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News & Press: Member Insights

Stepping Beyond Leadership into Ownership

Wednesday, May 4, 2016   (0 Comments)

By Angela Hodson, Principal, Dini Spheris

For years, a commonly expressed fundraising truism was that the secret to fundraising success is leadership, leadership, leadership. And while that is certainly true today, perhaps it is time to restate what exactly we mean by "leadership."

If one were to study an industry, entrepreneurship and overall innovation, this truism about leadership is often expressed another way: "Every successful project has an owner." The comparison of leadership to ownership may appear to offer few distinctions, but the truth is that leaders are not bound to their projects – or campaigns – in the same way that owners are. Owners sense a heightened level of responsibility for the failure or success of the projects. Owners delegate with higher-than-usual expectations of their peers and co-workers. Owners flat-out will do whatever it takes, thinking inside, outside and around the box to bring their projects to a successful conclusion.


Over the years, we have learned that every successful campaign or fundraising initiative has an owner – someone who sees this project as their baby, their responsibility, their opportunity for success. Sometimes this is a campaign volunteer or chairperson. At other times, it is the institutional CEO, the chief advancement officer or even a board member. This owner is the one who says come heck or high water – economic slowdown or oil slump, stiff philanthropic competition or weak institutional leadership – we will get this done, and I will make sure that we are successful.

This kind of clarity regarding a campaign’s importance is essential to its success. Without it, the risk of failure is significant as well. In preparing and planning a campaign, so often the question is "Who will chair this effort?”  In reality, the most important question is "Who will own this campaign?"

As you plan and organize your next campaign, you might adopt the mantra of ownership, ownership, ownership. With the right ownership, success will be just around the corner.


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