September 12, 2018
As development professionals it can be difficult to know how to effectively engage your CEO in your fundraising activities and goals. In this blog post, I’ve shared 7 strategies for doing just that and provided an example of how this has worked for me in the past.
I like to think of CEOs as Networkers in Chief. Usually, they have reached the position of CEO after years spent at various management levels in their industries, and they are almost always very connected in their field. In addition to being Chief Executive Officer, the CEO is also chief strategic thinker, thought leader of the company and advocate for the organizational vision of a better world. The CEO manages, inspires and excites the board, staff, and donors about the mission and the work of the nonprofit. Community leaders, business leaders, and stakeholders will look to the CEO to set the tone for the organization. Because of the role the CEO plays, he/she will have access to the highest level of leadership in the community which is critical for spreading the organization’s message and building relationships that can lead to significant financial support.
It is the job of the development professional to not only explain to the CEO as to why he/she needs to be a fundraising partner but to help him/her understand how powerful a role he/she can play. Development professionals need to work to understand their CEO’s strengths so that they can leverage those strengths in the fundraising process. They also need to work with the CEO closely to understand his/her working style and limitations.
I lean on seven tools when encouraging CEOs to be more engaged in the fundraising process:
I had a recent experience working with an Association in which the CEO had access to many high net worth colleagues and friends who I wanted to cultivate as donor prospects. However, the CEO was very reluctant to reach out to his friend base and ask for money because he felt as if it was a form of begging.
I knew that to get the CEO to open his contact list and start to cultivate his network that we’d have to come up with a specific strategic vision. So, I worked with other executive staff members to identify one important programmatic area in which they wanted to raise money for, and we set up a plan to achieve our fundraising goals. I then set a meeting with our CEO to review our fundraising plan with the specific target. He started feeling more comfortable with the idea of asking his network of colleagues and friends for money for a specific agenda item rather than money for general organizational support.
After getting to know this CEO’s style and comfort zone, I suggested I reach out to his contacts using his name as an introduction in my email. He was supportive of this as it took the burden of solicitation away from him and helped me to form relationships of my own with his network. Once my CEO saw donations from his network of friends and colleagues coming in he felt much more relaxed and confident about fundraising in general.
Laura Tucker has more than 15 years of nonprofit fundraising experience with an expertise in donor cultivation and major gift development. Laura is a highly creative results-driven development strategist with entrepreneurial passion, drive and vision. Laura has many years of professional experience generating revenue and increasing support bases for expanding national nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Her experience includes executive and volunteer leadership roles particularly in the sciences and public safety sectors. Laura is very comfortable working with and re-organizing leadership Boards, gaining corporate philanthropic support and planning and executing consumer driven promotional fundraisers. Given Laura’s background in public relations, she can effectively articulate the mission of the organization she is representing.