Train your CEO to be a fundraiser

How do you train your CEO to be a fundraiser?

Jeff Schreifel provides excellent advice in his article, 6 Ways to Influence Your CEO to love Fundraising, in the online magazine Fundraising Success.

Most CEO’s are just shy about fundraising and not sure how to get started. Here are a few examples from my own experience that align with Jeff’s excellent overview.

Back in the early 90s, I was the first hire of a newly appointed executive director for a statewide environmental organization. My boss was promoted into this position from his previous job as director of programs. While he certainly had been involved with some grant work and interacted with the board of directors, he had little direct experience with major gift fundraising and approached it reluctantly.

Over a decade later, he was a seasoned fundraiser and had grown the organization from a $1 million to a $4 million operation, including cutting the ribbon on a gorgeous, award-winning, environmentally-friendly building.

Here are a few examples from the start of his journey.

1. Get critical fundraising buddies. A few of our board members who were major donors and experienced fundraisers themselves saw it as their responsibility to take him under their wing. These individuals introduced the executive director to other major donors, accompanied him on cultivation and solicitation visits, and modeled the fundraising behaviors that he would come to develop himself. Of course, they were also sending a pretty clear message that fundraising was part of the job.

2.  Meet donors and prospects who intersect with the CEO’s program interests. Among our donors, we had a number of local manufacturing businesses. As development director, I worked with our executive director to get out and visit these individuals at their manufacturing sites. We walked many a shop floor, viewing the latest pollution prevention investments and hearing the heartfelt stories of people trying to do the right thing but sometimes being thwarted by ineffective environmental regulations. Our CEO found most of these meetings to be extremely rewarding, increasing his personal insight into on-the-ground practical application of environmental regulations. A number of these business owners grew to become major financial champions of the organization.

3.Hang out with other CEOs who are good at fundraising. The prior CEO was already a member of an informal support network of the other environmental CEOs in New England. This group got together periodically to discuss program and government issues, to compare notes on management or fundraising, and to just generally learn from each other.Having successful peers talk about their own major gift and foundation work was an important motivator.

4. Practice. Practice. Practice. Our CEO got better at major gift fundraising by doing it over and over again.  As the development director, it was my part of my job to manage that activity. I was responsible, directly or through my staff, for ensuring our CEO had a list of prospects to visit, to make sure duties were assigned and strategies coordinated and to support and follow up on my CEO’s activities.


Need more help on how to fundraise?

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed in your small shop, get yourself a copy of The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits. You’ll find great advice from 8 nationally know fundraisers who have spent their own time in the trenches. Buy it on Amazon today!

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