalanche most days, handling everything from the biggest strategic moves to the most mundane daily tasks.
It’s easy to lose focus, especially on fundraising. But you have a unique and irreplaceable responsibility within your organization to cultivate major donors. Many donors will expect to hear from the CEO before making a major investment. Your role cannot be 100% outsourced or assigned to staff.
Of course, as I recently wrote, you should expect good support from staff.
But to live up to your end of the fundraising deal, here’s a good list of priorities:
- Create a culture of philanthropy. Transmit a positive message about donors and donor relationships to your entire staff. Fundraising should not be a dreadful, dreary endeavor. Remember, you are sharing the joy of giving.
- Go on frequent solicitation calls. Devote at least some time on your calendar each month for meetings.
- Work closely with development team. Attend regular strategy sessions, follow up on assignments, and monitor progress.
- Keep development team informed. Share your travel schedule so the team can connect you with local donors and share notes and insights from donor calls.
- Encourage the program team to support development efforts. Fundraisers rely on the program team for programs and ideas to communicate with donors. Foster internal collaboration so the development team is well prepared.
- Hire well. Easier said than done, I know! But take the time to get the right team in place.
- Set expectations but don’t be ridiculous. Fundraising is a highly measurable activity and you should expect performance from your staff. But don’t expect one major gifts officer to bring in millions of new dollars without support.
- Expect more from your board. You are in a unique position to work with the board in a way that the development staff cannot. Encourage board members to facilitate fundraising by being advocates and connectors for your organization.
- Be honest about what you are avoiding in fundraising and why. It’s OK to admit that not everything in fundraising gives you energy. Get training or manage around it.
Fundraising is a team effort, but it also requires individual performance, especially from you. Embrace your fundraising responsibilities and you’ll be amazed at your organization’s growth!
Ann C. Fitzgerald is Founder and President of AC Fitzgerald, using her decades of experience in fundraising, management, leadership, and sales to help nonprofits build their capacity and achieve success. She is a sought-after speaker, writer, and advisor.