Forging a Strong Relationship between the CEO and CAO

Forging a Strong Relationship between the CEO and CAO

August 3rd, 2010

by Dan Schipp

Forging a Strong Relationship between the CEO and CAO

Recently I was asked to coach a new chief advancement officer (CAO) on how to work effectively with her chief executive officer (CEO).  The goal for a strong CEO/CAO relationship is to forge a partnership that enables each to be as effective as possible in their respective roles and with their unique skill sets.

The relationship between the CEO and the CAO has been called by some the most critical relationship in a not-for-profit organization. As Michael Gaylor outlines in his chapter in the book, Transformational Leadership, edited by Stanley Weinstein, the two leaders must have an authentic relationship, based on mutual respect, genuine interest in one another, and a deep commitment to the organization, its mission and values.  They must be comfortable spending time together and be able to work out the conflicts that inevitably will rise up between them. The CEO and CAO need to be headed in the same direction.  They may disagree on some of the tactics for getting to their destination, but they must be aligned when it comes to strategic goals.

The CEO and CAO have different roles to play in advancement.  The CEO is the visionary. She ensures that the organization’s mission is fulfilled efficiently and effectively.  She articulates the organization’s aspirations.  She exercises judicious oversight of the organization’s resources.  She builds relationships and seeks the resources necessary to fulfill the organization’s aspirations.

The CAO is the “bridge” between the organization and its external constituents.  He is the donors’ advocate.  He is the facilitator and supporter of the CEO, board members and other volunteers in their roles in advancement.  He is the developer, implementer and evaluator of fund development strategies.  He also is a builder of relationships and lead participant in seeking philanthropic support for the organization.

A strong relationship between an organization’s CEO and CAO is a key element of a successful advancement program.  What kind of relationship do your CEO and CAO have?  What do you see as the essentials for forging an effective CEO/CAO relationship?

Look for more info on this subject next month as I provide you with practical exercises on forging a stronger CEO/CAO relationship in your organization.

Let Dan know how helpful  “Forging a Strong Relationship between the CEO and CAO” is for your organization and share your results by posting in the JGA comments section below.

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