There is an old saying in the development field, that a person soliciting a major gift can only ask for a gift equal to or less than the gift he/she has made … with three exceptions: a person of the clergy, a prominent community figure/politician and a nonprofit Executive Director (or whatever the title held by the CEO).
The Executive Director holds a unique position in a nonprofit. She must know and oversee all elements of: running the business aspects of the organization; the various programs, how well they function and who they serve; the relationships the NPO has with the community; the interactions with local, state and the national government; the relationships with the organization’s board; and, the relationships with the people whose (financial, moral, public) support makes it all possible.
Of all the people in an organization, even, often, including the board members, with whom would a prospective major/corporate/foundation donor rather have contact – the person who has the answers to the business/program/regulatory/financial questions – the ED.
Who would be the best person to speak to (potential) donors about the organization’s programs? …to explain the need for various items in the budget? … to be able to describe how much of a difference their contributions would make or have made?
Of course the ED doesn’t do it all by himself. There are others who identify likely prospects, cultivate them, create the relationship, and do the Asking. But, the ED brings a presence – a body of knowledge to the relationship, to the cultivation, to the Asking.
Having the Executive Director be part of the development process adds to the depth of the relationships. An Executive Director who won’t participate in Cultivating and Asking reduces what could be raised.
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