Dear well-intentioned  CEO/Executive Director,

You have a really tough job. You work in a complex, emergent environment and are juggling countless variables. You manage staff. You partner with your board. You vision. You budget. You plan.

You work very hard and you are very accomplished.

But you don’t know everything. And that’s ok. We live in a highly specialized world — it’s impossible for you to know everything.

Isn’t that a relief? You don’t have to know everything! You just need to know when you don’t know!

So what might you not know?

Here are a few of the most common mistakes I see EDs make when it comes to fundraising.

(1)  Not investing. In order to raise money, you have to invest money. You cannot rub sticks together and expect your staff to engage donors, drive new donors and increase revenue.

I’m not saying this is a blank check for unchecked spending. Your fundraising team needs to be accountable to key performance indicators (donor retention, cost per new donor, overall revenue raised).

But — if you want to grow — you need to give them the investment they need to get you there.

(2) Not nurturing a culture of philanthropy. If you think fundraising is a necessary evil, you are in the wrong job. You must be the champion of fundraising across all departments of your organization. Fundraising must be a mission-aligned part of everything your organization does. If this message doesn’t come from you, it won’t take root.

(3) Not practicing the craft. You should do something fundraising-related every day — even if it just takes 15 minutes.

  • Call a major donor to chat.
  • Skim the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  • Take your development director out for coffee.
  • Attend a fundraising training.

Listen, I know you have many pressing responsibilities. I wouldn’t ask for your attention if it weren’t so critical to the overall success of  causes I believe in deeply.

It’s ok not to know. It’s ok to ask.

Thank you for your time,