A common complaint Richard and I hear from major gift officers concerns their CEOs or Executive Directors and their hatred for fundraising.  Here they have people who are supposed to be the leaders of their organizations, with vision and passion, but they won’t even talk to donors or support the development team.
It’s frustrating and, quite honestly, it’s hurting your organization.  Now, I know it’s not easy to turn CEOs around on this issue, but I’ve seen it happen.  It is possible.  Therefore, I’ve put together a few ideas to help ignite a passion in your CEO to begin to love fundraising.

  1. Introduce your CEO to other CEOs of non-profits who love fundraising—Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What is that really going to do?”  But think about this:  leaders are competitive and, when they see others succeeding, they want that as well.  Getting your leader together with other leaders who understand the importance of fundraising will have an affect.  I’ve witnessed this happen when leaders get in a room with one another.  They want to know how the other became successful and what worked for his or her organization.
  2. Find a way to remind the CEO that revenue generation is one of three critical functions of a successful organization.  (See our blog on this topic.)  My point here is this:  every CEO wants to be successful and, as I mentioned in my first point, he or she also wants to be seen as successful.  Well, successful CEOs of commercial and non-profit organizations value fundraising/sales/marketing as much as they do program or product or operations and administration.  One source lists the top four traits of a successful CEO as product or program expertise, leadership ability, financial savvy and ability to pitch and close (read sales/revenue generation).  A successful CEO in a non-profit cannot be successful without revenue generation ability.
  3. Take your CEO and a major donor to see one of your programs—Now, this is important.  I’m not talking about going on a donor visit.  I’m talking about taking a donor to see your program and having your CEO with you.  Here is what is going to happen:  the CEO will hear the great things your donor will say about his or her organization’s program.  If the MGO is good, he or she will ask really good questions of the donor to help the CEO see the connection between bridging a donor’s desire and passion with the organization’s mission.  The CEO will leave with a new conviction to make this happen over and over.
  4. Tell stories—I think we’ve lost the art of storytelling and how powerful it can be to change opinions and hearts.  I would make it your mission as an MGO to continually pass along stories about your donors and what a difference you are making in their lives.  Then, show your CEO how they are impacting your organization.  In other words, go right for the heart of your CEO…until you break it.  Don’t underestimate the power of stories and how they can shape opinion and change minds.
  5. Show facts—After you have penetrated the heart of your CEO, you need to show the numbers.  Help your CEO understand how your fundraising program works.  Be proactive in showing results and always make a big deal about it.  If you are enthusiastic about showing your results, it will become infectious.
  6. Have one of your major donors speak truth to your CEO—This is a bit tricky, but I’ve seen this done well.  This can only be done by a donor you have a strong relationship with and who is respected by the CEO.  If you can get a donor to meet with your CEO and impart his or her passion and wisdom on the importance of embracing fundraising to further the organization’s mission, you will have a convert.

There you go – six ideas for you to help your CEO start to fall in love with fundraising.  This is crucial.  Your organization will never grow if your top leader cannot embrace fundraising and understand that it’s a crucial part of the job.
If you have any other ideas to impart that you have found helpful, please share.