If the top doesn’t own it, the odds don’t favor success

In a nonprofit organization who’s responsible for fund-raising?

The CEO is the advance guard when it comes to fund-raising. First and foremost, he/she has to be alert to all places where the CEO can raise funds on his/her own initiative. This involves everything from developing grant requests to understanding about national and local sources that may support the organization’s goals. Hopefully, there are at least some part-time staffers to assist the CEO. But lacking these resources, the survival of the organization can be linked to the CEO’s ability to raise funds

The CEO’s next responsibility is to work closely with board directors who have development backgrounds, skills, contacts and the interest to expand the efforts to attract resources from a wider range of organizations and individuals. This is usually a small group. Although some board members may be affluent and may make substantial contributions to the organization themselves, they may hesitate to become involved in the organization’s development effort. When pressed to become involved with development, some directors may completely disengage from the nonprofit. The ones I observed in this category have had moderate commitments to the mission. But they feel work-family obligations need to have priority.

Here is an example:

A nonprofit group identified a community need that fell within its mission and designed a program that would assist the specific population in need. The program was taken before the board, which agreed to move ahead with it, after substantial discussion. Several board directors were requested to assist the CEO in opening doors or in making calls. Some board members volunteered to make their own calls, but in other situations, the CEO and a director made joint calls. The board chair and CEO needed to clearly identify directors who have the interest and drive to become involved in development. The ones that lacked these qualities can resign their board positions if they are pushed too far in the development direction. However, all directors need to be in a comfort zone to bring potential leads to the CEO’s attention.

Here is a simple analogy in regard to fund-raising:

When it comes to raising funds, consider the CEO the forward scout looking for potential sources of funds. The board – the cavalry – is called to support that effort and broaden the base of support. In other words, the scout gives the signal, but the cavalry is needed to take the objective. The process is rarely this structured, but the analogy clarifies development roles.