The ED and the DoD: FIS gets in the way

on in Fundraising

There’s a symbiotic relationship between an Executive Director and their Director of Development.

Without the ED as pitch person, supplying sizzle and vision, donors won’t make a significant investment. There has to be trust in the organization’s staff leader as the steerer of the ship.

But without the DoD as the planner and strategist, the ED’s time in the fundraising limelight can be spent mindlessly, re-nailing down already-in-the-fold sure shots or chasing fruitlessly after longed-for moonshots.

It’s a partnership of chess master and showman, planner and convincer. A marriage of complementary roles.

But why isn’t this partnership stronger in so many groups? What goes wrong?

The answer lies in the FIS principle: Fundraising Is Scary.

EDs are not immune to this condition, indeed the vast majority who rise through the ranks as talented program planners never have to engage in fundraising until they reach the top spot. Even spending time as a fundraising-savvy CEO’s #2 doesn’t give one experience as a fundraising front person – everyone wants to mingle with the CEO, not their capable deputy.

This means the first (and most important) task of a Director of Development with an inexperienced – or longtime – ED is to support their ED in becoming a successful fundraiser. Boosting their confidence through setting up easy “wins,” coaching them through donor conversations, even having these conversations alongside them till they can fly on their own.

The second task of a DoD in nurturing a fundraising-friendly ED is to redefine fundraising away from “picking the wealthy’s pockets” to building relationships based on common purpose. There’s no wonder why people shy away from a fundraising process imagined as breaking a series of deeply-ingrained social mores (i.e. cold asking). A DoD’s job is both to tell and show their ED how fundraising really works.

And the third is to make sure the ED’s time is spent to best accord. Steer the ED to the strategically most important donors for the agency’s sustainability. Think three funder years down the road for the ED who’s got way too much on their plate to pay that detailed attention to every area in their domain. In other words, provide the roadmap and point them through the twists and turns in the route.

The fact is that a Development Director’s job will never be successful without the cooperation of their executive director. Building the ED’s fundraising know-how is key to raising the money your agency needs.

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