CEO Golden Hour, Part 1: Call Your Donors | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

CEO Golden Hour, Part 1: Call Your Donors

March 10, 2014
by Terry Axelrod
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What does it mean to "cultivate" a donor and how would a busy CEO find the time to do that even if they knew what to do? This is a question we are asked regularly by the groups in our Sustainable Funding Program, now that they have an ever-increasing number of multiple-year donors in their giving society. Rather than merely invoicing donors and expecting them to dutifully make their pledge payment for each of the next five years, these wise CEOs and development directors have discovered that with a high-touch system of personalized contacts, even the busiest of CEOs can begin—and even enjoy—the donor cultivation process!

In my next few blog posts, I will highlight the top three things your busy CEO can do to impact donor cultivation and major gifts if they are willing to dedicate merely one hour a week to this critical process. I call this the CEO Golden Hour and here's how it works.

Set aside one hour a week to make personal cultivation phone calls to donors.

Purpose: Getting to know your donors


CEO/Executive Director: Block out one hour per week for calls on CEO's calendar.

Development director:

  • Schedule four calls in advance. Tell each donor the call will last ten minutes at most.
  • Use the five minutes before each call to brief your CEO on each donor's background.
  • Bring a back-up list of other donors in case you finish early.

During the Call:

CEO/Executive Director:

  • Ask questions to engage donors in a dialog and learn more about their particular areas of interest and passion for your work:
    • How did you first learn about our organization or become involved with us?
    • Is there a particular area of our work that most interests you?
    • Do you have a personal connection to our mission?
    • Where or how do you think we're really missing the boat?
    • What advice do you have for us?
    • What cues might we have missed from you?
    • How better could we be telling our story?
    • What could we be doing to involve more people?

Development Director:

  • Listen quietly.
  • Take notes and enter into donor database.

Seems easy enough. Yet many executive directors we work with confess that they won't actually do this unless their development director shows up in their office at that exact hour, sits across their desk, and takes notes during the call. What would it take for you to pick up the phone and call your donors? A personal call from the CEO or executive director is a call they will remember. And you might just surprise yourself by getting hooked on the process!


Terry Axelrod

CEO, Benevon

Terry Axelrod


Terry Axelrod is founder and CEO of Benevon. She has more than thirty years of experience in the...

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