Your Personal Fundraising Coach...


Written for Bloomerang website in 2015: []--STILL RELEVANT TODAY!!!

How 'On Track' are you towards this year's fundraising goals?

If you are a desperate CDO (chief development officer) or a drowning CEO, I’ll spare you the anxiety of waiting for the answer to The Secret, it’s this:

Hire a Fundraising Coach

There, I said it. This topic has been percolating in me for a long time. I have been swishing it around, trying it on and testing it for the last several years. I’m finally coming out of the closet with it. This is not just one ‘strategy in your tool kit’ (a plethora of which I also teach). It’s the secret.

The Problem

Nonprofit CEOs know they must raise money, but often are not comfortable with this task or do not feel adequately trained to succeed in fundraising. The difficulty is the truth that most have never been taught well and do not have the skill.

These leaders are ‘supposed to’ know how to raise money and find it hard to admit to themselves, their CDO or board chair that they just do not have effective tools to succeed in this vital area of their job responsibility. Sometimes nonprofit CEOs have sold themselves into their job on their ability to raise money, but are better in their interview skills then the actual fundraising skills (I know this because I have worked with some CEO candidates privately!). Once in the job, this particular skill-deficit can lead to a financial deficit for an organization.

For the well-trained CEO, overwhelm can be an issue.

Mission, board staffing, programs, consumers, donor relationships, administration, finances, legalities, strategy, vision…supervisor, mom, dad, counselor, teacher, ethicist, coach… all of these responsibilities and roles are on the plate of the nonprofit CEO.

Where on earth does the CEO fit in time for strategy and time for process (the necessary ingredients of successful fundraising)?

IS THIS SCENARIO FAMILIAR: You attend a fundraising training course that offers a great break from your work and very useful material. You commit in your mind to implementing all of these tools and techniques as soon as you get back. However, the minute you get back to your office you are back at the grind. The useful materials sit on the floor behind your desk, taunting you to reach for them, to adapt/adopt and use in the way you learned at the session, but this creates further anxiety because you simply don't have the time. And, because you'll have to teach everyone else, and you realize that you don't know if it will 'work.' This weighs on you; the materials get covered by other 'To Do' items and a year later you come across them when going through the pile. much did you pay to attend that course?

The Solution

Hiring a Fundraising Coach ensures focused training in strategy and solicitation and the time element that will make all the difference. A good Fundraising Coach will teach constructive strategic formulas that teach the CEO to turn ‘fundraising’ into an organizational culture of philanthropy and-when followed-the strategies work every time. The greatest benefit is that a Fundraising Coach comes right to your office-virtually-on your timeline, and is available at your convenience to answer questions. 

Coaching proliferation has erupted as a business sector for a reason. People doing the work are often so busy that it is hard to find focus and to concentrate on the tasks that are not (or do not seem to be) fun or immediately fruitful. This dilemma applies exactly in fundraising for the nonprofit CEO.

Investing in a fundraising coach with a proven track record is a simple and productive solution. The investment and commitment will result in a dedicated schedule that is vital to success.  Once you learn the strategies and formulas that work, and how to apply them, and knowing that your Coaching Session (read: ‘reporting out’) is coming up keeps the opportunity front of mind and moves you to take the action needed to move donor relationships forward and grow income for your organization. Having access to a Coach to answer questions in real time also supports your work. It may be hard to believe, but my clients tell me that fundraising is rewarding and fun now that they know the strategy and formulas to use and apply.

There is no shame in having a coach. The best and brightest in every industry in the world are vocal about having a coach to help them stick to task and grow personally and professionally. It could be said that the nonprofit CEO needs it most to manage the diversity of responsibility while serving to protect the fabric of our society. This is not a ‘life coach’ or a ‘business coach’ however, this is a dedicated fundraising coach who will help the CEO make more mission happen.

A CEO can certainly invest their personal resources for professional growth so as to not ‘reveal’ this weakness to their board. Or a CEO can have a candid discussion with the board chair and together they can make a plan to shore up this skill to create future strength for the organization. Either way works. The investment pales in comparison to the long-term return of more and higher level donors feeling invested in your mission.

NOTE: The alternative of continuing to try on your own, feeling like you're neck deep not  knowing how to swim, worrying about budget and whether or not you'll reach goal is detrimental to your health and to your organization's sustainable future. If your mission is worthy, it's worth investing in a single service to support your skill attainment in this vital work!

YOUR CALL TO ACTION: Find two donors who care deeply about your organization's mission, offer them the opportunity to get together [Go Team!] and make a capacity building gift to help secure your strong future. In addition to growing their commitment to mission, they will become a supportive brain trust for you! Please believe me that this will work. Just start the conversation with any of your mission-partners and see what they think!!!