Posts Tagged ‘Super Boards’

Don’t go it alone: Turn your nonprofit board into fundraising partners

I conducted a straw poll that confirmed my suspicions: Other consultants, executive directors and development directors get the same blank stare from board members that I do when I tell them their job includes an active partnership in raising money. We all know that the economy has created a situation of higher human service needs and, at the same time, a decrease in foundation resources. 

Now, more than ever, board members need to tap into the community philanthropy base that’s out there: individual donors. And they are out there. Giving USA’s latest annual report reaffirms a consistent trend–more than 70 percent of philanthropy comes from individual donations.

In this article, I’d like to offer some simple ways to increase your board’s comfort zone and strengthen your board members’ partnership with you and your organization to impact the bottom line. I’ll be relentlessly repeating the three important components of a successful individual donor effort: Acquire, Retain and Upgrade. Your board may need some support in cultivating donors. Make their job as easy and effective as possible. As with any motivational strategy, the more your board members get positive results, the more enthusiastic they will be to continue their participation.

 

Develop your key messages

 

Work with your board on simple, consistent messages that will convey to prospects that your organization:

Is differentiated and unique from other organizations;

Will use their investment efficiently;

Provides programming with measurable results; and

Has a compelling mission and vision that you believe in.

Leverage your board’s strengths

 

Not all board members are good or comfortable at all aspects of fundraising, and there’s no sense trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Help your board choose their own action steps – all with the goal of Attracting, Retaining and Upgrading donors. Possible ways to contribute include:

Give a significant “leadership” gift

Identify prospective donors

Design and participate in fundraising activities and events

Engage in media and community outreach

Recruit other people who can join your work

Once your board members select areas of participation, move on to your strategies to Acquire, Retain and Upgrade your donors. It will be important to identify a collaborating “champion” or champions on the board to shepherd its development activities, ensuring that the work plan moves toward the organization’s funding goals.

 

Setting the stage in your community

 

Raise your organization’s visibility with strategies that need not be complicated or costly. Using the key messaging your organization has agreed on, board members should be actively involved in garnering attention, reputation and donor prospects by helping with:

Media coverage: Plan for four newsworthy events or photo opportunities during the year; match each event/opportunity with a compatible reporter (i.e., the education editor or the sports editor); then make a phone call and send him or her a compelling press release. You are doing them a service by offering them great fill for their assignments.

 

Community events and visibility: Get invited to host a table at a community-wide event, join committees and task forces, show up at affairs and network continually throughout the community.

 

Constant ambassadorship: I am like the old stereotype of an insurance salesperson. I am always on the lookout for prospects. Sell, sell, sell. If someone is interested, make sure you know how to contact them to send them follow-up materials.

Personalize every strategy you and your board uses

Take care that each interaction with prospects is culturally sensitive. (You may want to refer to my article on fundraising in diverse communities if you have questions about this).

 

Infuse a sincere passion into the key messages you have developed. Whether making a personal visit or sending a letter of appeal built around a template, you will be asking an individual to support a cause to which your organization is deeply committed. It’s worth spending time on an activity that reminds your board why your mission is important to them, so that those feelings are potent and compelling when they promote the organization.

 

Using the messages that you have agreed on, help your board members customize them to an individual prospect, emphasizing common values and playing to people’s self-interest. If you will be approaching a business person, he or she may care about community economic stability; if it’s a parent or caregiver, he or she may care about access to services. The question is, “Why would they care?”

Acquire new donors

Have your board members make a list of at least 20 people each that they know who also believe in the organization’s mission. That means anyone, without presumptions about finances or life situation. It is critical here to remember that you will be giving someone an opportunity to invest in a cause they believe in. If they choose not to, for whatever reason, they are free to do so.

 

Provide specific guidance to the prospect regarding what level of giving he or she might consider. For instance, you might create levels of giving that resonate with the services you provide, such as a Heritage Patron level of $2,500 to support cultural programming or a Legacy Patron level of $500 to support citizenship education activities.

 

Retain

Whether they donate or not, continue to keep prospects informed about your organization’s plans and accomplishments. Remind board members to leave calling cards at places of business that they frequent (i.e., a copy shop or local restaurant) to convey your organization’s appreciation of their contribution in the community.

 

Continually acknowledge donors. Have your board thank donors promptly and personally with a phone call and handwritten note, acknowledge them in your materials (unless they wish to remain anonymous), invite them to events and involve them in other ways in your organization.

Upgrade

Identify a few dependable donors, including board members, who can give generous “leadership gifts” and, with their permission, leverage that information as motivation when you approach other prospects to join on or to increase their gift.

 

Provide past giving data to your board members, and have them identify individuals or businesses that they know. It may be time to suggest an increase to past donors. Use your judgment here, but it’s reasonable to believe that after several years, a $50 donation could be doubled and so on.

 

These loyal donors are also a great source for special board appeals when your organization embarks on a specific, short-term or emergency campaign.

 

The reality is that raising sufficient money to help your organization achieve its mission can be a relentless and daunting task regardless of the rewards. Your ability to engage your board as a partner in your efforts could be a “four-way win” situation: Your board members become inspired because they personally are making a difference, your donors are able to make an impact on a cause for which they believe, your job is just a little bit easier and, of course, your organization and the constituents you serve are the overall winners.

 

Learn more about Page to Practice nonprofit book summaries related to this article:

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

Fundraising the SMART Way™: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity + Website

Super Boards: How Inspired Governance Transforms Your Organization

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Most board members fail without this quality: Find it in four steps.

“A positive attitude is essential. If you don’t think so wait until you encounter someone with a really bad one and then try to work together to achieve certain goals,” says Super Boards author, William R. Mott.

Many of us spend countless hours working with the boards that oversee our nonprofits. These trustees hold our nonprofit futures in their hands. Then why don’t we spend more time focusing on who are the best people  to sit at the board table? Bill Mott answers this question and many others with a fresh perspective on what makes a board exceptional in his latest book.

Great board recruitment is much like interviewing for paid leadership positions

One of the Super Boards chapters I appreciated in particular was Mott’s recommended interactions for recruitment—steps that many nonprofits seem to bypass in lieu of a single meeting with one board member. Recruiting a board member is much like interviewing someone for a paid leadership position in your organization. If selected, this board prospect will have a say in fulfilling your mission and influencing your strategic initiatives. It makes sense to give board recruitment the same attention paid positions receive. A thorough board interview process should entail getting to know the candidate in different contexts and through the eyes of key people on your staff.

Compatibility

Mott suggests these ways to “determine the compatibility of a prospect with the organization and staff”:

1) Invite the person to attend an event.

2) Seek the candidate’s assistance or input on a committee.

3) Invite the candidate to meet other board members, the CEO, and the development and marketing staff.

4) Offer a tour of the facilities.

All these efforts sound simple but ask yourself how many of your new board recruits have completed these four interactions before sidling up to your board table. When completed, these steps should avoid bringing in a board member that has no connection to the organization or one the organization does not know at all, both dangerous options.

Attitude

While compatibility is essential to enlist successful board members, Mott addresses the importance of one quality that trumps the others: attitude. There is a quotation that says, “Attitude is like a price tag: it shows how valuable you are.” What price are we paying for bad attitudes on our boards? Conversely, how much (immeasurable) value do we gain by possessing great attitudes on our boards? In our CausePlanet interview, I asked Bill to elaborate on attitude and recruitment:

CausePlanet: You mention, “The key in having board members who exhibit a positive attitude is to recruit them.” What suggestions do you have for the board members who are the recruiters?

Mott: Perhaps the most important committee of any nonprofit board is the committee on trustees. This group is charged with recruiting, training, educating and evaluating the board. My experience is that a positive attitude trumps so many other traits. Someone who has a positive outlook is usually someone who will enjoy whatever he or she does–including serving on a governing board. When the committee on trustees is recruiting new board members, one of the character traits it should encourage is a positive attitude. Not someone who is necessarily just agreeable, but someone who recognizes the importance of being supportive and encouraging. This is the kind of leadership that inspires others to do their best by being their best.

Eighty-nine percent fail because of bad attitudes

If we return to the analogy that compares recruiting board members to hiring paid leadership positions, it’s not hard to find endorsements of Bill Mott’s emphasis on attitude. In fact, Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring for Attitude, is the founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, a top-rated provider of cutting-edge research and leadership training that has consulted more than 100,000 leaders from virtually every industry and half the Fortune 500.

According to a Forbes article, 89 percent of the time new hires fail because of attitudinal reasons and only 11 percent of the time due to skill. The Forbes article reports, “The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.” Using our analogy, we can logically apply these statistics to board “hires” and how attitude affects performance.

Where do we find great attitudes?

Additionally, when Murphy was asked by Forbes where companies are finding new hires with the right attitudes, he said, “Companies are not getting high performers from the usual sources. They’re hiring in, what we call, the ‘Underground Job Market.’ According to our latest research (outlined in Hiring for Attitude), companies are finding their best people through employee referrals and networking. They have started to realize that the high performers they already have fit the attitude they want and that these are the people they should be asking to help find more people just like them.”

Murphy’s description of the “underground job market” is a welcome signal to ask your current board members who already exhibit great compatibility and attitude who they might recommend as a winning board candidate. When you land these referrals from your pool of top-shelf board members, remember to apply Mott’s four recommended interactions so you can put the “organizational fit” to the test.

Watch for future installments about Super Boards by Bill Mott when we’ll discuss how to overcome some of the most damaging behaviors exhibited by board members.

See also:

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

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