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Successful Nonprofits Podcast

Jan 8, 2018

A strong relationship between the executive director and development director is vital to successful fundraising. In fact, these two staff must share mutual trust, open communication, and patience to achieve a charity’s fundraising goals.

We know the toll for a weak CEO-CDO relationship is significant:

  • Frequent fundraiser turnover
  • Frustrated donors
  • Failure to meet fundraising goals
  • Fumbled board fundraising

Every nonprofit professional agrees that a healthy CEO-CDO relationship enhances fundraising, but many non-profits suffer from a messy relationship between these key executives. For this reason, Emma Kieran, principal of PilotPeak consulting in Pittsburg, joins us to discuss ways a Chief Development Officer (CDO) and CEO can build a strong relationship.


Emma’s website: 

*****Time Stamped Highlghts*****

(3:00) Lack of synergy: the number one reason fundraisers, CDOs, and CEOs leave

(6:11) How and why turnovers affect your annual campaign and special events

(7:15) Knowing the different roles for your CDOs and CEOs

(8:20) How a CEO can build a strong relationship with the CDO

(9:00) Developing expectations and being patient

(9:53) Open, regular communication: the CDO’s main priority in building a better relationship with the CEO

(14:46) “Meeting summary”: a tool for reinforcing mutual accountability between the CDOs and CEOs

(15:50) Work plan: another tool for CDOs and CEOs to use

(18:53) The CEOs role in board fundraising efforts

(20:20) The CDOs role in board fundraising efforts

(21:42) Celebrating success and professional development

(23:31) Prioritizing creative space for CDOs

(25:40)- Spending money to make money: paying for the value of your CDO

(27:45) “Ironman”: Emma shares her favorite and least favorite part of a triathlon.

(31:40) Emma shares the inspiration behind the name “PilotPeak”