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Financing Not Fundraising: The Critical Alliance Between Executive & Development Directors

By Nell Edgington



In this month’s post in the on-going Financing Not Fundraising blog series I’m talking about creating a productive partnership between a nonprofit’s leader (the Executive Director or CEO) and a nonprofit’s chief revenue generator (typically the Development Director).  If your nonprofit is going to start financing instead of fundraising, you must work to forge an effective Executive Director and Development Director relationship.  If you are fully integrating money and mission, then your ED and DD should be planning, talking about, debating, and integrating their work on a daily basis. If that’s happening, the organization has a much better chance for long-term financial sustainability.

If you are new to the Financing Not Fundraising blog series, the series is about how nonprofits must break out of the FUNDRAISING (individual donor appeals, events, foundation grants) box and instead create a broader, more strategic approach to securing the overall FINANCING necessary to create social change. You can read the entire series here.

If a nonprofit’s Executive Director can fully embrace, support and promote the work of the Development Director, the organization can become much more financially sustainable. There are several clues that a productive partnership between a nonprofit’s Executive Director and Development Director exists:

  • The Executive Director charges the Development Director with leading all revenue activities that the organization pursues (public, private and earned income) instead of limiting the Development Director’s role to just private income streams (individual, foundation, corporate).

  • The Executive Director asks the Development Director to create an ambitious, comprehensive annual financing plan in conjunction with the organization’s overall strategic plan and then to  monitor that plan to successful implementation.

  • The Executive Director creates the organization’s revenue budget through an open and honest negotiation with the Development Director and based on the Development Director’s annual revenue plan, as opposed to simply telling the Development Director how much to raise.

  • The Executive Director continually works to educate the entire board and staff about how critical money is to the work of the organization and how each member of the board and staff has a role to play, as opposed to leaving all revenue-generating efforts up to the Development Director.

  • The Executive Director makes a constant and conscious effort to encourage the Program and Development Directors to work together, understand each other’s viewpoint, support each other’s goals and empathize with each other’s roadblocks. The Executive Director treats both positions, and both departments, as equally critical to the success of the organization.

  • The Executive Director works closely with the board chair to make sure every board member is meeting their give/get requirement and doesn’t leave the Development Director to try to strong arm board members to contribute.

  • The Executive Director encourages and helps secure funding for the Development Director’s requests for the additional infrastructure (donor database, staffing, materials, technology) required to deliver on the ambitious goals of their revenue plan.

  • As with each member of their staff, the Executive Director evaluates the Development Director’s performance on an annual basis and sets performance goals for the Development Director for the coming year based on the overall strategic plan of the organization.

As the leader of a nonprofit organization it is up to the Executive Director to forge an effective partnership with their chief fundraiser. An ED that buries their head in the sand and leaves money up to their Development Director will eventually find their Development Director gone, their funding diminishing and their long-term financial outlook bleak.

If you want to learn more about applying the concepts of Financing Not Fundraising to your nonprofit, check out our Financing Not Fundraising Webinar Series, or download the 27-page Financing Not Fundraising e-book.

Photo Credit: USAJFKSWCS

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About the Author: Nell Edgington is President of Social Velocity (www.socialvelocity.net), a management consulting firm leading nonprofits to greater social impact and financial sustainability. Social Velocity helps nonprofits grow their programs, bring more money in the door, and use resources more effectively. For more information, check out Social Velocity consulting services and clients.


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