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Bridging the Leadership Divide

Published:  02/14/2018

Adapted from a 2017 AHP Annual International Conference presentation by Lori Counts, Principal Consultant, Accordant Philanthropy and Julie Cox, FAHP, VP of Development, LifeBridge Health

Donors love having access to the top person in an organization, and having your CEO be a part of the philanthropic process adds prestige and credibility to the donor experience. CEOs are system experts who set strategy and lend credibility to your giving programs: they can paint pictures for donors and show what their donations are going towards. CEO involvement is a factor in nearly 70% of philanthropy decisions, and out of the CEO, board members, fundraisers, physicians and other volunteers, CEOs account for 30% of the influence on top donors’ attachment to hospitals. Therefore, it is extremely important to bridge any divide between development officers and executive leadership.

Why is there a divide?

CEOs might be wary that fundraisers are often out of the office. Combat any negative perception by taking your executive along with you when you meet donors out of office and by having your CEO drop in on patient donors to say hello and thank you. Articulate the message of philanthropy and prove to your CEO that philanthropy has value and is relevant to their world.

How development officers can build a better relationship

Approach your relationship with your CEO as you would a donor: develop trust with them and get to know them on both a professional and semi-personal level. What are their passions? What are their hobbies? What motivates them, professionally and personally? What’s important to the CEO? Why? Establishing a connection with your CEO will allow you to understand their vision, goals and priorities for the organization.

Being able to anticipate issues before they arise can help your relationship as fundraiser with your CEO flourish. Understanding what the needs of your executive leadership are can improve your relationship with your CEO. Establish an amicable, trustworthy and understanding relationship with your CEO to assist in narrowing the leadership divide and to create and foster a culture of philanthropy within your organization.

Be clear, concise and compelling when communicating your needs to your CEO. Show your CEO exactly why philanthropy is an important part of your organization. By showing your CEO why philanthropy is important and including them in philanthropy, you will begin to bridge the leadership divide.

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