10. Your CEO Must Be Your Number 1 Fundraiser

A foundation agreed to underwrite a pre-campaign study for a college and asked us to call the president and chat about our capital campaign services. I called and got the president’s voicemail message saying he was out of the office on donor visits. My next attempt also failed because the president once again was making donor visits. When we finally caught up, I commended him on his performance, he merely stated, “I was just out doing my job.” I loved it. Remember the fundraising adage, “See the people. See the people. See the people. And see what God will do!” Prior to a campaign, this president was out in the field calling on donors, building, and enhancing relationships.

If you are the CEO, president, executive director, or head of school, you must become the number one fundraiser in your organization. Major donors want to talk with the boss. The larger the gift requests, the more you need to be involved. Major donors ask major questions, which is how they got to be major donors. Your major donors, foundation directors, and business owners who will potentially contribute to your capital campaign want answers about your outcomes and to hear your vision for the future. They want to sit across the table, look you in the eye, and decide, “Do I trust this person will do what they say they plan to do?” Major donors make their giving decisions based on their confidence in your leadership.

One of the first things Bill did as new head of school was to have lunch with John, the former head of school. They talked about the school’s history, challenges and opportunities, and John’s opinion about where the school was and where it could go. John wished Bill well and offered to help any way he could. Bill responded, “John, the greatest help you could give me would be to introduce me to all the former board members.” John was surprised, but Bill was serious. So, John diligently scheduled breakfast, lunch, and coffee with twenty-seven former board members over the next six weeks. Those conversations started some key relationships with major donors who eventually supported the next capital campaign.

When major donors ask tough questions, they expect answers. Most CEO’s must be involved in the four R’s of your advancement plan: Constituent relations; public relations (branding); student or volunteer recruitment, and fundraising. Your leadership in these areas will encourage your entire organization and set you on course for a conundrum-free campaign.

About the Author: Pat McLaughlin President/Founder – Pat started The Timothy Group in 1990 to serve Christian ministries as they raise money to advance their missions. TTG has assisted more 1,800 Christian organizations around the world with capital, annual, and endowment campaigns. More than 25,000 of Pat’s books, Major Donor Game Plan, The C Factor: The Common Cure for your Capital Campaign Conundrums, and Haggai & Friends have helped fundraisers understand the art and science of major donor engagement. Pat makes more than one hundred major donor visits annually and provides counsel to multiple capital campaigns.

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