January 10, 2015 Doug Shaw

In my last posting I wrote about the CEO’s expectations of a director of development.  This time the tables turn.  What are reasonable expectations for a director of development to place upon the CEO when it comes to raising funds?

I can’t get the CEO to do anything when it comes to asking for money,” is a very common phrase heard in the world of philanthropy.  In fact, in my personal experience, I’m surprised when a director of development tells me, “Oh, he’s a fundraiser alright!”

If the pressures of generating donated income become high enough it can, and often does, result in finger pointing.  Not good.  The director of development will lose in this conflagration.

As with last week, I’d like to spend a few minutes on expectations.  What should the advancement officer reasonably expect from the CEO?  By understanding some of the basic principles of our craft, you can avert a standoff that will cause frustration and, even worse, result in a paralyzed development program.

Here is a partial list of the reasonable expectations a development officer should be able to have regarding the CEO:

  • The allocation of time to review the annual development plan
  • The modification and approval of the plan
  • Understanding that income and expense are linked (the CEO can’t expect more money to be raised without the corresponding increase in expense)
  • Encouragement and praise when a job is well done
  • A commitment of time to provide leadership for the development director
  • A willingness to learn enough about fundraising to be supportive of the process
  • Become educated in the role of the CEO in fundraising
  • Communicate clearly to the board and the development officer, what the CEO will and will not do in building relationships with donors
  • Provide the opportunity to educate the board on their role in funding your cause
  • Willingness to share the vision of the organization with major donors or major donor prospects
  • Provide timely approvals of fundraising vehicles e.g. direct mail copy, newsletter copy, online  and electronic media content
  • Allow the development department the latitude to execute the approved plan (as long as it’s succeeding).  If it is not working, allow the development team the resources to fix the problems.
  • Participate in briefings and receive instruction from the director of development prior to meeting with specific major donors
  • Provide immediate feedback to the development officer after each major donor contact
  • Determine, with the director of development, who should make “the ask” and when it should be made
  • If the CEO is determined to be the best person to make “the ask” then the CEO should make it according to the development plan established and approved by the CEO
  • Allow the development officer access to the board and close friends of the organization in order to maximize the opportunities for successful solicitations

Perhaps the most important gift a CEO can give to a development officer is to respect their expertise and listen carefully and with a spirit of humility to his/her recommendations.


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