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Health systems, hospitals and other healthcare organizations that do not have an effective fund development program will be at greater risk of falling behind competitively given that shrinking reimbursement will squeeze margins and crimp capital/technology spending. 

Raising money and building a robust endowment is now more important than ever. 

It surprises me that some CEOs do not feel a sense of urgency to dramatically improve charitable giving for their organizations.  I view Chief Development Officer engagements as mission-critical searches.  A deep knowledge of fundraising, a track record of success and a style and presence conducive to making the “big ask” are critical qualities for this position. 

As important as the CEO position is for the overall success of the organization, the stability of this position is as essential if an organization expects to achieve a best-in-class fundraising program.  That is why I offer clients an extended placement guarantee—three years—for senior fundraising executives.

I recently turned down a search because the hospital’s foundation “lunch” board wanted an events-oriented fundraiser, not someone who would ruffle feathers by asking their friends for the big gifts.  Special events do not raise serious money. Events, while helpful for PR purposes, are not the foundation upon which successful fund development is based.   I am not going to guarantee a search for 3 years in that type of failing environment.

It is surprising that some CEOs seem to be content with hiring someone local who is known to everyone but who does not have a clue as to how a successful fund development program must operate.  The CEO would not hire a CFO without extensive experience in the complex world of hospital finance.  Long ago in my recruiting career I learned that there is a steep learning curve in the fundraising business. That hiring someone local is a false argument.  With a well thought out onboarding program, bringing in an outsider who has a depth of fundraising experience, can overcome  the lack of local contacts. 

Within seven years, healthcare organizations that have built a strong and sustainable fund development program stand the best chance of long-term survival.

© 2012 John Gregory Self