The Executive Director and Development Director Relationship with Emma Kieran : Successful Nonprofits

Episode 67

The Executive Director and Development Director Relationship with Emma Kieran

Listen on  iTunes    Android     Stitcher    Libsyn

Episode 67

The Executive Director and Development Director Relationship with Emma Kieran

Listen on  iTunes    Android     Stitcher    Libsyn

by GoldenburgGroup

At the board level, the executive director needs to advocate on behalf of the fundraising team.

Every nonprofit professional agrees that a healthy CEO-CDO relationship enhances fundraising, but many non-profits suffer from a messy relationship between these key executives. For this reason, Emma Kieran, principal of PilotPeak consulting in Pittsburg, joins us to discuss ways a Chief Development Officer (CDO) and CEO can build a strong relationship.

****Time Stamped Highlights*****

(3:00) The cons of a lack of energy
(6:11) The effects of turnover
(7:15) Knowing the different roles for your CDOs and CEOs
(8:20) How a CEO can build a strong relationship with the CDO
(9:00) Developing expectations and being patient
(9:53) The key to building a CDO and CEO’s relationship

The relationship between a donor and fundraiser is like dating, and frequent turnover among development staff frustrates donors.

(14:46) Using the meeting summary
(15:50) Work plan: another tool for CDOs and CEOs to use
(18:53) The CEOs role in board fundraising efforts
(20:20) The CDOs role in board fundraising efforts
(21:42) Celebrating success and professional development
(23:31) Prioritizing creative space for CDOs
(25:40) Look, you have to spend money to make money
(27:45) Emma the Iron Man
(31:40) Emma answers, “Why PilotPeak?”


Emma’s website:

Read the Transcript for Episode 67 Below or Click Here!

From their first day on the job, CDOs need to establish trust and an open line of communication with their CEO.

Dolph Goldenburg: Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits™ Podcast. I’m your host Dolph Goldenburg, and we are focusing on the important relationship between the CDO, that’s the chief development officer, and the CEO in this episode of the podcast. I have been a development director. I’ve been an executive director, and in either role, I would often think about what I called the care and feeding of the development director. Admittedly, I thought a lot more about it when I was a development director than I did when I was a CEO, which might be part of what our conversation ends up being about today. For me, the thought of the relationship between these two staff members feels almost as critical as the relationship between the executive director and the board chair. It’s got to be strong, and it’s got to be a good partnership. After all, the chief development officer is likely responsible for running your organization’s economic engine, and if the CEO isn’t as productive as possible, then the economic engine does not work as well as it could.

And while I don’t have any data to prove it, I bet that the job-hopping that we often see among fundraisers is because a strong relationship and bond don’t exist between the CEO and the staff member in charge of fundraising. To discuss this important partnership, we turn to Emma Kieran. Emma has seen this important relationship from many vantage points directly as a fundraiser herself, as a fundraising consultant, as a coach, and as a trainer. As the principal at Pilot Peak Consulting based in Pittsburgh, but serving nonprofits all over the country, Emma has served over 60 nonprofit organizations. So we are thrilled to have her with us today. Let us cue the music and welcome Emma Kieran.

Hey Emma, thanks for joining us today.

Emma Kieran: Thanks to all for having me.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, what got you interested in the CDO/CEO relationship?

Emma Kieran: That’s a great question. So, I like, you have been in a lot of different fundraising positions in the past, and what I’ve noticed is that the turnover is really high, and unfortunately it takes a long time for a CDO to develop relationships, really deep relationships with board members and donors, and that turnover is really hurting their relationships. So, I wanted to understand a little bit more about what was causing the turnover. From the research that I did (and some of its informal and some of its formal) I found out that the number one reason fundraisers leave is because they can’t stand the management. They can’t really find a great relationship with their executive director or their CEO, and they can’t find that synergy that’s necessary to make the fundraising mechanism really strong.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, tell me a little bit about both the formal and the informal research that you did.

Emma Kieran: Great question. So, the informal research is me having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a colleague and saying, so why are you choosing to leave? I’ve helped a lot of organizations fill positions both at the CDO level and also other fundraising levels – major gift officers moving into the CDO level or similar experiences. So that’s the informal side, and then the formal side is just reading good blogs, good white papers and really understanding what AFP is putting out there, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the chronicle of philanthropy and why they’re saying that this turnover is somewhere between the 16 and 20-month mark.

Dolph Goldenburg: It’s also interesting that part of your informal research is working with candidates because clearly, you are working with someone who is looking at leaving their job. When you’re acting as a search consultant, you probably are having the conversation with them about why they want to leave.

Emma Kieran: That’s exactly right. And that’s one of the questions I always ask, and sometimes people are a little hesitant to answer that question because they don’t want to seem like they’re giving their current organization a bad rap or that they’re really saying anything negative about a manager or leader. But what I really like to do is dig into the reason that they feel like they can’t stay at their current job and develop those deep relationships because ultimately those relationships are what make fundraising successful. And so, if you’re leaving in 16 or 20 months, you don’t have the capacity to develop those long-term relationships that really result in great big gifts for your organization that are transformational.

Dolph Goldenburg: It’s interesting you say that because I’ve had this conversation multiple times with my Alma Mater, which it feels like every two years I have a new development director assigned to me. I’m actually at the point now where this has happened three or four times where I have frank conversations with the dean about it, and I’m like, and I say this is an issue because just as I start to develop a relationship with this person, they get poached by, you know, a bigger fundraising shop somewhere else.

Emma Kieran: That’s right. And what happens then is you as the donor or any of us as donors end up then having to tell your story over again. And so, then there’s a disconnect. I’ve just developed a relationship, or you’ve just developed a relationship with a fundraiser, and you’ve poured your heart and soul into that relationship a little bit. Remember the relationship between a donor and a fundraiser is a little bit like dating, and so you’ve spent two years as a fundraiser courting that donor. You’ve really gotten to know them and what makes them tick and how they want to make a difference and what mission really drives them, and then the donor has to start all over again. It can be very frustrating for a donor and not as really results-oriented for the organization. It really can be harmful.

Dolph Goldenburg: I can see how that’s super harmful in major gifts but talk to me about special events and annual campaigns. How is that detrimental to the organization, for example, in an annual campaign, will most of it is done by mail or by volunteer solicitors?

Emma Kieran: Yeah, that’s a great question. So what ends up happening is if you have turnover in the CDO role, or even in any other fundraiser role, but since we’re talking about CDO’s today, if you have that turnover happen, what ends up happening into your annual campaign is that you end up coming into a two-year cycle where the letter looks like x or y for a couple of years and you start to develop a theme and a voice, and donors really get interested in that. And then they start really listening. Remember that donors need to hear you say your message seven, eight, nine, ten times, sometimes before they really hear it. And so, if they hear one voice for two years and then there’s a break, and they hear another voice for two years, it really can interrupt the way that you’re reaching your donors. That interrupts that message because the clarity and the uniformity and the theme disappears.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, what is it about that relationship between your chief development officer and your executive director – what is it about it that makes the job satisfying for a development director?

Your organization must spend money to make money. To find a great fundraising professional, your organization must reward your CDO for the hard work they do.

Emma Kieran: So, the first thing is that if a CEO and a CDO both understand their role, then they’re able really to sit in the right place. So, a CEO’s role is to lead. They are the chief fundraiser, but they’re managing the board; they’re approving goals; they’re really supporting development efforts. A CDO by contrast, they are leading, but they’re leading their team, not the whole organization. And their goal really is to communicate, to establish the strategies and have that really close relationship and those same goals with their CEO. So if that really works, if that gels, then the CEO can count on the CDO and vice versa. And then everyone has that trust relationship so that you know that the donors are cared for. You are working towards the same goal. You’re asking for the same kinds of things or asking the same way, and that helps you as you go year to year because you’re really following this theme together.

Dolph Goldenburg: So what can the CEO do to help build that relationship?

Emma Kieran: So, the first thing is to avoid having expectations that are too high. This is the first thing that I often see with people who are leaving their CDO role. They are leaving because they say, “Oh, the CEO doesn’t really understand fundraising. They don’t understand that it takes nine months, 12 months, 18 months to develop relationships and really see donations come in.” So as a CEO, you really need to educate yourself, become educated about how to set expectations for fundraising and work with your CDO to create those expectations so that the CDO isn’t over-promising, and the CEO isn’t over-expecting.

Dolph Goldenburg: It’s interesting you say that. I was recently working with an organization that wanted to hire a development director starting in July and was helping to see results by December. There was a lot of managing expectation. You might see a little something, but you aren’t going to see a windfall happen after five or six months.

Emma Kieran: That’s exactly right. I mean, it takes us five or six months to be able to say the mission without a hiccup if you’re new to an organization. Really seeing results does take a full year if not up to two years because you’ve got to meet the donors; you’ve got to start developing that relationship. And I say again that it’s like dating. You wouldn’t expect to get engaged after five months probably. And so, you’ve got to think the same thing with your donors. They’re not going to make a bigger gift or stretch a little bit more until they really understand the person that they’re talking to. People give to people. And so, they’ve got to understand and know that new CDO.

Dolph Goldenburg: right now, relationships are two-way streets. So, what is the CDO’s responsibility and building a good strong relationship with their CEO?

The first thing is communication. Often as fundraisers, we get our blinders on, and we really look inward and we look to our team and we say, “Okay, I need to raise $5,000,000, 1 million dollars, $500,000,” whatever the goal is. And you get laser-focused on how that’s going to happen into the nuts and bolts. And so, CDO’s often forget to have that open communication on a daily basis with their CEO and so the CEO is out of the loop and so that there’s a little bit of a fault there on the CDO if they’re not communicating what they need, what the CEO needs to do, how the CEO needs to be involved, or the board for example. So, CDO’s really right from the get-go, right from that first day on the job need to establish that trust with their CEO and that open line of communication.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, daily communication. Tell me about that. What does it look like, you know, face to face, email, what is that supposed to look like?

Emma Kieran: So, you know, I used to work for an organization where we killed ourselves with meetings, and I always used to say, this is ridiculous. We can never get any work done. However, I will tell you there was no communication that slipped through the cracks. We were always on top of it as a team. Instead of killing yourself with meetings, what I do recommend for daily communication is some sort of cycle. Maybe it’s a weekly email to your CEO that says, “Hey, I wanted you to know what’s happening. These are the donors that moved forward. These are the donors that were stalled on. These are the things that we’re deciding for the event or the annual campaign,” and putting that in writing maybe once a week on a Friday or a Monday just to set your week up. Then, I do recommend a weekly sit down in person, face to face, not on the phone, CEO to CDO because there is something that you get from that personal face to face interaction that you can’t get from the phone or from an email. And then, in the interim, in between those two things, there should be regular emails or phone calls or a text, whatever is your style, but we do need to remember that we often communicate in the style that’s best for us.

Dolph Goldenburg: Amen. That’s what I was about to go.

Emma Kieran: And we need to really communicate in the style that’s best for the other person. So, if your CEO is a phone person, call him or her on the phone. If they’re a text person, do that instead. You really need to understand how your CEO needs to communicate, and that’s a two-way street, too.

I will share with you that one of the things that I did both as a development director and as a CEO and my first development director Gig, this concept was new to the CEO so I had to introduce it to them. So, I always believed in that weekly meeting, but as part of that weekly meeting as the person being supervised, I would always put together an agenda that I would send to my CEO ahead of time. You know, it wasn’t in depth. It tended to be topic and then two to three sentences about what I wanted to talk about, and my CEO could add to that agenda if they wanted. But for me a) It allowed me to really sit down and think about what I wanted to get out of that meeting is the person who needs something from a boss. But then it also gave my boss an opportunity to think about what it is we were going to talk about. Because that way I could have the expectation that when we met, it should not be that often that I would hear, “Well, let me think about x, y, z, and I’ll get back to you next week.” If I needed my CEO to make a decision, I’d given them some core information upfront. I was going to give them some more in the meeting, and I was kind of expecting a decision pretty quickly either in the meeting or shortly after the meeting.

Emma Kieran: That’s a great way to train yourself and to train your supervisor to be able to make decisions in meetings. Because the problem with meetings often is that nothing happens, and there’s nothing worse than a terrible meeting where you just talk at one another, and there is no decision, and you just say, “Okay, well, we’ll meet again next week,” and nothing has been done. So, I love that idea of an agenda. I often encourage folks to do it by email. You don’t have to create a fancy word document or anything like that. Just put a couple of bullets down. And you know, often the best CEOs are the ones who keep that list as a running list, so they add to it all week long. By the time they meet with the CEO, they’re not forgetting about things.

Dolph Goldenburg: I’ve often done it in excel where week is a new tab. Then I would send it to my boss in excel and explain if you want to go back and see prior weeks, just click on the tabs. It also made creating the next week’s agenda easy because I would copy the last tab, and I’d start from there. Okay. What do we need to follow up on?

Emma Kieran: Right. That’s exactly right.

Dolph Goldenburg: One of the things that I’ve found really useful as an executive director – and I’d love your feedback on whether or not this is an effective thing to do with CDO’s – but one of the things that I found useful as an executive director was ending each meeting with a written meeting summary. It was quick and dirty. We spent like the last five minutes of the meeting on it, but literally it was what do we decide or what action was going to be taken? Who was going to do it wasn’t me as the executive director or someone else? What I loved about that is that it allowed for mutual accountability because so often as a direct report to the CEO, the CEO will say, “Oh yeah, I’m going to, I’m going to talk to Mary. I’m going to talk to Emma, and I’ll talk to them by next week.” And then next week rolls around and see as like, “Oh, sorry, I forgot to do it,” but you know, but there’s not such a sense of accountability is when your name is on the line, and there’s a deadline and then the person who reports to you can hold you accountable and can say, “Dolph, I can’t do this until you talk to Emma.”

Emma Kieran: That is so right. That accountability is the most important thing between a CEO and a CDO because as c-suite positions, both are responsible for things that are very important and that impact the rest of the team. And so, making sure that the CEO, your CDO or executive director knows what they’re responsible for is great. And so, making a list at the end of the meeting is a great idea. I’ve also done it in a google document so that people can go in and make updates on their own so that when you’ve done your job as an executive director, you can go in and say, great, I’ve done this and then I can know without having to come to you and waste your time and ask you have you done this or not. So, that’s another great way of, of implementing a good tool for a meeting.

Dolph Goldenburg: Are there other tools that you recommend CEOs and CTOS use?

Support the long-term retention of your fundraising team by celebrating their success.

Emma Kieran: So, I am a big fan of a work plan. Um, I often ask my clients to put into place some sort of work plan for the development function as a whole within sub-tabs that are a little bit more granular. For example, the main tab is all of the things that we’re going to accomplish this year as a development team. This is all of the fundraising things that we have to do. We have four events; we have three solicitations of capital gifts. We have all of these major gift solicitations in our annual stuff, all of that together so that in a snapshot, a board member, an executive director or CEO can look at it and understand what’s happening. So, that’s the first thing I recommend – updated regularly by the CDO weekly, and also by other team members. Then those sub tabs can be more, more in depth.

So, for the fall benefit, for example, where all of the things that we need to do, we need to decide on the linens, on the location, on the flowers, on the meal, you know, you put all of those things there so that if somebody needs more granular information, it’s there. And again, I really liked the idea of a shared drive. If you have a shared drive at your office, you can use that so that anybody can go in and click on it, save it with the date so they know the which one is the most up to date, or you put it in a Google Drive or a Dropbox or something like that where everyone has access to it and can update it real time.

Dolph Goldenburg: Well Emma, we’re going to take a short break, and when we come back we’re going to talk about other things that CEOs and CDOs can do to increase the retention rate of CDOs.

The Successful Nonprofits™ podcast is produced by the Goldenburg Group as part of our mission to provide board development, strategic planning and interim leadership to help nonprofits thrive in a competitive environment.

It is the second week of 2018, and I’m just wondering how your New Year’s resolutions are coming. You know, most folks, this is about the make or break and they either stopped doing them, or they start doing them. So, just on a personal note, I just want to encourage you to keep at it. If you can, if you could just keep working toward whatever your resolution, whatever your goal is, whether it’s personal or professional, if you can make it through the first 30 days. You will probably do it all through 2018. So, this is the make or break week. Keep at it. That’s it. That’s the end of the break.

Dolph Goldenburg: Welcome back, Emma. So, I promised that we would talk about other things that CEOs, CDOs and maybe even the organization can do to increase their retention rate for chief development officers. So obviously a good strong, trusting relationship is important to ensuring that your CDO’s stick around, but what else can CEOs and organizations do to ensure that you, that you break out of that 16 to 20 months cycle?

Emma Kieran: Dolph, the one thing we haven’t talked about is the board, and the CEO’s role or executive director’s role is to really talk to the board about fundraising, to advocate on behalf of the development team, to advocate on behalf of the CDO and to really be that frontline between the fundraising staff and the board. They really need to be there front and center and say, “Here’s what we’re doing and why. Here’s what’s going well; here’s what’s not going well and here’s how you board members need to help with fundraising.”

Dolph Goldenburg: You say that’s the CEOs role and the CEO’s job, and I agree with you 100 percent. We have all seen that board where people say, okay, yes, we’re going to step up to the plate. We are going to help with fundraising. And the folks might even take five names, and then six weeks later, none of those people have been called. No coffee has been poured. So, what happens from there? Yeah, you’re laughing. But it’s true. You know, it’s true.

Emma Kieran: I’m laughing because it’s so true. And boy, we see it all the time. I think I’ve seen it with almost every client that I’ve had, and it’s not because there’s a lack of interest in trying on behalf of the board members or on behalf of the staff. What I think is most important, like I said, the CDO’s job is to be that intermediary between the development staff and the board and to say what we need, and then it’s the CEO’s job to manage those individual tasks with the board members to be that follow up, to call me and say, “Hey Emma, you’re a board member, and you said you’re going to have coffee with Dolph. What have you done so far? How can I help you? Do you want me to set it up? Can I give you talking points?” That’s the CDO’s role is to really interface with those board members and be a taskmaster because I think often the struggle is that board members don’t really feel like they have the tools and the tricks to do what they need to do. And so then they just avoided. And it’s easy to do that because they’re volunteers. So, CDOs also often leave because they feel like the board isn’t supporting them, but sometimes it’s because the CDO really needs to understand how they need to support the board in order to make that work.

Dolph Goldenburg: See, and that’s what I was going to ask. Do you think most CDOs fully understand that as an example, if I’m a board member and I’m not following through on those calls, that person should probably call me up and say, “Hey, can I help you set up this meeting? What help do you need?”

Emma Kieran: I think CDOs often have so many things to do. They forget that as a volunteer, they’re not immersed in the day to day of the nonprofit. They understand the mission. They’re passionate, they’re donors probably, hopefully, but still, they don’t have all that they need often to really get the job done. And I’ve found that the best thing to do if you have a board member who isn’t doing what you need them to do or they promised, and they’re not following through, is to make a phone call or a coffee date with them and to say, “Hey, what’s keeping you from doing the things that you say you’re going to do? Is it time? Is it tools? Is it me? Is it, you know, you’re nervous or scared or you don’t feel trained?” And that is the CEO’s job for sure.

Dolph Goldenburg: So, obviously, a good strong board as well as both the CEO and the CDO, understanding their roles with the board are important. Is there anything else that organizations can do to help increase that retention rate?

Emma Kieran: So, I have two things. The first is celebrating success. Fundraising is really hard work. It’s really rewarding work, but getting to those numbers year after year after year is really hard work. And so, as a CEO, I recommend that you really celebrate any success, small or large of your fundraising team. And I say that for CDOs as well. There’s a lot of great energy that comes from celebrating the success of your team, whether it’s a team of one or a team of 20. So, celebrating success, finding out the way that that works for you all, whether it’s a group lunch or a bell that you ring or gifts or days off or whatever it is.

There are lots of different ways to motivate your staff to stick around. So that’s the first thing. And then the second thing is professional development. Often CEOs forget that CDOS, while they’re in a chief spot, still have lots to learn. All of us have lots to learn. Fundraising is changing every day, and there are new things every year that come out that we as fundraisers need to know about. So CEOs giving the CDOs a little bit of room to grow room to learn, time to go to that seminar, that Webinar, that conference I think is really critical.

Dolph Goldenburg: And I know certainly, and I do this in my own practice, I set aside about $5,000 a year to do continuing education, and I find that that’s some of my most creative time because I’m sitting in a room with other colleagues, and as I started to learn stuff, oftentimes I start to get ideas that maybe they’re not even talking about in the continuing Ed.

So, I do think that’s really important for CDOs because you’re going to get ideas and you’re going to bring those back.

Emma Kieran: That’s exactly right. Actually, that happened to me very recently. I was at a great conference here in Pittsburgh. I was listening to this really powerful keynote speaker, and an idea came to me for my business that had nothing to do with what the keynote speaker was talking about. It was really great creative space. We don’t give ourselves time to do that, and a CDO often doesn’t have time in their day to day to do that because you’re managing teams and donors and managing up and out and over. So, it’s really great to create that space.

Dolph Goldenburg: Can I throw one other idea in there that I think is really important to CDO retention?

Emma Kieran: Please.

Dolph Goldenburg: And it’s a dirty word, it’s a dirty word in the nonprofit sector, but that’s money. So, like you, I do a lot of transition work, and I don’t really do searches, but I helped do succession planning and that kind of thing, you know, for everybody in the c suite. And I’m always shocked when I talked to an organization that says, “Okay, we want a development director who can solicit six-figure gifts and can supervise a grant writer and a special events coordinator and understands annual campaigns. We really don’t have anybody doing that, and we want to pay them $59,000 a year.” I’m always shocked. I’m kind of like, you want a high-end sales executive that you pay like an entry-level professional?

Emma Kieran: Right? That happens all the time.

What I think is really true is that, and this is also sort of a dirty secret that nobody likes to talk about in nonprofits – u=you do have to spend money to make money, and to find a great professional, you do need to really understand how to meet them salary wise and benefits package, all of those things together. You need to really figure out how to do that so that they are rewarded for the hard work that they do. There’s a reason why in the AFP code of ethics you can’t pay a consultant just for the money that they’ve raised, right? Because the work is there. The CDO is working round the clock, and often it’s not a nine to five job. And so, you do need to compensate for that. I agree 100 percent.

Dolph Goldenburg: I originally had a conversation with a development director. He and I went to breakfast, and he had been at his current place a little more than 20 months. He was currently being heavily recruited by this other organization, which honestly pays their fundraisers like 50 percent more. And, and I know that they paid their funds just like 50 percent more. And I’m a major donor to the organization he was with, and he said, you know, “Gee, what should I do?” And I was like, “Hey buddy, you’re a young person. You’re in your early thirties. You need to be thinking about your career.” And I get, you know, no harm, no foul. If you can get a 50 percent jump now in your early thirties that’s going to pay dividends for the next 35 years, you’d be an idiot not to do it. But it’s interesting because this organization lost a really promising young development person because they just weren’t willing to pay what the market bares.

Emma Kieran: I think paying what the market bears is really important. And I think some nonprofits forget to do their homework. They forget to look at what their sister and brother organizations are doing, their competitors, and their peers. And you do really need to look at that because it’s easy to jump in development. It really is. The skills transfer easily. And it’s really just learning about a new mission. And there are lots of opportunities for jumping up both in seniority and also in salary. And so, really think about those two things, how do you professionally develop somebody, whether it’s through adding more responsibility is giving them opportunities to go to conferences, whatever that is. But then also the salary. Those two things are critical to keeping fundraisers.

Dolph Goldenburg: My number one favorite objection that I hear from nonprofits when I talked to them about paying their development officer more is, well, if we do that, they’ll make more than our executive director will have to pay our executive director more, too. I just find that objection really funny. Well yes, you’re expecting a lot from your executive director, too, and you’re probably underpaying them as well.

Emma Kieran: Right. That is a clear lesson.

Your organization loses transformative gifts and equilibrium when a development officer quits in just 16 or 20 months.

Dolph Goldenburg: Well Emma, thank you so much for joining us today. We’re not letting you go yet. We still have the Off-the map question, and then there’s an additional question. I know I want to ask you, but I did a little bit of research on you, and I saw that you are a triathlete and an Iron Man. I am not a triathlete, but I am a tri-spouse, which means, you know, I sit at the curb, and I ring the cowbell and I hold a sign, and sometimes, you know, when I’m feeling really risky, I’ll have a Bloody Mary on a Sunday morning while doing all of this. So, I know the tri community. I know you’re an iron man, which is impressive. It’s over 140 miles in one day, and you’re swimming, biking, running. But here’s the other thing that I know. Everybody has one of those three that they really enjoy doing and one of those three that they’d really rather not do. So, tell me, what is your favorite, and which is your least favorite?

Emma Kieran: You are clearly a tri spouse because you know that question and let me just say on behalf of all of the triathletes, I really appreciate the spouses who are out there to support. That’s really critical part of the race. So, my favorite part is absolutely the run. I wait all day to get to the run because that is my creative space. That’s where I’m able to just be and be outside and see people I am a little competitive, I’m not going to lie, and I really enjoy sort of seeing people in front of me and can I get to them, can I pass them? Or how much longer can I run before I need a break? You know, in an Ironman by the time you get to a run, you’ve swam two point four miles, and you’ve written your bike for 112, so your legs feel like jelly and running is really in quotes.

So, by the time I get to that point, it’s really a mental game, and I like that challenge. So, running is really my passion, and the thing that I could really do without is the swim. Gosh, I really, I just am a terrible swimmer. I don’t like it very much. But I will say this, I often have a team of swimmers around me because I, unlike most people swim, breaststroke rather than freestyle. And so, I have a lot of people around me citing off of me because they know I’m going in a straight line because I can see where I’m going so that aspect, I have kind of learned to like

Dolph Goldenburg: I will share with you that I like to run as well. By the way, that is my husband’s least favorite. He’s a swimmer; he hates to run. But my running distance is 5k to 10k and whenever I’m going to a tri, someone’s like, “Well one day, you’ll work your way up to an Olympic distance, and then you maybe you’ll do an Iron Man.” I believe that I should be able to go out of town for the weekend and not have to exercise.

Emma Kieran: What a novel idea.

Dolph Goldenburg: for listeners that don’t quite get that. So, if you do triathlons, there’s probably only one or two in your area. So, you spend hundreds, if not a couple thousand dollars to go out of town and suffer a day of exercising. I’d rather go out of town and have a good time

Emma Kieran: When you put it that way, it’s a very strange hobby. I will say for my first Ironman, I calculated how much I spent for the whole entire season because you know, you get massages, and you have to buy goo and running shoes and a bike and all of that, and I’ll tell you what, I’ll never track those expenses again because it was horrifying.

Dolph Goldenburg: For my husband, Frank, when he, when he did his first iron man, he also ended up having to do almost weekly physical therapy. Yeah, it was outrageously expensive to do, but even more so it’s the time commitment. You are on the road or in the water 20 hours a week. It’s. Yeah. So my hat is off to you.

Emma Kieran: Well, thank you and good luck to your husband Frank.

Dolph Goldenburg: You will only see me on the sideline. You will see me at the event, but only on the sideline.

Well, Emma, thank you so much for being our first guest of the new year. The podcast is starting the year off with a bang because you are on this episode. Warning to everybody who’s coming on the podcast after you, you have set the bar high, and I am excited that you have set the bar high.

Emma Kieran: Thanks, Dolph.

Dolph Goldenburg: I’m especially grateful that you shared ways to help increase the retention of CDOs because I think that’s critical to the success of nonprofits. Now, if an organization is interested in working with you, whether it’s around CDOs or coaching or some other consulting, they can find you at And that last question that I knew I wanted to ask you, that’s an interesting name for a consulting firm. Most of us are not so creative. We have things like Goldenburg Group or, you know, the Smith Consulting and Associates. What is the story behind pilot peak consulting?

Emma Kieran: Well, so for those who know me well know that I really love the state of Wyoming. I grew up in my summers in the state of Wyoming, and my favorite mountain in northwest Wyoming is called Pilot Peak, and it was a mountain that served as a beacon. It’s very pointed, has a very specific profile. It served as a beacon for pioneers that were seeking a path through the uncharted wilderness that is now Yellowstone National Park. When I think about consulting, I think about myself as sort of a mountaineering guide. You have a place that you want to go to, and I’m someone who can lead you there. So, that’s how Pilot Peak came about.

Dolph Goldenburg: I love it. That is a good story, and it makes a lot of sense why you call a Pilot Peak Consulting. Well, thank you again for being on the podcast.

Emma Kieran: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.

Dolph Goldenburg: Visit to see our show notes, which will include a link to Emma Kieran’s website. As I said, 2018 is off to a great start, and I am excited that you have joined the podcast for this continuing journey. Last week we launched our new email newsletter, which includes information about each week’s episode, a unique blog post from the Goldenburg Group, and even a poll of the week. So, if you want to sign up for that newsletter, you can go to or, and sign up for the newsletter. That is our show for this week. I hope you have gained some insight that will help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.

(Disclaimer) I’m not an accountant or attorney, and neither I nor the Successful Nonprofits™ provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been providing for informational purposes only and is not intended or should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified licensed professional about such matters.



Got an Idea for a Topic?

Recommend it to us!

    Please prove you are human by selecting the cup.

    How are we doing?

    Tell us your thoughts!

      Please prove you are human by selecting the key.