Donovan's Donor Diary

If you are trying to raise money for your favorite charity/cause, Donovan's Donor Diary provides you with facts, tips and best practices on how to raise millions of dollars for people, pets and the planet.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Five Tips for Fund Raising Staff in Working with the CEO and Board

Tip # 1. Lead from behind.

The adage, “lead, follow, or get out of the way,” does not apply to fund raising practitioners. As a former boss once told me over twenty years ago, “When a picture is taken celebrating any fundraising success, you are to be behind the camera not in the picture.” That's still sage advice today. As a consultant and having been involved in over 200 client engagements, I have seen dozens of fundraising staff try to lead their CEO and Board in the fund raising process. The trick is to involve them in the planning of the fund raising program right from the start, be it annual giving, a capital campaign, planned giving program or endowment campaign. As the plan evolves, ownership of action items has to be evenly distributed, including the CEO and at a minimum, the development committee of the Board. Leadership for fundraising must always come from volunteers not paid staff. Hold a day long retreat devoted to discussing your fundraising goals and strategies to achieve them. Remember: He who tries to lead the Board, ends up -- front and center --in the unemployement line.

Tip #2. Good management is good for fundraising.

Identify what strengths and skills your CEO and Board have and how these can positively impact your fundraising programs. Too often expectations of the CEO are unrealistic. How many times have you heard this comment, "I was hired to run this place, you were hired to raise the money." If your CEO is a good manager, keeps expenses down, gets clean audit reports, all of this helps fund raising. If your CEO has social skills and isn't a "greenshades nerd" get him in front of key donors and prospects so he can talk about the effective and efficient manner in which your organization is run. Donors today are asking tougher questions of CEO's, so they must be prepared to particpate in this fundraising process. Donors want to give to well managed organizations. As for your Board, less than one-third of it will have the required skills or contacts to participate in your fundraising program. Identify that third and get them all the training they will sit for. Don't let anyone tell you 100% of your Board must be engaged in fundraising. It will never happen. On the other hand, 100% of the Board should give. Remember: No coach ever succeed, in any sport by focusing on his players' weaknesses.

Tip #3. It's about the messenger, not the message.

Use the outside voice of experience to send the message you want your CEO and Board to hear. For example, strategically your organization has been challenged by the government or others to go to the next level of programs and services for those you serve. New innovative methods are needed. By doing so, fundraising results may have to double or triple in the next couple of years. This is scarey stuff. It's tempting to just coast. The CEO and Board start looking at you and ask, "Can we double or triple our giving?" You don't want to be put in that corner. What the CEO and Board really need is a dose of courage. They need somone like them who has been through this at another agency tell them, "You can do this, I know I did it when I was CEO of my agency. Here's how." This tactic has worked many times for my clients. Once I had the CEO of the local YMCA as guest speaker at a client retreat where the agency was facing this same issue. It worked. Why? It was who was sending the message, not so much the message. Remember: fundraising is like business, you must take risks.

Tips #4.
Communicate like a pilot.

Today on some airlines you can tune into the pilot's channel and listen to all the chatter during the entire flight. If you have listened, did you notice how pilots communicate with the air traffic controllers or pilots of other aircraft? "Delta 165, this is Orlando Traffic Control, you are clear for takeoff on runway, 2 niner." The pilot responds by saying, "Roger Orlando, Delta 165 clear for takeoff on 2 niner." In other words, message sent, message understood, message acknowledged. If you want to succeed in fundraising with your CEO and Board, pick up the phone or walk down the hall and deliver your message "live." Don't send emails or leave voice messages for important matters. So much is lost in online communication. Whatever happened to dropping by the CEO's office for a chat? When you speak to someone, before the conversation is over you must know if your message was heard and understood. We see so much wasted time in client engagements due to fundraising staff sending emails that often don't get through or voice messages that are overlooked or never received. Remember: Thousands of flights take off and land safely in the U.S. everyday because pilots know the importance of communication.

Tip # 5. Act like a pro
. Always.

Too often staff becomes too familiar with the Board and starts thinking they are like them -- rich, powerful, influential. Staff is on tap, not on top. You are the hired help. Your job is to fund the goals the Board has set for your organization. If you want to win over your CEO and Board, look, talk and act like a real professional. Check your hurt meter at the door. Fundraising is a tough business. There is always the temptation to think of your Board as "family." Then you take it a step further and start believing your Board "loves" you. Wrong. Your spouse loves you, your kids love you. Your boss and your Board like you. They will respect you and help you succeed if you make every effort to raise every dollar you can within the budget and resources you have. Remember: When you think the board members are your pals, watch out, you are about to get fired.

More Tips

Fundraising staff come and go. So do CEO's and Board members. The institution remains, lives on, endures, long after others have left.

Work hard to put in place all the best fundraising practices you can so your organization can succeed long after you leave it, but don't be surprised that six months after you are gone, your replacement changes everything.

Know the difference between asking your CEO for help and asking him to do your work.

To enage board members, ask them for their advice on special matters. They will be flattered.

When your CEO asks for your opinion, give it to him straight, don't hold back, don't be timid. And, always keep confidences.

Your job isn't to make your CEO look good. Don't pander or be a handler. Your job is to do your job. If you do it right, that will make both your CEO and Board look good.

Practice the wisdom of the greatest management consultant ever, Peter F. Drucker. "It's not important to get things done. It's important to get the right things done."

Hope to hear from you.

Jim Donovan

Email: Phone: 407-321-0024 Fax 407-321-0609
Mail: P.O. Box 471438 Lake Monroe, FL 32747-1438

Jim Donovan