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VOL. 127 | NO. 28 | Friday, February 10, 2012

Pearl and Mel Shaw

Buck Stops With Nonprofit Execs

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

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Editor’s Note: This is the third in a five-part series on roles and responsibilities.

It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as a nonprofit executive. And a lot of work! You are the CEO and chief development officer. That means fundraising. Even if you have a vice president for advancement or a development director. At the end of the day the proverbial “buck” stops with you.

The fundraising expectations are real, whether the board tells you explicitly or not. Major responsibilities include articulating the organization’s vision and working with the board and development team to create a case for support that drives fundraising. You also have to collaborate with the development office to ensure the organization works from an agreed-upon fundraising plan. That’s the beginning.

You need to work closely with the board, development staff and fundraising volunteers, providing motivation and asking hard questions. Examples include, “How many prospective major donors have we identified and how many are we cultivating?” “Who is researching prospective grant opportunities?” “How is the board progressing with its goal of hosting 10 friend-raisers this year?” and “Who should I meet with when I am in Washington next month?”

In most cases you are the face and voice of the organization. That means scheduling time to meet with community leaders as well as current and prospective donors/funders to develop and sustain relationships. And to solicit gifts.

As the executive, you are truly the chief development officer, regardless of how many development employees there are. At the end of the day, donors, funders and partners want to meet the executive director. And when it comes to major donors, many want to meet with you before making a meaningful gift. Many major donors expect you to “make the ask.” They will not write a check because you send a direct-mail letter. Most will not make a major gift online. They expect you to ask.

In addition to asking, you have to manage your development staff. You are responsible for ensuring they work from a development/fundraising plan, that they have the resources they need (people, funding, software, marketing materials) and that they are making progress. You have to know how to guide and support your development team. And how to provide them with measurements they are held accountable to. Quick tip: Those measurements have to be more than “meet annual fundraising goal.”

One of your most important responsibilities is to partner with the board chair in the recruitment and retention of board members and volunteers who are committed to fundraising. This is one of the most important “resources” the organization needs to be successful. People truly give to people. And volunteers – board members and others – can help transform your organization in meaningful ways, if you engage them. Be open, accessible, prepared and unafraid to ask. You will do well. Your organization believes in you.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help nonprofit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of “How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors.” Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call 522-8727.

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