Seven Areas an Executive Director or CEO can focus on for Success

Tuti Scott - Friday, January 23, 2015
Lately I have been getting calls from people who are starting in a new leadership position as CEO or Executive Director of a social sector organization.  Typically these organizations are called “nonprofits” but l  am purposely reframing this label to “social sector organizations” to better reflect the true bottom line work of social change and community betterment with our communities and people’s lives changing as the ‘profit’.  Many people are coming into this sector from the ‘for profit’ arena and are unsure about what they should focus on to be successful in fundraising.  Here are the tips I have been offering that may be of help for all social sector leaders – new and long serving.  As I put these thoughts together, I realized that these suggestions are relevant for both for profit and social sectors – only the language changes from funds/donors to sales/customers!

7 Practices to Focus on Individual Giving

Tuti Scott - Sunday, October 19, 2014
A number of clients and colleagues understand the value of diversifying their revenue models.  Most of these organizations have been primarily dependent on institutional giving models (i.e. recipients of grants) and are starting to explore what success looks like in the individual giving arena.  Results in this arena take time, persistence and insistence on key practices.  Here are my top seven ideas for building sustainable and engaging partnerships with individual donors.  Good luck and let me know which ones are working for you!

Practices for Advancing a Culture of Philanthropy

Tuti Scott - Thursday, August 21, 2014

Working with the Jewish Women's Foundations network proves to be fabulous and fruitful.  We map out the processes that best support the people who execute them, as well as the foundations and the stakeholders.  Best practices are established and utilized to create positive cultures that thrive. I offer seven ways to advance a culture of philanthropy in your fund or foundation.   

1. At each meeting, one leadership member spends up to four minutes sharing their personal story of connection to the work.  The more details of the story and the person’s connection to women’s rights/ issues of focus, the better.  Feel free to tie into your story the words Advocate, Educate, “Genderosity” or other relevant brand themes.  

2. Consider a meeting dedicated to shaping an advocacy and/or programmatic goal.  The focus is on a defined action (i.e. address FMLA in the county, join a coalition on fair pay, research safety issues and their solutions for women and their families, etc) and developing a ‘case’ for support.  Attach a financial goal to the case statement that includes staff support to administer project and support for the Executive Director. 

Money as Energy

Tuti Scott - Thursday, March 14, 2013
Recently at a Board retreat I was asked what ‘class’ I describe myself as. I responded that currently I am in the class of comfort and elegance but I was born into the class of hard work and hard knocks.  I still dabble in the class of hard work and some hard knocks, just at a different level!  

Thankfully, in my childhood of hard knocks there was always abundance in nature, simplicity in play, and spontaneous laughter.  I was nourished from these gifts which resulted in an entertaining, creative and movement filled childhood.  Some of my other needs were not supported because of financial constraints.  Our family was relatively isolated as we lived “in the woods” in small town New Hampshire. There was no TV and my Mom was a warm and loving artist activist ‘hippy’ so we were well shielded from consumerism.  

The values she taught were hard work, creativity, optimism, and discipline.  I carry these forward into my coaching of fundraisers, CEO’s and Boards.  At home, you had to do your chores before you could do the next fun thing. I and my four siblings all worked at early ages.  Most of us had some kind of part time job by the age of twelve or thirteen: babysitting, cleaning out horse stalls, or selling home-made baked goods.  We learned that if we wanted money, that’s just what you did.

When I was twelve years old my first job was picking strawberries.  We got a nickel or a quarter per quart – some small amount of money.  If you were fast, you got more money.  I picked enough berries to get to go to the Dave Cowen’s Basketball School.  I had a very clear goal for my earnings and it felt exciting to achieve my financial goal. That lesson still applies today.  When we want something, we work hard, visualize it, resource it, and manifest it. 

Leaders in philanthropy have so many lenses to look through in their work but I am a big proponent of seeking clarity and sharing stories around the lens of class, money and the energy one holds around money.  My relationship with money started with ‘leaning in’ to opportunities to play with money.  I agreed to be Treasurer of my high school class.  I said yes to being a bookkeeper and working with real estate investments in my early twenties.  I studied sciences and not business in college but I embraced the energy of money in building a foundation, creating three successful businesses, being a steward of people’s gifts and an investor in women’s leadership.  

I see money as a channel for numbers and stories and I see money as energy; it comes and goes.  I am aware that money has given me access and I see how it gives people power, access to places, spaces, conversations, etc.  When I do workshops and invite people to finish the statement - Money means ________, very few women say power or potential.  For now, I will leave it to Sheryl Sandberg to tackle women embracing the word and experience of power!

I believe money is a great source of joy and a source of inspiration when used well. There are many transactional experiences that we go through in our society that can be transformed if the transaction comes from a place of joy and gratitude and love.  If money could spend more time in people’s hearts, as well as head and gut, it can do more transformational work.  Take this as a theme for a week and see if your work is transformed when you approach all conversations around money and resources couched in statements of appreciation, abundance and gratitude.  

Investing in Policy Change

Tuti Scott - Thursday, October 25, 2012

Policy work and the people associated with investing and believing in advocacy and policy work are typically people who understand or have an appetite for systemic change. They realize the implications of structural discrimination or systems that don't allow full participation or access to those who were intended to be served. Often there is a personal or a family experience of system failure or they have been a student of systems change.  For many investors that I met at the Women's Sports Foundation, they had seen discrimination in theatre, construction, and business and saw sports as a place where a system was changing more quickly than their industry. 

The Women's Funding Network defines five shifts in social change that can be measured and discussed to showcase to people how the work on an issue is moving forward.  First, there may be a shift in definition where an issue has been named and defined in a more compelling way as something that needs to be recognized and addressed (naming sexual harassment).  A second shift would be a shift in behavior.  By doing some type of education or outreach work, there is a change in people's behavior (i.e. the green movement and recycling).  The third shift is a shift in engagement where people are more actively engaged on an issue because something has been addressed or revealed in the system (i.e. voting outreach and voting rights).  The fourth shift is a shift in policy; actually making change to policy or creating a policy (i.e Title IX).  And the fifth shift is a shift in ensuring that a law or policy is upheld and/or enforced (i.e. Roe vs Wade being upheld).

It is important to educate people about the immense time it takes and the resources needed through historical examples.  For instance, in the U.S. where it took 70 years for women to get the right to vote, there are still conversations about pay equity that have been on the table for 50 years and there is still racial injustice even though there have been laws on the books for 60 years. These issues have gone through some of the shifts but the fifth has not yet been achieved.

For people to understand that the work you are doing will not be a “quick fix”, it helps to ask about the change THEY have seen happen in their lifetime and describe each of these intervening factors that made that change happen.  Perhaps they can share their experience within grassroots movements or with policy change (i.e., participation in protest marches, petitioning, outreach, or other ways they may have been involved in taking action on an issue or topic).   By engaging with them and having them reflect on their own experiences as an advocate, if you listen well enough, you will be able to find a way to make analogies to the work that you are doing, clearly portraying your work as reflecting a wise strategy and practices that are not only worthy of their investment but actions that are required for success. 

Get Campaign Ready!

Tuti Scott - Thursday, July 12, 2012

I am always encouraging social justice organizations or policy groups to consider doing fundraising campaigns as so many other categories of nonprofits do.  Prior to any organization or program undertaking a special purpose, capital or endowment campaign, there are several ‘readiness’ components to assess.  Before one starts, have the leadership ask the following; 

 Have you developed or updated your strategic plan within the last three years? Is the plan reviewed at least quarterly? Are objectives specific and measurable?
 Do you have an integrated development program (special events, phone, direct mail, foundation grants, corporate appeal, etc.)? Is there a stewardship program (donor education, engagement, celebration, etc) in place? Is there a planned giving program in place?
 Do you have a marketing plan developed or updated in the past three years? Do your public relations efforts result in increased donations, volunteers, and clients?
 Have you recently done a market study to evaluate community needs? Do you have a limited amount of competition for your programs? Have you assessed the competition for your programs and when possible, collaborated with other nonprofits to deliver programs?
 Have you done client satisfaction studies or focus groups of leaders who are experts on your mission? Have you considered the needs of your consumers in developing the plans for the campaign?
 Do you have an organizational video and/or brochures? Do you regularly publish an annual report, newsletter and press releases? Have you gone through a branding process? Do you communicate regularly with donors?
 Do you have a list of major donors capable of making a gift of 10% of the campaign goal? Do you do adequate research on donor prospects to identify gift potential? Have you done research to identify the interests of your top donors?
 Have you considered the budget, costs, projections and evaluated special purpose, capital or endowment needs?
 Have you started your case statement and has it been reviewed by various audiences?  (NOTE:  For a fabulous course on this area, see Secrets of Making a Very Compelling Case by Elizabeth Seja Min).

Each of the above listed elements prepare the organization to (1) answer every prospective donor/investor question, (2) give staff and board members the tools they need to engage in donor solicitation and (3) create story-telling content that describes a passionate and high-achieving organization.  When your organization can answer yes to most of these questions, you can join the thousands of institutions of higher education or faith based organizations that are perpetually in a campaign mode!

Partnership for Fundraising Success

Tuti Scott - Friday, February 17, 2012

Top fundraising CEOs with whom we have had the honor of working have the ability to endear themselves to those who have capacity to make their institution’s dreams come true, are capable of articulating the vision for the institution to a variety of audiences, and spend a majority of their time doing these two things.  Read on to see if these essential CEO characteristics are present at your organization or as a frame for a potential new hire in the “number two” position for your organization.

The CEO is the voice, the visionary, the leader and the face of the institution and thrives in this role.  They are the ones in whom major donors/funders give their trust.  The CEO is who a donor considers before making a significant gift. A top notch Chief Development Officer* (CDO) knows when and how to use the CEO’s time for the greatest return.  The CEO motivates the Board members to be personally involved in fundraising and acts as a negotiator between Board and staff.

The CDO spends considerable time working with development staff, CEO assistant or Board assistant, volunteers, Board members and donor connectors to do the following tasks as they relate to major gifts work: planning and organizing, strategizing about prospects and calendar, setting goals and priorities, and learning about new and current donors through conversations and reviewing background information. The CDO is seeking always to put the President/Chair, the CEO, and key leadership in positions and conversations with donors for a win. The CDO's goal is to be so well prepared that the best suited leadership member (CEO, CDO, volunteer, Chair or combination) makes the right ask of the right person for the right project at the right time.  The CDO and CEO work in close partnership to raise funds.

A successful fundraising organization has the CEO and CDO spending a lot of time together building a strong and respected partnership.  Both parties share a joint commitment to the relentless pursuit of people who can help the institution.  The CEO and CDO share a joint ownership of problems and goals, a joint ownership of relationships, and a joint ownership of success.  This can only successfully occur through trust and constant honest communication.  The CDO is always lobbying and fighting for the priority share of the CEO time and knows that when she gets it that she can't blow it!  A good CDO has familiarity with the strengths, comforts, and places a CEO ‘shines’ and plays to these settings.  The CDO demonstrates loyalty, dedication, and confidentiality and offers ongoing relationship building and learning opportunities for volunteers.

There should be a disciplined schedule where the CDO and CEO meet each week to talk about the past, present, and future of relationships with donors and funders.  Time is spent reviewing meetings, stewardship plans, and discussing updates on donors.  Calendars are reviewed and a “top 25” visit schedule of recommendations are discussed.  Challenges for re-engaging donors or funders are discussed.  From there the CDO reviews the calendar daily and ensures the CEO’s assistant feels comfortable with all the meeting and conversation details to serve the donor and provide success for the CEO.   The CDO also works throughout the organization and with volunteers to ‘stop and celebrate’ the wins and keeps the team motivated between wins.   As issues come up with donors a good CDO is quick on her feet to present solutions and/or knows how to ask the right questions to move the relationship forward.  The CDO is also responsible for ongoing communication to the CEO and Chair/President including sending reports via e-mail of gifts that come in and suggesting donors to thank or call with scripts that make it easy for the leadership to act and say just the right thing.                      

*Chief Development Officer refers to the top development person in the organization who may or may not have this title                                 

This article was written in collaboration with the smart fundraising expert Debra Minton, Founder of Philanthropia Partners and is a salute to one of the best fundraising CEO’s, Dr. Donna Lopiano and the  successful partnership we had at the Women's Sports Foundation


Jennifer Buffett - 10 Concepts Worth Sharing

Tuti Scott - Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jennifer Buffett will change the world. You may not know her now, but when all is said and done I believe she will own the title, The First Lady of Women’s Social Change Philanthropy.  Jennifer is the life size symbol of NoVo – to alter, invent.  The NoVo Foundation she created with her husband Peter is based on the premise that if you give a girl an opportunity, she will become a successful woman who will in turn create successful communities, businesses, and families.  Jennifer’s story is just that.

After deep examination of the focus of their philanthropy and a personal examination of her own expression of her values and influence, Jennifer is speaking around the world sharing her personal story and experiences. She and her husband Peter spent years examining the interrelation between systems, culture, and relationships to determine place of impact and opportunity for change before launching the largest foundation serving women and girls, the NoVo Foundation.   Jennifer has incredible perspective to offer activists, social change drivers, and philanthropists and after hearing her recently, I distilled these ten concepts that are worth sharing; 

  1. Look at the roots of the problems, examine patterns and themes and find the programs and the stories that rule the world and which ones make sense.
  2. Acknowledge two conflicting truths:  1. Girls and women are the primary drivers of change.  2. Cultural attitudes and systems put girls in a vicious cycle; blaming them and affirming that they are not valued.   The girl effect demonstrates that if you invest in a girl, her family thrives, she contributes to her community, and eventually her country succeeds.
  3. Invest in places where value is held and not yet recognized.  Note:  there are 600 million adolescent girls living in the developing world who are currently ‘undervalued assets’. 
  4. Value balance and partnership and affirm feminine values. 
  5. Encourage women to use their voice, say what is want and needed, take credit, and invite men to join as equal partners and co-creators. 
  6. As a woman, choose to be seen and heard and work to change the course of the boat named Earth Community. 
  7. Improve gender dynamics by recognizing that the qualities in the masculine ‘toolbox’ - force, hierarchy, punitive, and a focus on head not heart - are learned, normalized, and internalized. 
  8. Honor and showcase the characteristics found in the feminine toolbox; listening, connectedness, experiential learning, honoring innate cycles and rhythms, and wholeness. 
  9. Establish learning environments that allow for inquiry and participation. 
  10. As conduits of feminine energies, allow the most precious qualities of clarity, strength, knowing and vulnerability of yourself to come into full light. 

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of the revolution”

Tuti Scott - Thursday, April 28, 2011
See? I can dance!photo © 2006 Riza Nugraha  | more info (via: Wylio)

Seriously, how fun is it to celebrate and dance and how often do we do either of these things?  I love Emma Goldman’s statement – “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of the revolution.”  At the Women Moving Millions session we heard from the co-chairs, donors and leaders – all who danced as they came on stage to share their stories and ideas.   

 One of many highlights for me was the dancing!  Chris Grumm, Helen LaKelly Hunt and I dancing with the audience as we all took ‘back’ the word REVOLUTION moving to Tracy Chapman.  Next session we will be moving to Miriam Makemba’s Pata Pata.  

After hearing updates and perspectives on the campaign from the leadership and a distinguished panel of women, including Dobkin Family Foundation founder Barbara Dobkin, Mama Cash Executive Director Nicky McIntyre, Women Moving Millions Co-Chair Jacki Zehner, ACCION USA's Elizabeth Bueno, and Women's Foundation of Greater Kansas City President Dawn Oliver, I encouraged people to check in with our own individual experience of philanthropy and “moving millions” in our own lives.  

I believe that a key aspect of a good leadership is the practice of consistently looking at our own motivations and experiences around giving and receiving.  Spending time to reflect on what it is that keeps us open to receiving and to giving and understanding the conditions or environments that help us feel more generous is a good growth opportunity.    

Feel free to take some time to look at an exercise that I created that examines – “What is it that allows me to give time, talent or treasure with joy and ease? And how can we move towards this?”

Donor Activism

Tuti Scott - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

During a recent gathering of 600 dynamic women working for social and economic justice (2011 Women’s Funding Network Annual Conference), I facilitated a discussion  with my friend and frequent co-pilot, Ellen Landis, founder of Sharevision. The discussion was on donor activism (which later turned into a great conversation on power!) with the goal to create a safe space for women to vocalize their engagement and feel more confident and empowered to be the social change leaders they are.  As well, we had an intentional sharing of donor activism work from a mind, body, and spirit focus which helps people enter the “activist” conversation from different perspectives.

For that hour and a half these 40 women were able to share their successes, their challenges, their personal and professional triumphs and tragedies with each other. And, when it was over, almost all of the women remained to engage with each other like old friends with so much to learn from each other.  

The format of the donor activism work session was exercises that could be done with staff, donors, community leaders, Board members, etc.  One of the fun tools we used, that I am sharing, was the attached Donor Activist Bingo game.  We had the attendees go around and inquire of each other whether they were associated with or had used one of the action items (i.e. been a vocal advocate for an issue or has donated time to a campaign or made a bequest to an organization and told someone about this).  After this exercise, attendees were directed to find and listen to one other person talk about their proudest successful activism activity.  Finally, attendees were asked to move to another person in the room and imagine that she/he was a mentor in their life, describe what the mentor represented for them in their activist life, and then tell their success story again to their ‘mentor’. This is a good ‘get to know the people in the group’ exercise.  

I hope you found this helpful and feel free to let me know how it went!

About The Author

Tuti Scott is a thought leader on women's philanthropy, leadership, and social change. These are her ideas...

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