Role Of The CEO In Fundraising Excellence

Role Of The CEO In Fundraising Excellence

Although the Board's role in fundraising is frequently discussed, it's crucial to focus on the role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in this endeavour.

In a recent session with a non-profit CEO's circle, I explored the subject of resourcing the mission, and identified knowledge and mindset as the two main obstacles to strategic fundraising.

As the non-profit’s management lead, the CEO reports to the Board of Directors and is responsible for creating and implementing a long-term strategy that supports the organisation's mission. This leadership position requires decision-making that guarantees that all day-to-day operational needs are met for implementing the non-profit’s short and long-term plans. Finance, human resources, and operations are domains that are deeply ingrained in the CEO's formal education and experience. However, fundraising is often viewed as an art with little structure. Hence it is typically conducted using approach and process, that lack technical rigour to enable performance evaluation.


The mindset for resourcing the non-profit’s mission through fundraising is essential for enabling organisational strategies. Thus, reducing dependence on any single major funding source to deliver social good programs, whether it is government, restricted grants, or service income.

The CEO must manage and measure all operational and cultural aspects of performance across the organisation, including fundraising. Creating a culture of fundraising throughout the organisation is the CEO's responsibility. When fundraising opportunities are missed due to inter-departmental (finance, communications, program) approvals and one-size-fits-all risk-management processes, it highlights the CEO's inability to ensure that one management process does not impede another.

By understanding and adopting these mindsets and practices the non-profit CEO can play a pivotal role in fundraising excellence.


Skillsets that effective CEOs require for fundraising excellence include, directing, staying focused on the fundraising strategies, and keeping the implementation process on their radar. Here are some frameworks to assist the CEO in taking a portfolio approach to fundraising.

The CEO must focus on the key drivers of performance and related action plans rather than getting involved in the transactional discussion of the fundraising team. 'Work on the fundraising rather than in the fundraising' is a crucial adage for the CEO to keep in mind.

To motivate action, CEOs must proactively schedule and use interactions to develop and improve relationships with key donors, supporters, and external stakeholders. These interactions are effective when the CEO knows what needs to be achieved, is well-prepared, communicates messages tailored to the audience, and provides a clear call to action.

The following action steps were identified by the CEOs’ circle to help address the possibilities and gaps identified in the areas of mindset change and fundraising knowledge development:

Changes in mindset of CEOs:

Here are the reflections from nonprofit leaders to the question: How will the insights discussed, change the way we presently work?

·       “Important for board and management buy-in and support for more effective fundraising.”

·       “Need to be more deliberate when it comes to fundraising but yet to be authentic and sincere.”

·       “Building capability circles. How can we make that work? Need to “professionalise” the work of fundraisers.”

·        “It is a good reflection in the new giving approach e.g. subscription vs giving and educating donors in need for admin work as part of the package.”

·       “Fundraise more effectively.”

Application of the knowledge gained:

Here are some specific steps the CEOs set for themselves when asked: What next steps will you be taking related to fundraising?

·      “Investing in developing recurring donations.”

·      “Have more conversations with the Board, be more strategic and build culture.”

·      “Set up fundraising team that comprises Board, ED, cross function staff.”

·      “Diving into data mining and developing strategic approach.”

·      “Review current data mining efforts.”

·      “Identify a pathway to get from fundraising as a function to having a organisational culture of fundraising. Share that with board and management team. Craft steps together for one key priority. Implement and track effectiveness.”

·      “Consider increasing the investment in fundraising. Explore the new areas introduced in the sessions.”

·      “To invest in the fundraising team.”

·      “Restructure with greater engagement and regular accountability from Board in directing fundraising.”

This engagement and input from the CEOs have been incorporated into the ‘Fundraising Masterclass’ curated with the leaders in mind, to enhance their fundraising knowledge and grasp the key elements of a mindset focused on resourcing the mission.

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