NONPROFIT BOARD RELATIONSHIPS: SHOULD THE CEO FOLLOW OR LEAD THE BOARD IN FUND-RAISING?

Who in a nonprofit organization is responsible for fund-raising? Should the CEO follow or lead the board?

By Eugene Fram

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 is at least some part-time staff 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 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.

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 calls, but in other situations, the CEO and a director made joint calls. The board chair and CEO need to clearly know those director who have the interest and drive to become involved in development. Those who lack these qualities can resign their board positions if they are pushed in the development direction. However, all directors need to be in a comfort zone to bring potential leads to the CEO.

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.

Source: Policy vs. Paper Clips- Third Edition, 2011, pp. 164-166. http://amzn.to/eu7nQl

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