You and Your CEO – A Match Made in Heaven?

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Your relationship with your organization’s CEO is one of the most important partnerships in your working life. But working with a CEO can be tricky!

Read on to learn how to overcome some of the more common CEO challenges and keep your fundraising moving forward. 

Lack of Information   ->  Adopt a ‘No Surprises’ Approach

Your CEO is not up to speed on all details of your donors. It is your job to provide her with the information she needs to talk with donors or negotiate support for your organization’s mission. Utilize a ‘No Surprises’ approach so when your CEO walks into a fundraiser cocktail party or a meeting with potential donors, she’s been updated on the donor’s giving history and capacity, special interests and latest interaction with the organization.

Pay attention to your CEO’s work style and you’ll find the best ways to convey this information to her.

  • Maybe it's a hard copy briefing packet - content provided by you, compilation courtesy of the executive assistant.
  • Maybe it's an email. I once worked with a CEO who rarely read attachments. He simply did not have time. I started putting as much info as possible into the bodies of emails, and the efficiency of our communication skyrocketed.
  • Or maybe it's a chat on the drive over to an event you are both attending. You share details about key event guests and then the two of you strategize together the conversations you hope to have before the night is over.

For suggestions on what information to include, check out a sample briefing report from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. 

Hates Asking For Money -> Find Another Pretty Face

If your CEO is not a natural fundraiser, invest some time to unpack the root causes of her resistance. It may be anchored in poor past fundraising results and she just needs a few wins under her belt to build confidence. Or, your CEO’s aversion to fundraising may come from the (mistaken) belief that since she hired you, she doesn’t need to fundraise.

If ASKING is the big hurdle, let your CEO off the hook for that piece. Meet with donors as a team, let her tell the organization’s story and then you make the ask. It’s important to have the right people on the bus for fundraising. Once you’ve got them there, let them choose their favorite seat!

If you can't get her to budge, explore alternatives. Is there a board member or two who could partner with you to be the fundraising face(s) of the organization? Even a non-board volunteer can take on this role if they are dependable and committed to your organization.

Doesn’t Trust You  ->  Prove Yourself

If you are new to your organization, you might still be doing the ‘getting to know you’ dance with your CEO. This is fine—and it’s tough to rush the process. But take advantage of every opportunity to prove yourself. Grab those easy wins, and be the organization’s visible expert on all things fundraising. Keep pitching ideas and eventually the combination of time and tangible results will pay off.

Never Available  -> Take Control of Her Calendar

Last week I blogged about taking control of your own calendar. Now it’s time to exert some influence over your CEO’s schedule.

Step 1:  If an assistant manages your CEO’s calendar, MAKE FRIENDS WITH THIS PERSON. This is one of the most important internal relationships you will have. Working with her assistant (or with your CEO directly) reserve a bunch of slots on her calendar for donor meetings. Then do the legwork to fill these slots.

Step 2:  The same way you made friends with your CEO’s assistant, make friends with your donors’ assistants, too. These folks have real influence over your donors’ most precious commodity – their time.

Congratulations! - You and your CEO are building relationships with donors and doing fundraising together.

What other strategies do you use to get your CEO focused on fundraising?

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