For Impact



For Impact Ideas | | Tom Suddes

We work with some of the best Chief Development Officers/Vice Presidents of Advancement in the country. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single one of them struggles with priorities and focus and time.

I sketched out THE 3 HATS for the Chief Development Officer of a health care foundation last week. Seemed to create great clarity to his roles. I thought I’d share.

Here is the framework and visual for THE 3 HATS … ROLES of a Chief Development Officer in a For Impact organization. I believe this works for ‘smaller shops’, as well as large national organizations or universities/colleges.



Click here to download a copy of THE 3 HATS.

The color code is obviously tied to our IMPACT drives INCOME

  • The Blue Hat. Should be worn as a valued member of the Senior Leadership Team of the organization! The CDO/VP of Advancement should have a ‘seat at the table’. They should be engaged with strategy, the role of philanthropy in any vision or project and contribute their talent and experience to the President and Senior Team.
    The Challenge: Balancing the ‘seat at the table’ with being drug into every meeting and serving on a multitude of committees and getting caught up in Quadrant III and IV activities (Urgent, Not Important. Not Urgent, Not Important.)
    Just say ‘NO’!
  • The Red Hat. The primary reason for being hired (most likely) was to ‘manage’ development. Should be the Senior Leader/Team Leader of Development and Advancement, with responsibility for the entire division/department or foundation. Also must take prominent leadership role with the Sales Team!
    The Challenge: Micromanaging. Personnel/bus issues. Caught up in a never-ending series of ‘meetings to discuss meetings’, etc.
    This ‘hat’ demands a rigor and discipline to do only those things that move the division/department towards its goals. Also demands having the right TALENT to support the CDO’s responsibilities.
  • The Green Hat. Must be the Chief Fundraiser/Chief Income Raiser!
    In the For Impact world, I believe this role is a very important part of the Ideal Profile of a CDO. You must have a portfolio of good prospects … and lead by example around the system, visits, follow-up, results.
    The Challenge: At the end of the day or the end of the week or the end of the month … EVERYTHING ELSE has superseded the role of actually make sure we are generating INCOME … to fund the Vision/Impact.
    The simplest way I have found to deal with this is to put on your Green Hat FIRST! Set aside hours or days that are devoted to SALES! VISITS! PRESENTATIONS! ASKS!

I believe these 3 HATS provide a great metaphor to help you set priorities and, most importantly, focus on what’s important. If you were to actually break down your week or month, you might be surprised at the percentage of time you spend wearing these different hats.

As the Old Guy/Coach … I believe the CDO and Vice President should have at least an equal balance between the 3 hats (1/3, 1/3, 1/3). Better yet, for me, I would strive for 50% Green Hat … 20% Blue Hat … and 30% Red Hat.

Providence of the 3 Hats. Check out my first 3 HAT scrawl for Steve Elder at Colorado College in May of 2004. Steve still has this framed on his desk!