The Power of the CEO/COO in Transforming Philanthropy

As I mention in an earlier blog post, I recently had the chance to attend the Alliance for Children & Families Senior Leadership Conference in Savannah, GA. It was a great conference with some amazing facilitators conducting workshops, and I was lucky enough to find time to attend several of them. I walked away with some great new insights on “human­ serving organizations,” which I talk about in my review of the session “Transitioning to Success,” as well as the nonprofit industry in general.

Another great session was “The Power of the CEO/COO in Transforming Philanthropy,” hosted by Heather Eddy, President and COO of the Alford Group Executive Search and Gary Duncan, VP of Development for United Methodist Family Services of Virginia. During this workshop there was an abundance of active group discussion surrounding philanthropy philosophy and responsibilities of executive leadership (COOs and CEOs) and their development teams. Some participants shared that they dedicated as much as 80% toward fundraising while others only had 15% of their time available to such efforts.

Based on my own experience of managing capital campaigns and working with a number of nonprofit organizations, here are the three key takeaways that I feel are “universal truths” for fundraising and applicable to all agencies regardless of where they are located or what their mission is:

  1. The philanthropy culture is most successful when it pervades every layer of an organization. Ideally the CEO models behaviors and sets expectations to make marketing and highlighting the organization part of the day to day activities of every employee.
  2. It is important to establish a partnership and an expectation of fund development with the board of directors, the staff and other business partners.
  3. Be sure you have a reliable data to capture all relationships and investments, and use this information to create a powerful development strategy.