CXO Conversation Podcast

CDO John Vranas, Creating New Programs & Partnerships

John Vranas is Chief Development and Marketing Officer for the Humane Society of the United States. He has a stellar track record of helping organizations raise money and make significant impact in people’s lives, society and now animals. Over the years he has rolled out cool programs and partnerships and he comes on the show today to share his experience with us.



Before his work at the Humane Society of the United States, John oversaw the creation and execution of all global projects for fundraising, communications, and marketing at Make-A-Wish International. Before that, he served as Vice President of Fundraising for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and Senior Vice President of Field Operations at ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as well as the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Vranas is a graduate of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.





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[1:52] Michael introduces John Vranas and asks him to share an interesting tidbit about himself.


John shares how rewarding this side of business can be, and explains what the Humane Society of the United States is and how it differs from the Humane Society.


SO HOW DOES ONE BECOME A CDO [6:18] John speaks to the trial and error nature of his own career path and how the size of charities has increased enough nowadays that it is becoming a valid career path to be intentional about.


THE JERRY LEWIS TELETHON [9:33] Michael shares his experience of the telethon as a child which leads the conversation to how donation has changed through the years and how it has also remained the same.


NECESSARY SKILL SETS [11:53] John talks about the various skills both learned and innate required to succeed in this type of work.


OUTSIDE OF THE BIG DONOR ROLODEX [13:10] Though the size of donations may differ from one organization to the next, the important measurement in charities is engagement, John explains how quantitative analytics can lead you to miss the greater picture.


CDO IMPACT [15:56] Aside from driving funding, the impact expected of a CDO is engagement; John touches on working towards closing the gap between donors and causes (from ‘you’ and ‘we’ to ‘us’).


DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING [18:26] John explains how his various roles have converged and what he’s learned along the way.


FUNDING PROJECTS [20:31] John touches on the dynamics of program funding within an overarching funding strategy, as well as the biggest pitfalls to avoid when it comes to donor relationships. He also shares how the ideas for specific programs come about and the requirements for launching and sustaining them.


HIRING SKILLS [27:39] Having a sense of purpose and fitting in the team are very important and John shares the one type of error he will excuse and the one type he won’t.


BASEBALL [29:44] The analogy stands, whether you work at the community level or at the National level, it boils down to the same important factors.


Michael reflects on his own reticence in using veterans’ stories to build engagement at VFW1, John echoes these thoughts but shines a different light on it.


ADVICE FOR ASPIRING C’s [33:47] Understand the position and be comfortable watching other people succeed around you. He also explains what is expected of his position for the benefit of listeners.


Sidebar! [35:30] Did Michael eventually tell Scott Kelly what to say!?


PREPARING FOR A C CHAIR [38:37] Learning to put the right people in the right places may be your greatest asset.


KEY CAREER MOMENTS [40:27] John shares that even though he never directly aspired to the C-suite, his nature got him to take on more and say yes to opportunities.


CONTRIBUTING BETTER [43:00] John shares his advice on how people can better contribute to help their non-profits.


ADVICE JOHN STILL USES TODAY [44:35] This is a piece of two-part advice for which John shares a personal story.


BEST WORST JOB JOHN EVER HAD [47:04] Industrial painting in the hot Virginia summer!


[49:29] Michael thanks John for coming on the podcast to share his insight and closes out the podcast with his favorite takeaways.


We hope you learned something today and enjoyed the conversation. Please give us 5 stars on iTunes and share your comments so we can improve and ask the questions you want to hear.



The Humane Society of the United States



Jalan Crossland for the music

Angela Johnson at OC Executive Search

Joseph Batty at Podfly

Corey Coates at Podfly


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