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Should the Nonprofit CEO Follow or Lead the Board in Fundraising?

The nonprofit CEO should be a leading partner with the board in development. The CEO is the advanced guard when it comes to fundraising. First to be successful, the CEO has to be alert to all places where funds can be raised with the CEO’s own initiative. This involves everything from developing grant requests to understanding national and local sources that may support the organization’s goals. Hopefully, there is at least some part-time staff to assist the CEO. The survival of many nonprofit organizations 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 directors may be affluent and may make substantial contributions to the organization themselves, they may hesitate to become involved in the organization’s development effort. If pushed too far in the development directions, some can resign their board positions.

Third, the CEO needs to have a modicum of interpersonal and leadership skills to meet fundraising challenges. In some development situations, success might only require introductions, while in other situations, it might require significant leadership skills and/or board financial support for the CEO to join outside professional or social groups.

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 to 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 development calls, but in other situations, the CEO and a director made joint calls. As stated above. the CEO is in partnership with the board. The board chair and CEO need to clearly know those directors who have the interest and drive to become involved in development.

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 give the signal, but the cavalry is needed to take the objective.

Dr. Eugene Fram

About the Contributor: Dr. Eugene Fram

Dr. Eugene Fram is Professor Emeritus, Saunders College of Business, Rochester Institute of Technology. A well-established nonprofit author, consultant, board chair and volunteer director, he has served on 12 nonprofit boards and a number of business boards. In addition, Fram is the author or co-author of more than 125 journal articles on marketing, nonprofit and corporate governance issues. He is also the author of the new third edition of Policy vs. Paper Clips, a book that describes a trust-based nonprofit governance model that has been adopted or adapted by thousands of nonprofit organizations. His book can be located at:

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