If you are a desperate CDO (chief development officer) or a drowning CEO, I’ll spare you the anxiety of waiting for the answer to the secret, it’s this:

Hire a Fundraising Coach

There, I said it. This topic has been percolating in me for a long time. I have been swishing it around, trying it on and testing it for the last several years. I’m finally coming out of the closet with it. This is not just one ‘strategy in your tool kit’ (a plethora of which I also teach). It’s the secret.

KeyholeThe Problem

Nonprofit CEOs know they must raise money, but often are not comfortable with this task or do not feel adequately trained to succeed in fundraising. The difficulty is the truth that most have never been taught well and do not have the skill.

These leaders are ‘supposed to’ know how to raise money and find it hard to admit to themselves, their CDO or board chair that they just do not have effective tools to succeed in this vital area of their job responsibility. Sometimes nonprofit CEOs have sold themselves into their job on their ability to raise money, but are better in their interview skills then the actual fundraising skills (I know this because I have worked with some CEO candidates privately!). Once in the job, this particular skill-deficit can lead to a financial deficit for an organization.

For the well-trained CEO, overwhelm can be an issue.

Mission, board staffing, programs, consumers, donor relationships, administration, finances, legalities, strategy, vision…supervisor, mom, dad, counselor, teacher, ethicist, coach… all of these responsibilities and roles are on the plate of the nonprofit CEO.

Where on earth does the CEO fit in strategy and process (the necessary ingredients of successful fundraising)?

The Solution

Hiring a Fundraising Coach ensures focused training in strategy and solicitation and the time element that will make all the difference. A good Fundraising Coach will teach constructive strategic formulas that teach the CEO to turn ‘fundraising’ into an organizational culture of philanthropy and-when followed- work every time.

Coaching proliferation has erupted as a business sector for a reason. People doing the work are often so busy that it is hard to find focus and to concentrate on the tasks that are not (or do not seem to be) fun or immediately fruitful. This dilemma applies exactly in fundraising for the nonprofit CEO.

Investing in a fundraising coach with a proven track record is a simple and productive solution. The investment and commitment will result in a dedicated schedule that provides a time element that is vital to success.  Once you learn the strategies and formulas that work, and how to apply them, and knowing that your Coaching Session (read: ‘reporting out’) is coming up keeps the opportunity front of mind and moves you to take the action needed to move donor relationships forward and grow income for your organization. It may be hard to believe, but my clients tell me that fundraising is rewarding and fun now that they know the strategy and formulas to use and apply.

There is no shame in having a coach. The best and brightest in every industry in the world are vocal about having a coach to help them stick to task and grow personally and professionally. It could be said that the nonprofit CEO needs it most to manage the diversity of responsibility while serving to protect the fabric of our society. This is not a ‘life coach’ or a ‘business coach’ however, this is a dedicated fundraising coach who will help the CEO make more mission happen.

A CEO can certainly invest their personal resources for professional growth so as to not ‘reveal’ this weakness to their board. Or a CEO can have a candid discussion with the board chair and together they can make a plan to shore up this skill to create future strength for the organization. Either way works. The investment pales in comparison to the long-term return of more and higher level donors feeling invested in your mission.

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Susan L. Axelrod, CFRE, PFR
Susan L. Axelrod, CFRE has worked in fundraising and philanthropy for 29 years; she coaches, trains, teaches, consults, writes and speaks in the field.
Susan L. Axelrod, CFRE, PFR

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