Attention CEOs: Your Thought Leadership Can Boost Your Fundraising

By Peter Panepento

As the CEO, you write blogs, deliver speeches, and give media interviews because you believe it will help raise more revenue for your nonprofit.

This is a worthy goal. Thought leadership content can be incredibly valuable in connecting with potential donors.

I’d like to share with you my observations from my years in the field about creating thought leadership content that actually inspires individuals to take action.

Mainly I encourage you to be less overt in your attempts to connect your thought leadership with your fundraising. Instead of making your message about yourself and your nonprofit, truly connect with your intended audience first and foremost. Allow me to explain.

The Dilemma

Donors are faced with an avalanche of content – and they can tell if you’re trying to sell them something.

When your potential donor reads your blog, listens to your podcast, or hears your speaking on stage, they aren’t looking for a solicitation. They are looking for knowledge and insight. They want to be inspired.

There are plenty of venues for making a fundraising ask – but your blog and public appearances aren’t those venues. These outlets are where you should aim to build connections that will give you the permission to ask later.

With that in mind, it’s important to view your thought leadership not as a vehicle to raise money, but rather as an opportunity share your knowledge, experience, and insights to help others.

Billy Shore, executive chair of Share Our Strength, has long embraced this approach. He has embraced his role as an opportunity to educate the public about hunger in America – and how to end it. His podcast series – Add Passion and Stir – is just one example of how nonprofit executives can use their thought leadership platform in compelling and interesting ways that connect with and inspire potential supporters.

Before you write your next blog or deliver your next speech (or host your next podcast), take a step back and think about whether you’re capturing that opportunity.

Three Questions

Here are three questions to determine whether you’re delivering content that will build stronger connections with potential donors:

  1. Will this inspire? As the leader of a mission-focused organization, people follow you because they believe in the issue behind your mission. If you can identify stories that make people feel something, they will connect with what you have to say and be motivated to take action.

  2. Will this help solve a problem? Problem solving is the lifeblood of effective thought leadership. If you can offer a fresh perspective on how your audience can make a bigger difference or provide an insight that can help them lead better lives, you’re building a connection that will make them remember you and your organization.

  3. Will this spark curiosity? In a world awash with content, it helps to have a good hook. Take time to find a creative way to catch people’s interest. Opening a piece with a thought-provoking question or anecdote can offer a good start.

If you can answer two – or, better yet, all three – of these questions affirmatively, you’ll have an engaged audience that’s eager to follow your every word.

Once you build that connection, the donations will follow.

Peter Panepento is managing partner of Turn Two Communications, a PR and thought leadership agency that specializes in working with nonprofit and foundations. Learn more at

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