CEOs, EDs, Presidents, Deans Who GET Development!

by Marcy Heim on July 24, 2019

I had a delightful conversation a week ago. The CEO of a large senior health care facility, and new member in my Dream, Act, Achieve Coaching Program ask, “What can I do to best support my new development person?”

How I wish more CEO’s, Executive Directors, College Presidents, Principals, and Deans would ask THAT question!  Well, I got my wish! This week at Georgia College, the President, Deans, Board members and staff were with me AN ENTIRE DAY to enhance their role in creating major giving relationships. Georgia College, under the leadership of VP of Advancement, Monica Delisa, has already had giving success.  But they knew they needed more engagement with Advisory Boards and new leadership.  Together we created a game plan for actions each could take to support donor engagement and investment.

Top Traits of Top Leadership For Top Development Results:

  1. Believe in, and respect, the power and joy of giving.  When leaders see givers as a “necessary evil” to get the money so they can run the place the development team and other staff must create the authentic relationships and minimize the toxic impact. On the other hand, leadership that has supporting conversations make a major different in donor decisions to
  2. Set clear long-term visions and goals. Big donors want big visions.  If leadership is sending a message of “maintaining” big donors will make “maintaining” gifts, if they give at all. Outstanding leaders are fired up about where their place is headed. When they have a clear vision for a big future, vibrant options for giving are clear for staff and donors alike.
  3. Place development as a priority for every Board meeting.  What you focus on, you grow. If every Board meeting celebrates a donor STORY (not lists of giving stats), recognizes the role leadership and board members are playing in donor conversations, and keeps the Big Vision front and center giving will grow.
  4. Stability and Endowment. A belief in the stability of the organization is one of the factors driving major gifts. Leadership is key to telling this story and being able to share a long-term vision that assures planned and estate givers that you will be there and that their investment will be important when their deferred gift matures.
  5. Know and appreciate the Development/Advancement team.  Leaders who acknowledge the team, thank them for their efforts and share the success build a loyal team. With turnover in development staff a key challenge, this goes a long ways towards keeping staff with you – and that’s good for donors and major giving.
  6. Make time for Development. Great development staff will streamline the time you need to invest, but you still MUST make time to hear donor briefings, meet with key donors, write notes, and LISTEN. Great leaders know that donors want the leadership to be interested in THEM.
  7. ASK when you are the “right” asker. Quality development staff are excellent at writing and delivering a clear ask (use Marcy’s 3-sentence formula) but at times a donor will give a clear signal that she expects to hear from the leadership. A great leader prepares for an artful ask, speaks it and then STOPS TALKING to let the donor respond. 
  8. Development staff have a seat at the Management and Board “table.”  Your development staff must be seen by Board and other staff as part of the SLT – Senior Leadership Team. With this endorsement you are declaring that raising major gifts is important and a priority.   
  9. GIVE!  You attract what you put out. You sew what you reap. When you are grateful, the universe will give you more to be grateful for.  Leadership MUST give their dollars in a meaningful and significant way to be successful at generating meaningful and significant gifts from others. Period.kindness
  10. Be nice.  Seriously – good manners, respect, kindness, empathy, and understanding never go out of style and are always highly valued.

Together, top leaders who “get” development and their teams make the biggest impact!  As more and more leaders are hired with the expectation that fundraising is a key part of their role, or for those leaders who do it all, authentically engaging others will make the difference between success and struggle. Thank you, leadership, staff, and board, for your role in this world-changing biz we are in. I am delighted and honored to play a small part in helping you experience success!

Invest in JOY®


Marcy Heim is a trusted authority in the development profession and helps organizations and educational institutions boost their major gift programs through artful, long-term relationship building that dramatically increases fundraising success while promoting increased staff job satisfaction. To receive a free chapter from Marcy’s book, Empower Your Board to Serve as Effective Development Ambassadors, click here.

Questions:  Contact KK Konicek at

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