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Harness the Power of Leadership Influence and Insights: The Importance of CEO Engagement


Philanthropy—voluntary, charitable giving from individuals, corporations and foundations—can provide the low-risk, high-ROI revenue source health care organizations currently need. For many health systems, philanthropy is being repositioned on the leadership agenda as a key alternative revenue source. However, many health leaders have never been exposed to the areas of best practice and opportunity philanthropy can yield. To better integrate this function with system plans and to harness the power of leadership influence and insights, it’s time to rethink the CEO’s relationship with philanthropy.


As a robust philanthropy program has become a lever to health care organization success, proactive CEO engagement to support the philanthropy program is no longer optional.

The CEO serves as a linchpin—a visionary leader whose unwavering commitment and influence are instrumental in raising charitable funds. As the face of the organization, the CEO embodies its mission, values and aspirations, commanding respect and trust from donors and stakeholders alike. The CEO has been entrusted with the management and financial health of the organization, so it naturally follows he or she would be obligated to take on a meaningful and proactive role in areas where the CEO is uniquely positioned to add value.


As a robust philanthropy program has become a lever to health care organization success, proactive CEO engagement to support the philanthropy program is no longer optional.

Proactive CEO engagement is much more than an appearance at the foundation gala or saying a few words about philanthropy at a public event. The CEO lends gravitas to fund development efforts, signaling to donors their contributions are valued and impactful. By leveraging position and influence, the CEO can open doors, forge strategic partnerships and mobilize resources to advance the organization’s goals.


In essence, the CEO is not just a leader but a catalyst for change—a staunch ally in the noble pursuit of raising charitable funds to support and strengthen health care initiatives. Beyond the valuable donor-facing role of the CEO, the CEO has other uniquely important internal roles. For example, the CEO’s verbal support, physical presence and active modeling signals the importance of philanthropy, elevates it on the agenda, sets expectations, unleashes resources and builds momentum with advocates.


Ways the CEO can enhance philanthropy:


  • Articulate the Vision. As chief spokesperson for the organization, the CEO plays a crucial role in articulating the vision, impact and importance of philanthropic initiatives. By effectively communicating the organization’s goals and the transformative potential of charitable giving, the CEO can inspire donors to invest in the cause.

  • Ensure Strategic Alignment. The CEO directs charitable dollars to the organization’s highest priorities and facilitates access to information about multi-year objectives, the supporting rationale, timeline, cost and more. The CEO ensures alignment in philanthropy by involving the Chief Philanthropy Officer in key strategy conversations, as well as collaborating with the foundation board to ensure a shared vision for philanthropy’s role in future plans.

  • Leverage Allies. The CEO can seek the active involvement of board members, clinicians and other executive allies as connectors, advocates and influencers. The CEO also can encourage physicians to champion philanthropy by sharing the clinical rationale for strategic projects and by enabling patients to express gratitude for care in a way that respects, affirms and enriches the patient experience.

  • Make Adequate Investments. The CEO can ensure fund development is recognized as a revenue center rather than a cost center and can advocate for investment in the program consistent with the level of financial opportunity that exists. The CEO may sometimes also support expansion of budget and staff resources for the program even when cuts are required because dollars invested in philanthropy can be multiplied and returned.

  • Foster Culture. The CEO can foster a culture to support and advance philanthropy by embodying values of generosity, encouragement and leadership and articulating the importance of giving back to the community. The CEO can also foster a culture of giving by highlighting philanthropic achievements, creating opportunities for employees to engage and recognizing employee contributions.

  • Lead by Example. A CEO’s personal commitment to philanthropy sets the tone for the entire organization. By making charitable contributions and actively participating in fund development efforts, the CEO demonstrates belief in the organization’s mission and inspires others to follow suit.


Ultimately, CEO engagement both inside and outside the hospital is critical to optimize fund development efforts. The CEO is instrumental in engaging donors, facilitating allies and creating an internal environment that supports giving. As the board considers the potential of philanthropy as a revenue source to advance mission and strengthen strategy, it’s time to formalize the CEO’s role in philanthropy.


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About the Author: Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, is CEO of Accordant. She can be reached at Betsy@AccordantHealth.com or through LinkedIn.



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The Accordant Team has published a number of books to advance the efforts of health care philanthropy and help development leaders everywhere. 

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Accordant is honored to collaborate with American Hospital Association Trustee Services to provide issue papers, templates and webinars to support the involvement of healthcare trustees and foundation board members in advancing philanthropy. These resources can also be found on the AHA Trustee website.

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