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The Power Team, Part III: The CAO

Where the duty of the nonprofit chief executive officer (CEO) is to provide the vision and forum for others in the organization to excel, the chief advancement/development officer (CAO) is expected to lead an internal team that must develop strong relationships and loyalty among its constituents. The ultimate purpose of that relationship is to inspire the constituents to give to the institution. Corporations, foundations, individuals, and other relevant groups have to be cultivated and led to the "gift decision" by the advancement team.

Although leadership in fundraising requires many of the same characteristics as the CEO, there are important differences.

It is important that the advancement officer knows that she or he is not the CEO. That is a way of saying that the leadership skills for the advancement officer must be blended with a healthy version of ego reduction.

As much as any business leader, the development leader has to understand and have experience in:

  • Client/customer relations
  • Marketing
  • Direct mail
  • Planned giving
  • Major gift solicitation
  • Capital campaigns
  • Endowment campaigns
  • Community and public relations
  • Human motivation
Internally, understanding such workplace issues as compensation and financial incentives, career growth, horizontal management techniques, inspirational practices, and personal relations are critical to the CAO's success.

Although delegation is critical to the CAO's success, so too is work. The CAO has to lead by example in solicitations, client relations, consensus building, and marketing the institution to its constituents. A problem in many institutional advancement offices is the amazing lack of time spent by the chief fundraiser raising funds.

Administrative committees, task forces, and other non-fundraising functions take top priority all too often in the chief advancement officer's weekly schedule. This diversion is to the detriment of relationship building and leading by example, activities so critical in developing a strong fundraising program. Bob Carter, Ketchum
© 2006, Ketchum

Having engaged with more than 11,000 clients since its founding in 1919, Ketchum is the nation's leading fundraising counseling firm to nonprofits. Bob Carter is president of Ketchum and leads the firm's sales and marketing teams. He also provides senior-level development, management, and campaign counsel to a broad cross section of gift-supported organizations. You can reach Bob at
Topics: Senior Executive Issues