Q: Our CEO is extremely busy and is having a hard time getting in calls and visits to donors. As a development director, how can I help her carve out time for this? I have a few board members who have been willing to go on donor visits with me, and they have done a wonderful job, but I know we have donors who need to see our CEO!
Janet in Nevada
A: Making time for cultivation can be difficult for a busy executive director or CEO. We have found that the best way a development person can support them in making it happen is a concept we call the CEO Golden Hour.
To get started, your CEO must commit to carving out one hour a week for donor cultivation. Try to schedule a consistent hour each week so that your CEO gets in the habit of cultivation happening on that day. Once this time is booked (and we would suggest doing this for the whole year before their calendar fills up), you (as the development director) will fill the hour in one of the following three ways:
- Schedule your CEO to make telephone calls to donors in your Multiple-Year Giving Society. Contact the donors in advance and tell them that the CEO would like to have a 10 to 15-minute visit with them over the phone. Have your CEO make the calls while you are sitting right there in the office so that you can enter the notes into the database.
- Another option is to host small group breakfasts, coffees, or lunches for donors. Have a board member and your CEO host about five to seven donors for a one-hour visit. Tell them you are bringing together some of your key supporters to provide updates, gather their input, and thank them for their support. Use the time to share successes and challenges with your donors and to get to know them better by asking questions and asking for their advice. This is a wonderful way to meet with many donors in just a few visits.
- Finally, you can schedule one-on-one visits for your CEO and a major donor. These could be the same people who expressed an interest in getting more involved with the organization when the CEO spoke with them over the phone or in the small group meetings.
Regardless of which option you choose, be sure you have scheduled time to follow up with these donors after each contact. After a few months of honoring this one-hour-per-week commitment, give your CEO a summary report of the number of donors she has contacted and some of the highlights and outcomes. Then ask if she might be willing to increase to two hours a week!