Too Busy to Raise Money? Go Back to Academia

Here's a story that will ring a bell for some veterans of the development world. 

After a long search, a respected academic is recruited to lead a small national think tank. He seems perfect for the job in every way. An expert in his field. A dynamic speaker. Well-connected. A resume as long as a small town's phone book. Has he raised money? Sure he has, the headhunters report. He pulled in major grants for an academic center he ran for several years. 

The board thinks he is ideal and a deal is sealed. The academic starts his new job.

Within a few months, the think tank's development director is ready to quit. The board is panicking. The chief financial officer is issuing dire warnings as funding starts to dry up. 

What's wrong? For starters, the new president is rarely in the office, since he's jetting around all the time being the star that he is. A lecture here, a panel discussion there. He's on the other side of the country. He's in Europe. He's on TV. He's everywhere but in meetings with his development director or in lunches with possible donors. 

Also, it turns out that the new president has never really raised money from individual donors, which are the lifeblood of the think tank. Those big grants he pulled down were from government and a few major foundations. In fact, the new president doesn't know the first thing about cultivating individuals. 

And he's not particularly interested in any of this. He doesn't want to butter up hedge fund managers or CEOs. He hates the pick-and-shovel work of going over prospect lists. He loathes calling people he barely knows to pitch the organization's work. 

The chair of the board starts meeting secretly with the development director and finance director to figure out what to do. Another board member calls the headhunter to complain. 

How does this story end? It hasn't yet. Stay tuned.