Leadership sets the pace

March 2, 2018

I have written in previous posts about the board and fundraising. I would like to extend that thought to the senior leadership of any charitable organization. In any fundraising initiative, it is important to have 100% financial participation from the board (and I contend the senior leadership) to set the pace.

Many grants these days have a check-box that specifically asks about board fundraising — it asks what percentage of the board donates (here’s a hint — this is a binary exercise. Either you are at 100% or you might as well be at 0%). I liken this scenario to that of a great stockbroker who tells people to invest in Stock ABC but would never be seen investing in Stock ABC herself.

In one of my former lives, I remember canvassing the CEO of the organization. He offered a gift that was substantive but not sacrificial or consequential (I call these f**k -off gifts — the donor is trying to gauge ‘what is the least amount of money that I can give you so that we can put this canvass behind us?’). I respectfully explained that if the CEO isn’t making a sacrificial gift, neither will their colleagues. He sets the ceiling. Furthermore, if the CEO is not proud of his gift, this will hinder his ability to canvass others effectively.


The same thought process goes for the leadership of the organization. Yes, we all work some crazy (unpaid) hours at a frenetic pace, but we have purposely chosen to work for a non-profit. There are certain trade-offs (perhaps a better work/life balance, definitely a better sense of making a difference in the world), but there are also certain expectations. Financial support of the organization is one of these expectations.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I always cringe when people tell me that they support the organization by ‘giving of their time’. I have yet to meet a financial institution or supplier who has accepted hours as a form of payment.

Years ago, I once encountered an enthusiastic young fundraiser who chose to make a significant donation to the cause. It also happened to be her first pledge that she had ever made in her life. Her supervisor celebrated her philanthropy and took some time for self-reflection. Then the supervisor marched into my office and augmented their own pledge to the organization, saying “If she can make a sacrifice, so can I.”

It is days like those that I am so very proud to call myself a fundraiser.

All the best folks. Be a pace-setter!