For Impact


CEOs and Development

Team, Reading (Books, Articles, Blogs), Leadership and Boards | | Tom Suddes

Case Currents published this great article 10 years ago for senior staff and administrators. In a nutshell, here it is:

There are 12 qualities that make a nonprofit Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Executive Director a GREAT partner in the Fundraising/Development Department.

  1. Vision and Leadership.
    A nonprofit CEO should have:
    • A well-articulated vision of where the institution can go
    • Goals to achieve the vision
    • A credible strategic plan for meeting the goals
    Good leadership and good management of resources will inspire prospects to invest.
  2. Commitment to the Institution. A CEO should truly believe in the institution’s mission.
  3. Commitment to Development. The CEO should make fundraising a personal and institutional priority. Development should organize, develop a strategy and keep the fundraising program on track.
  4. Integrity and Honesty. Moral fiber is essential in a CEO. The consistency (or inconsistency) of responses to issues, questions, and problems will show up over time.
  5. Perseverance and Patience. Virtually every major “Ask” follows many years of cultivation. The CEO should be prepared to spend long periods of time in pursuit of a gift.
  6. Optimism. The ideal CEO believes success is possible and keeps perspective–and hope–when minor setbacks occur. Fundraising requires a positive outlook and a long view.
  7. Communication Skills. All CEO’s should learn how to speak effectively to large groups, small groups, a TV camera, and individual constituents. Being a good listener is also critical.
  8. Energy and Pacing. CEOs should work with their staff to pace themselves and handle their schedules wisely because of all the extra events, meetings, and calls after normal working hours.
  9. Openness to Advice. A CEO and Chief Development Officer CDO should be a team with complementary strengths. They should be able to share advice and ideas often and easily.
  10. A Sense of Humor. A CEO can relieve everyone’s tensions by seeing the humor in situations that go awry.
  11. Creativity. When the original plan for a solicitation falls flat, a creative CEO can keep the door open for another proposal.
  12. Understands “who should” and “how to” ask for money. Sometimes a CEO will make “the ask,” and other times a volunteer will be the primary solicitor, while the CEO supports the ask. Good CEO’s understand this duality.

A CEO should also:

  • Make the CDO a part of the policy team.
  • Trust the CDO and delegate authority.
  • Provide adequate resources.
  • Handle differences in private.
  • Support and encourage the staff.
  • Offer candid and constructive criticism.
  • Make decisions in a timely fashion.