For those who haven't seen it, the recent study produced by CompassPoint and the Haas, Jr. Fund, UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, uncovers the alarming fact that half of the chief development officers interviewed are planning to leave their position. If this were to happen to your organization, an obvious first step as CEO would be to immediately engage a recruiter to fill the position. However, what can you do before your next development leader comes on board?
Hiring can take four months or longer. You don't have time to pick up the chief development officer (CDO) responsibilities. You know the importance of maintaining solid donor relationships and your budget goals aren't changing -- the money must keep coming in now. But how will you both choose the next best CDO for your organization and keep your fundraising on track during the gap?
The good news is that you have options.
OAI offers interim CDO solutions. We have the depth and experience to parachute into an organization and lead its current fundraising efforts, even under the most challenging of circumstances.
Recently, Emma Kieran, Vice President of Fundraising and Development at OAI, served as the interim Chief Development Officer for two regions of the American Red Cross -- the North Jersey and National Capital Regions. In both roles she led a team of fundraisers, guiding them to reach their annual fundraising goals and implement strategic fundraising plans for each donor category. Emma worked onsite with the staffs to help them refine their fundraising approach and tackle day-to-day challenges. In New Jersey, Emma helped that team raise more than $20 million in response to Superstorm Sandy. Finally, she helped both chapters recruit, hire, and onboard the new CDO.
During an interview, Emma opens up about the good, the bad, and the unexpected of serving in an interim CDO role and what nonprofits CEOs can do to make the most of their circumstances.
As an interim CDO, what is the first thing you are asked to do by the CEO?
Emma: Typically the CEO or executive director wants immediate help with two things: assessing the fundraising team to set them up for fundraising success and achieving the budgeted goals. During the brief assessment, the interim CDO ascertains the team's strengths, the fundraising plan in place, and opportunities and problems that need immediate attention. This assessment is a critical step in developing a focused plan for the interim CDO. In addition, it acquaints the team with their new leader and how to align together on critical activities during this interim period.
What is the biggest challenge to jumping into an organization to serve as the interim CDO?
Emma: For an interim CDO, time is always the enemy. As with any new position, you need to learn about the organization, the team you are leading, and the mission. However, we have worked with so many organizations that we are able to ramp up quickly and gain the trust necessary to be effective.
How receptive is the board to you as an interim/consultant?
Emma: We have had great success with the boards with whom we have worked. For any CDO it is all about building trust. Boards are often very open to fundraising leadership to help them reach their goal of supporting the organization through personal and solicited gifts. It is extremely important to inform board members of your role, help them understand the partnership that you provide to them in fundraising, and then support them every step of the way.
What is the greatest benefit to an organization hiring an interim CDO?
Emma: An interim CDO can help you maintain focus, momentum, accomplish fundraising objectives, keep donors connected, and bring in the dollars you need to achieve your mission. The new CDO you hire will start from a position of strength and stability -- an exciting opportunity for any new leader you've just recruited to your team!
If an organization cannot afford to (or chooses not to) hire an interim CDO, what are your words of wisdom for the executive director?
Emma: The most important thing for a CEO or executive director without a CDO is to create a strategic plan of action for fundraising. The plan should include a clear reporting structure and designated task owners. I would recommend setting up regular meetings with fundraising staff to stay on track and to ensure deadlines are met. If you have to operate without a CDO, it's also important to realize that you cannot be everything to everyone. Therefore, focus on those fundraising tasks with the highest ROI for your organization -- those that bring in the most money for the least amount of resources, including time, human capital efforts, etc.
Has OAI ever been asked to continue as the full-time CDO?
Emma: OAI is frequently asked to either take on the full CDO responsibilities or manage certain functions of the development department. After partnering for a few months, our clients quickly realize that there is value in the time we spent building trust and relationships with their board, staff, and donors. It often makes sense for the organization to use what is working and not disrupt the flow of incoming dollars.
For more information about OAI's interim CDO solutions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.