Going from CDO to CEO

Movin’ on up. Within any organization, it is possible for people to move upward, and with the anticipated gap expected because of widespread retirements, nonprofits will see a need to fill senior positions.

Speaking during the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference on Fundraising, Thomas W. Mesaros, president and CEO of the Alford Group, and Sharon Moulds, executive director and CEO of the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America, discussed the transition from chief development officer (CDO) to chief executive officer (CEO). It might seem like a slam-dunk, but there are issues to consider.

CEOs and CDOs share the following characteristics: Leadership; Self-motivation; Ability to motivate others; Ability to make tough decisions; and, Financial acumen.

One difference is that, while the CEO has a vision for the future, the CDO embraces the CEO’s vision of the future.

There are other characteristics, some of which overlap and some of which diverge.

  • The CEO must be able to recruit and guide a board of directors. A CDO must be able to recruit and guide volunteer leaders.
  • Both must be able to lead and motivate staff. Both must be able to create change.
  • Both must be able to bring consensus to a group of people.
  • A CDO must be able to follow direction and the leadership of others.  A CEO must give direction.
  • Both must know and be known in the community.
  • Both must be able to listen to and mentor others.