Grants Officer to CEO: Here’s What I Need From You

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

A reader writes: What do you need from a CEO in order to be a successful grant officer?

What a great question, thanks.

Your nonprofit can raise much more revenue if you, the grant officer, has a dynamic and vibrant professional relationship with the CEO, and vice-versa.

Here’s a few tips on what to ask the CEO for.

  1. Ask to be involved in the strategic planning process. Why? As the grants officer you understand funding trends and can advise on which programming is more sustainable. Let the CEO know that.
  2. Make sure he or she understands that fundraising is a key part of the CEO job description.
  3. Let the CEO know that you must work as a fundraising team with the development department and have access to your board when needed.
  4. Ask the CEO to make solicitation calls as mutually agreed upon. Some grant writers don’t leverage their CEO enough in the grants and donor cultivation process.
  5. Ask the CEO to keep the other executive team members informed about your work, or, better, for you to present directly to them a few times a year.
  6. Ask the CEO to meet with development staff regularly.
  7. Ask the CEO for time and resources to advance your funder pipeline by having a desk study done by an external consultant expert in prospect research.
  8. Ask the CEO for their input on advancing your impact and outcome measurement system, and the resources required. Doing evaluation well always raises more funds.
  9. Ask the CEO to make presentations to foundations and corporations that you collaborate on together.

I use these tools with CEOs, and you may find them useful too.

  1. Create a strategic fundraising plan. Provide the CEO with a simple, thoughtful, strategic fundraising plan and review it with him/her so they understand the goals and deliverables.
  2. Create Forecasts: Provide the CEO with forecasts showing the revenue likely to come in over the next six to 12 months.
  3. Hold strategy sessions. Set time aside to speak to the CEO about the fundraising process and explain what his/her role is.
  4. Set calendar appointments to review contacts. Set up scheduled meetings with the CEO to review his/her network of colleagues and friends. This is the beginning of a major gift donor prospect list as well as high-viability foundation prospects.
  5. Have Roleplays. Make sure the CEO is comfortable asking donors for money and knows how to do it properly. Do role-playing exercises. Help the CEO feel good about his/her role in the ask. And I involved board members whenever possible.
  6. Utilize the CEO’s strengths. If the CEO is a great writer, ask him/her to partner with you in writing a targeted appeal letter or white paper. If he/she is better at speaking publicly have him/her shoot an appeal video to use for social media posts.
  7. CEOs want development staff to hold them accountable. And vice versa, I want the CEO to keep me accountable, to know they are paying attention and that mutual accountability creates a culture of fundraising.

There are so many distractions competing for the CEO’s time and figuring out the best way to help them focus and prioritize philanthropy is part of our role as grants officers. I say work to their strengths and help them prioritize in your weekly communication and meetings with them. I often review with them their most important tasks for the quarter, the month, and down to the week.

The CEO is also barraged with information. To remedy that I create a high level template to communicate the most important gifts and activities, and I share this weekly over email and in person with the CEO during our weekly and monthly meetings. I also review with the CEO their most important tasks for the week and hold separate planning and forecasting and strategic sessions with them and the executive team.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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