Are you and your non-profit agency a fundraising leader?

This week at DonorDreams we are talking about what it looks like to be a fundraising “LEADER”. Today, we will frame the issue using a few of Noel Tichy’s ideas around leadership. The rest of the week we will examine other points of view on the subject as well as examples of good leaders.

Noel Tichy is an iconic figure in the field of leadership. He has authored and co-authored the following books on this very popular subject: Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will, The Leadership Engine, and Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls. While it would be impossible to summarize all of what Tichy believes about leadership into this very small blog post, I believe the following key principles from chapter three of The Leadership Engine captures some of it nicely:

  • Leaders accomplish their goals through the people they teach
  • Leaders teach others to be leaders, not followers
  • Leaders consider teaching on their primary roles
  • Leaders use every opportunity to learn and to teach
  • Leaders have clear ideas and values, based on knowledge and experience
  • Leaders articulate those lessons to others

In that same chapter of the book, Tichy quotes former Honeywell CEO, Larry Bossidy, as saying:

“How am I doing as a leader? The answer is how are the people you lead doing?”

Hmmmm . . . all of this got me thinking! If leaders teach and if leaders can be evaluated by those they lead, then would Tichy advocate that a non-profit and fundraising leader be evaluated through a “donor lens”?

After some careful consideration, I think Tichy would probably agree and I think the following questions can shed lots of light on whether you are leading or just raising money:

  • Do your donors know what the goals of your agency are?
  • Do you know what your key donors’ personal goals are with regards to their philanthropy?
  • In your efforts to cultivate new prospective donors, do you teach them what to expect as a donor to your agency and how to engage your organization in being accountable to them and their fellow donors?
  • Do your donors know what your  agency’s values are? Do they see and echo your edge and emotional energy around your mission?
  • Do your donors enthusiastically go out into the community and teach others about your mission and enlist the support of new prospective donors?

If you can answer ‘YES’ to many of these questions, then congratulations . . . “You very well might be a fundraising leader.” If you fall a little short, then there might be a little bit of work for you to do.

And what does this work look like? Well, I’m happy to say it is probably something you should fold into your existing donor stewardship efforts (e.g. focus groups, donor surveys, stewardship receptions with a mission-focus, engaging donors in prospect cultivation efforts, etc).

How do you propose we take measure of whether or not you and your agency are non-profit and fundraising leaders? Does it even matter to you or do you think it is more important to just focus on fundraising outputs (e.g. cash raised, goals attained, etc)? Are you trying to create what Tichy refers to as a “virtuous teaching cycle” with your donors? If so, what does that look like?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts on some of these questions in the comment box because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. This post is very timely. We are currently creating a donor survey and a donor focus group luncheon to gain feedback and direction from our donors. Thanks for some additional donor questions. This is fantastic and ever so timely! Great post as always Erik!

    1. As always, it is great to hear from you and my friends at the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington. Why am I not surprised that you are focusing on the good work of donor engagement? Keep up the great work and good luck with your luncheon!


  2. Thanks, Erik. I am very new in the nonprofit world and I am getting ready to start soliciting donations for the first time (you can follow my progress on my blog). I will definitely shift my strategy to reflect “yes” answers to those questions. Do you have advice for a start-up?


    1. Well, you’re welcome Jordan! And congrats on your start-up. It must be a very exciting time in your life.

      Advice? Sure . . .

      * Join your local AFP chapter
      * Find a local RD professional and ask them to be a mentor (buy them coffee and chat at least once per month)
      * Get involved (really involved) in the community. Find ways to build relationships with area philanthropists (e.g Rotary, Kiwanis, etc)
      * Write a resource development plan that focuses on multiple and diverse revenue streams from teh very beginning
      * Focus hard on baord development because having the right board members around the table makes all the difference ina start-up situation
      * Get out of your office and spend 20 hours per week meeting one-on-one or two-on-one with prospective donors

      Well, that should keep you busy. Good luck!


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