By Mel and Pearl Shaw

As the executive director or CEO of a nonprofit, you have many responsibilities. One of those is fundraising. Too often these specific responsibilities are not spelled out until there is a financial challenge looming on the horizon.

To help you be proactive we suggest you make it a priority to know three things as it relates to fundraising and your organization. These can help you focus your time and effort so you are leading in the area of fundraising.

Who gives the largest gifts to your organization and who are your largest potential donors? Are they individuals or a foundation, business or government leader? For your current donors, how much does each give, when does each give, and what are their reasons and priorities for giving to your nonprofit? Have you talked with each about renewing their gift, or increasing it? Are you personally sustaining these relationships or are they delegated to your top fundraising staff person?

Who are the five potential major donors you are personally cultivating to become engaged with your nonprofit and to give? Do you have a strategy for engaging each? Are you involving your board with you in this work? Do you know their interests and how they could benefit through giving to your organization? Do you know the appropriate ask amount for each and when to ask?

You are responsible. You are the bottom line for the success or failure of the organization as it relates to fund development and fundraising. You cannot pass off the responsibility of raising funds – you are responsible for creating a working partnership with staff and volunteers. You are responsible for hiring the right people, supporting them and managing and evaluating their work.

Your responsibilities include engaging the board in fundraising and supporting them as they collectively play a lead role; identifying fundraising goals that can be met and that are rooted in an analysis of the organization’s needs and the giving environment.

Be proactive in accepting this responsibility. This can drive your interactions with others so that, should challenges arise, the organization doesn’t devolve into finger-pointing. You are always responsible, and others share that responsibility. Devote time to working closely with your development staff, learning from them and also guiding them. Ask questions about the donor management system and request reports on a weekly basis. Review these and take action.

Know your community and the key stakeholders and make sure they know you. Giving is relational and in many cases decision makers need to know you before they decide to invest in your work. Be consistent in participating in community events and activities. Support other initiatives that relate to the work of your nonprofit or that relate to the health and vitality of your community. Attend fundraisers hosted by other organizations. Get to know philanthropists, program officers and your government leaders. Always let them know your impact, vision and what you need to succeed.

Whether you are a new or experienced nonprofit executive director, there is always more to learn in the area of fundraising. Sometimes the responsibilities can feel overwhelming. In order to help keep you focused and engaged we suggest three actions: raise money, develop and use a fundraising plan, and build a circle of advisors. These will help you grow as a leader and will increase your confidence and ability as a fundraiser. We will discuss these three action steps in detail next month.