Emotional intelligence teaches us to challenge our discomforts. As hospital fundraisers, one of our most powerful roles is leading our own CEOs through that uneasiness & unfamiliarity with philanthropy.
Admittedly, I am fortunate to have a hospital CEO who is intimately involved in the work of our healthcare foundation. But whether or not your leader is involved in your fundraising work, all of our CEOs face real barriers to engagement—lack of time or lack of familiarity top the list. Instead of being victim to the excuses, it is our job to help our leaders understand why philanthropy is important.
Since experience is the best teacher, here are three tips to consider:
Your CEO as major donor.
Your CEO’s job is to lead by example. The first step in contributing to a culture of philanthropy is for your CEO to lead with a gift he or she is proud of. It is nearly impossible to ask others for something you’re unwilling to do yourself.
Your job as the fundraising professional is to both ask and show gratitude for that gift just as you would for any other major donor. So often, there is shyness to having a conversation with our own CEOs about their philanthropic priorities and passions. Yet, taking them through the relational process of a gift ask is the best way for them to understand your daily work. Secondly, don’t take their gifts for granted. Update them on impact and show them gratitude in a personalized way. For our CEO, he and his wife value a dinner reservation to meet nurses that they helped scholarship. Tailoring your appreciation to what is important to your donor is key.
Your CEO will be more likely to approach major donors after experiencing the satisfaction of being a major donor firsthand.
Your CEO as fundraiser.
Your CEO is uniquely positioned to speak to donors and cultivate relationships with community partners. However, he or she has likely never been through the exercise of asking those individuals for a gift. Rather than sending your CEO into conversations unprepared, consider how you can build confidence and comfort. Our major gift officers work with our CEO well in advance of a meeting to discuss an appropriate ask amount, and even who will deliver the ask. Sometimes our CEO gives updates on strategic alignment and the case for support while the major gift officer makes the ask. Sometimes it is the reverse.
CEOs are high performers. Their victories will build boldness. As we’ve recently entered a season of capital campaign, I’ve watched the surprise and delight in large gifts evaporate any hesitation in my CEO’s ask amount.
Your CEO will embrace fundraising after experiencing success with a practiced fundraiser.
Your CEO as recipient.
If your CEO has benefitted from your organization’s work, share the story! As the face of your organization, constituents are often moved to learn about your leader’s personal background. In healthcare, we have such an opportunity. I would be shocked if your CEO hasn’t had a loved one affected by a health event. Connect their story to your mission.
At a VIP night for our Heart & Vascular Institute, our CEO scrapped his script about awards and technology. Instead, he shared the memory of his dad passing from a heart attack. He concluded by saying, “If my dad was alive today, the care we offer at Riverside would have saved his life. That is why my wife and I are committing the largest gift of our life to this cause and I hope you’ll consider the same.” Personal experience is powerful.
This last one is the trifecta. Our leader put himself in the shoes of recipients, which inspired him to be a major donor, which moved him to act as a fundraiser. That is a CEO ALL IN on philanthropy.