Awhile back we reported on the now-infamous Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising.

One aspect of the study that drew attention was the somewhat lukewarm assessment by nonprofit CEOs of their development directors — 33% were dissatisfied or lukewarm about the performance of their development directors … and 24% said their development directors have no experience or are novices at ”current and prospective donor research”.

Somewhat tongue in cheek, we offered our fundraiser readers a chance to bite back. And they did!

According to our Agitator survey, only 22% of respondents would “nominate your CEO for The Agitator’s BEST CEO Award” (50% said No, and 29% ticked “are you guys nuts”).

More seriously we asked: “Rate your CEO’s understanding of and commitment to effective fundraising. He or she is …”

  • A superstar — 16%
  • Gets the basics, but not a leader in this area — 38%
  • Pretty hands-off — 23%
  • More of a hindrance than a help — 23%

Almost half (49%) would replace their CEO if they had the chance!

Asked which statement best described fundraising planning ‘at the top’ in their organizations, fundraisers said …

  • Program goals are discussed with fundraising an integral part of the discussion — 26%
  • “Tell us how much you can raise” — 17%
  • “Here’s what we need … go raise it” — 58%

Asked about support from the top, 37% said fundraising support from their CEO and Board was “lacking” … 20% said “they’re clueless”.

And what about appreciation from the top? 40% said their CEO treats them “like an occasional visiting relative” … 24% “like the gardener”.


These are comments from fairly seasoned fundraisers — almost half (47%) in the biz more than ten years; 71% over five years. Working in good-sized nonprofits — 27% with $1-5 million in private contributions; 30% with over $5 million.

It sure seems like both sides of the table are less than blissfully happy with the other. Not a healthy situation. What’s the problem? Too much pressure on everyone these days? Cultural incompatibility? Inconsistent agendas? Just a ‘failure to communicate’?

Does your nonprofit need the fundraising equivalent of a marriage counselor?


P.S. While we included some cheeky questions, our respondents seemed to focus seriously on question of leadership effectiveness in terms of fundraising. Many offered ‘verbatim’ comments on how CEOs might be better evaluated in that regard. We’ll share some of those suggestions later this week.


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