Stranger in the room

“I expect my development team to raise the money. That’s their job.” – nonprofit leader

“I haven’t met with the president in the past five months. I can’t work like this.” – nonprofit fundraiser


As we work with nonprofits one of the common complaints that surfaces from development staff and CEOs is the lack of time to meet and strategize about fundraising. When we pull the layers back from an unsuccessful operation, what usually surfaces are a lack of communication and a lack of a working relationship between those charged with fundraising and the CEO.

We hope you won’t find yourself in such a position. It is not inevitable. Here is one simple – but not so easy suggestion that can help offset potential estrangement between the CEO and the top fundraising person.

Meet at least once a week. Email and phone calls are not enough. Meet in person or by video conference to make sure that each person knows the priorities of the other. The fundraiser needs to know the CEO’s schedule – who they will be talking and meeting with. With this information, the fundraiser can prompt the CEO about potential donors, funders, or partners who may be participating in the conversation. They can provide select talking points to help advance a relationship or solicitation. Likewise, the CEO can ask her fundraiser, what do you think would be the best way to engage this individual? What has been their history with our organization?

With a minimum of weekly communication there is the opportunity for each person to know the organization’s “critical numbers.” Here’s what we mean: what is the organization’s fundraising goal for the year, and how much progress has been made towards that goal? (Example, $700,00 raised towards $1 million goal. That is good news during the second month of the year, and bad news on the last day of the year.) Each party should know who the top prospective donors are, the ask amount, and where the organization is in the solicitation cycle.

Related to this, meeting regularly helps build a strong personal and professional relationship between the two. Over time both parties can develop trust and respect. This comes through keeping one’s word and doing what one agrees to do. Simple acts, but they are foundational.

When meeting regularly, both parties will have time discuss items such as the organization’s mission, vision, goals, and fundraising priorities; the case for support; fundraising plan; and strategic plan. Together they can ensure the CEO is involved in cultivating and solicitating major donors (or at least has knowledge of the strategy if it does not directly include her). They can review and update the timeline and action plan they are both working from, along with the gift chart. As circumstances dictate, they can agree to expand or contract time allocated to fundraising during a week, and they will know the impact such a decision may have.

When the CEO and fundraising team are connected there’s no stranger in the room!


Don’t forget:


Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2021 Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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