The CEO You Are Looking For is Right Under Your Nose!

by Jonny Cline

Dear donor, service beneficiary, and staff member,

Re: Leadership and Professional Experience

It amazes me how much I have seen over the last decade and a half.

During that time I have worked for everyone from the most senior social worker, through the ex-business owner who needed to do something meaningful, and to the ex-military general who chose not to go into business, during their reign as CEO of the nonprofit.

I have seen some of the good, a great deal of the bad, and an intolerable amount of the downright ugly!

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen plenty of good – tons and tons of good – heaped upon some of society’s worst and most weakening problems by some of the most genuine and dedicated people I have been lucky enough to have met, but…

…there is a dissonance, isn’t there?

There may be many ways to describe the paradigm, and perhaps to portray the elements that interact in the attempt to fill the need and to combat the particular social issue that is the focus of your particular cause. I would like to share with you, from the point of view of an intrinsically interested party, my understanding of an aspect of the problem, and to suggest a solution that is both obvious and counter-intuitive at the same time.

The Holy Trinity to whom the nonprofit CEO should answer is the three of you:

  • The Donor – also to be found in roles such as board member, committee member, volunteer, and more. Without you the nonprofit could not, legally or practically, exist. You are needed to sign the founding paperwork, required for annual reporting, and essential for keeping the engines fuelled and running.
  • The Beneficiary – whether you are aware of your role or not, without you there would be no reason for the organization to exist. Of course we would like to be able to close the doors of nonprofits that have accomplished their goals, but we are well aware that the vast majority of causes will be with us for many years to come. We see our role in the provision of the services you need, or at least in ensuring that such services are provided, whether by government or by some other means. Besides your very existence, your cooperation with us, or ours with you, is necessary in order to make sure that your needs are indeed being met.
  • The Staff – we need the best of you, and in order for that to happen, you need the best of us. We need you to be the most professional, the most dedicated and the most invested you can be – it just makes sense that for that to happen we need to be the most professionally run and managed organisations, dedicated not only to external partners but at least as dedicated to those charged with day-to-day implementation of our plans and goals, and insistent upon investing in you, your professional development, your self-realization and your satisfaction in your environment and role. Without you, what needs to, simply would not get done.

It might be possible to throw into the pot both the government and society, but let’s not go too far.

In my experience, the obvious choices for CEO have either not been interested in reaching, or have not been able to reach, more than two of you. That creates the weakness that eventually leads to downfall.

If only there were a function to be found that could bridge the gap. Were that we could identify a role, a niche player, with experience, skills and interests that include:

  • Experience in, understanding of, and love for, the 3rd sector
  • Knowledge of, and interest in, the problem that the organization exists to solve
  • Understanding of the budgets and processes to be found behind the scenes in order to operate and provide the range of services offered
  • Ability to choose the professionals best able to work for the cause, and to cultivate them in a way that can balance their own needs with those of the organization
  • Appreciation of the role of the voluntary membership, leadership and donor-base of the organization
  • Dedication
  • Morals and ethics
  • Emotional intelligence

If only… but wait!

Not in every organization, but in thousands, there is a functionary whose position and role necessitates all of the above!

The role of resource development, and the professional thus charged, requires that they have genuine emotional intelligence – without that, they could not possibly function. They have to realize and fully identify with the social issue for which they lobby, and to have a full understanding and appreciation of what it takes to implement the provision of services. Not only need they understand the bits and bolts, they have to have such a grasp for it that they can relay all necessary information to any interested, or not yet interested, party in order to negotiate that party’s involvement in the cause. The relationships they must build with those active in strategizing, goal setting and implementation of services need to be open and strong enough to ensure that information and stories can traverse the vacuum that exists between field (recipient) and facilitator (donor).

The Resource Developer, often the fundraiser, is the functionary most aware of the full picture, and, more often than not, most able to be able to facilitate and sustain the Holy Trinity.

My dear donor, recipient and staff member, please see what is right beneath your noses. We, indeed I, the resource development professional, would like to run your organization. I would like to take this organ made possible by you, for you, and of you, to the point at which it is truly fulfilling the mission for which it was created.

I am able to be, willing to be, and very, very interested in being, the CEO.

Yours Sincerely,

The Resource Developer

Jonny Cline has managed and fundraised for charities, large and small, on three continents. He is the founder of UK Toremet and Fundraiser.co.il, and the co-producer of the Amuta21C annual summit. Jonny is an un-caped crusader, a tireless activist for both professionalism in the Israeli 3rd sector and the development of an Israeli Culture of Giving.