Fundraising with Nonprofit Leadership – Four Steps to Managing Up

13/11/2015 at 09:20 Leave a comment


Collaboration is the key here (everywhere) and a lot of organization.

I learned how to manage up, cajole, inspire, facilitate, encourage and succeed in fundraising with leadership on political campaigns. I know nonprofit leadership (CEO, COO, CFO, Program Directors etc.) are busy with anything but fundraising – compared to a political candidate – Ha!

For me the keys to success are:

  1. Excellent timing and time management
    • Leadership has very little “extra” time, which may be how they view their role in fundraising. Sometimes I have scheduled time to talk fundraising, make calls, share briefs and prepare for donor meetings. Other times it’s a walk with me chat or “elevator moment.” See #2.
  2. Being prepared and organized
    • This means anytime the leader is ready, has time or is willing – I am prepared. I know who the donors are, next steps and what I need the leader to do. I am prepared to share/ask in any scenario in #1. And the donor briefs they need to be successful are clear, short and preferably one page.
  3. Agreed expectations, roles and responsibilities
    • So I know this may be a pipe dream – but if you’re interviewing for a job – know up front where fundraising falls in priority for leadership. I will stand by #1 and #2 to get #3.
  4. Setting minimums
    • I think this is the key to managing leadership fundraising. And maybe it should be #1, but if you don’t have the first three – this doesn’t matter. I am firm believer in protecting leadership time. I want development to be seen as a well oiled machine. That means, we have decided on what the minimum gift is for a leader to cultivate, solicit or steward. And when you get to that number – the leader’s portfolio gets very focused.
    • On the donor side – this is also about access – and not every donor should have 1×1 access to a leader. The leader’s portfolio gift size depends on the organization and fundraising goals. Just let me say, a major gift officer should not think the nonprofit CEO or other leader should be closing every gift. Or just because a donor says they want to talk to the leader we say yes.

Personally, I don’t think any leader should be seeing a donor for less than high six figure gifts (really seven figures) or cultivating a donor with the capacity and interest to make that gift in the next three months. But hey, that’s just me.

This my friends is the ultimate learning from political fundraising – you pay (make an appropriate sized gift) to gain access. I know it sounds harsh – but in the short and long term – this is not only how we manage up successfully but raise more money.

Entry filed under: Fundraising, Nonprofit fundraising. Tags: , , , .

Vietnam Bracelets and Veteran’s Day 10 agreements for a happy and well-functioning team (aka, how to not suck as a coworker) by Vu Le

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