As a fundraiser, your relationship with your executive director (or CEO) is one of the most important working relationships of your job. I’ve written before with suggestions to maximize this key partnership and how to manage up in regards to both your executive director and your Board to keep your fundraising program moving forward.
If your executive director (ED) won't make "the Ask," your development efforts certainly don’t need to come to a grinding halt! Try these 4 tips to build both your program and the fundraising expertise of your ED at the same time. If you’re an ED or someone new to fundraising, try these tips yourself.
1. Get educated
If your ED is open to training, get her some education pronto – and preferably not by you. There are plenty of free resources available, including webinars taught by reputable experts covering a range of fundraising topics. For example, Bloomerang recently hosted a webinar by yours truly on major gift fundraising (the part on Asking begins around 36 minutes in).
Consider finding a fundraising mentor for your ED. Your local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) or other associations may offer a mentor program. AFP also offers fundraising classes, webinars, and conferences. For more targeted training, consider a fundraising coach.
2. Find another Asker
Identify another stakeholder who can ask and have that person work as a team with your ED. Of course, you could be this Asker. Or find a skilled and willing board member, volunteer or other senior staff member. During face-to-face Ask visits with donors, your ED can share the opportunity while the other person does the Ask.
3. Ensure success
Perhaps your ED comes from a background where she asked too often, or in the wrong way, and heard a lot of ‘no?’ People don’t realize how often donors say ‘yes’ when everything leading up to the Ask has been done right. Choose your ED’s first meetings strategically to set her up for success. The goal is to build her confidence and momentum in a few situations where she can get a ‘yes’ without having to work too hard for it.
You can also start small by encouraging your ED to participate in the non-Asking parts of the fundraising cycle. There’s so much more to fundraising than making the Ask! Offer some choices and give her room to spread her wings. But until she is comfortable, find someone else to do the actual Ask.
4. Share the joy!
The more successes you share with your ED and the more transparent you can be about your fundraising process, the more attractive that process becomes. It’s fun to get a win – and everyone wants to be part of a successful team. Hearing a donor agree to support your work and mission is exciting and joyful. Help your ED to feel this joy!
What are your ideas for engaging your executive director in making the Ask? Please share them in the Comments box below.
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