Strategies for Success

Leadership in Philanthropy

In his best-selling book, Good to Great, Jim Collins underscored this lesson: “You need the right people in the right seats on the bus, and let them decide where to drive it.” Red Auerbach, long-time president of the Boston Celtics, said, “How you select people is more important than how you manage them once they’re on the job.” Both of these sentiments reflect the importance of having the right people on your team. But what does this mean for philanthropy?

Here are tips to get you started:

Identify great leaders.

Philanthropic boards need to be filled with individuals of affluence and influence. Start with the people who know your organization best and care deeply about the mission. Ask them who they know in their circles of influence – individuals who might have an interest in the mission and a capacity to give a gift of significance.

Involve them in the life of the organization.

As we often say at Kinetic: “Involvement leads to investment.” Once you have identified potential leaders and donors, invite them to come see the work you are doing and experience the joy of being part of a big vision. Site tours, civic presentations, community outreach events and many other activities can be good ways to meet potential leaders and donors on a more personal level than through direct mail or cold calls. Make connections, and don’t forget to follow up.

Invite them to join in, and this includes fundraising.

Effective leaders understand the organization’s mission, but it takes time and a desire to learn. Effective organizations have a strategic plan for where they need to go, and the training and authority to carry out the vision. Effective fundraisers have a comprehensive fundraising plan that includes a budget, timeline and benchmark goals.

Everyone closely associated with the nonprofit – staff, board members, key volunteers and major donors – should feel invited and welcome to be part of the vision and fulfillment of the mission. Choose your leadership well, and then invite them to become even more involved.

Geoff Burns

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