Thanksgiving, donor stewardship and social media

gravy1Thanksgiving is a time when many non-profit organizations give thanks to their donors who support their mission with their time and money. Over the years, I’ve received Thanksgiving cards, thank-a-thon phone calls, and even a small little gift of gratitude from my favorite charities. However, the ALS #IceBucketChallenge has changed everything and set the bar higher for all resource development activities. So, I’ve spent days (if not weeks) thinking about how to use social media to steward donors during this time of the year. This morning I think I had my best idea yet. Let’s see what you think.

Let me first set the scene . . .

It is Thanksgiving Day and I’m sitting around my parent’s table with my siblings and their children. There is turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and more food than you can imagine. The table conversation is thick with things for which we are all thankful:

  • Mom is thankful for perfect children
  • Dad is thankful that Mom is happy
  • My sister is thankful that her kids are now all in school full-time
  • My brother is thankful that his second hip replacement surgery was successful


My teenage nephew whips out his smart phone and turns his video recorder on me. I unexpectedly stand up, grab the gravy boat, dump it over my head, and tell everyone why I’m so thankful for my favorite charity and all of my friends who I’ve solicited in the last year to support that agency. I end my testimonial by challenging by name my friends and family to take the #GravyBoatStewardshipChallenge. The video is posted to Facebook, goes viral and a new ePhilanthropy trend sweeps the nation, and this time it isn’t a solicitation phenomenon. It is instead focused on the ever-important stewardship function of your resource development program.

So, whatcha think?

Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . the gravy sounds hot and sticky and not as fun as ice water. OK, you’re probably right. I should go back to the drawing board and get a little more sleep tonight. (And to those of you who think I’ve lost my mind, let me assure you that my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek and I’m just trying to be funny.)

Even though my brainstorming might have come up a little short, this shouldn’t stop your organization from looking at social media as a stewardship opportunity this Thanksgiving season. Here are just a few other (and less sticky) ideas on how to use social media to give thanks to your donors:

  • Record short video snippets of staff, board and clients giving thanks for what your agency has accomplished in 2014 and express gratitude to the donors whose support made it all possible. Then post it to Facebook.
  • Twitpic a picture of something awesome happening at your agency and give it a stewardship caption.
  • Start work on a digital version of your annual report that you will upload to your website.
  • Create a YouTube video version of your annual report and send it to donors.
  • Commit to writing a monthly feature story focused on your biggest supporters, upload to your website and point all of your social media friends to where it is located online.

gravy2If there is one thing all of us should’ve learned from the ALS #IceBucketChallenge, it is that social media is a powerful tool in our resource development toolbox. While we’re all still learning how to use this tool, those who innovate and try new things will surely reap the rewards.

So, why not use social media this Thanksgiving season to steward your donors? Are you already doing something? If so, what is it? Do you have a crazy idea, but are too afraid to try it? What is it? We can all learn and support each other. Please scroll down and share your thoughts and ideas in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How many year-end plates are you spinning at your non-profit?

spinning platesA few weeks ago I facilitated a training session titled “2014 Finish Strong: Year-End Strategies” for a group of non-profit professionals in New Mexico. Long story short . . . there were LOTS of things that non-profits try to do in the fourth quarter. Participants shared with each other what they were doing back home at their agency and we collectively talked about best practices.

The following is the laundry list of fourth quarter activities that we discussed:

  • Budget development
  • Resource Development Plan (aka fundraising plan)
  • Strategic Plan (or any other flavor of planning like tactical plans, business plans, program plans, etc)
  • Board Development & Board Governance activities (e.g. officers slate, expiring terms, new recruitment, orientation, year-end evaluation, etc)
  • Board Retreat
  • Thank-a-Thons (stewardship phone calls to donors)
  • Holiday Cards (holiday greetings and stewardship messaging to donors)
  • Starting to prep for creation of annual report (e.g. content creation, pics, theme selection, etc)
  • Financial Audit prep (e.g. RFP, hiring auditor, closing year-end books, etc)
  • Focused solicitation strategies with LYBUNT/SYBUNT donors
  • Targeted/Segmented year-end holiday mail solicitations
  • Phone-a-Thons (solicitation phone calls typically following up on mailing)
  • Online fundraising strategies (e.g. #GivingTuesday, etc)

Lots and lots going on in non-profit shops right now all across the country. The fourth quarter is exhausting!

What are you currently working on at your agency? Are some of those things the same as what you see on the aforementioned laundry list of projects? Please scroll down to the comment box below and either add to our list or share a best practice related to one of the items on the list. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Performance management and professional development

professional developmentIt is year-end and I’ve been working with a few clients on year-end things like solicitation mailings, various planning projects, and of course year-end evaluation and 2015 performance management plans. The fourth quarter is a busy time of the year with many different balls to juggle.

When it comes to developing performance management plans, I like to create tools that include the following three parts:

  • measurable performance objectives
  • skill set evaluation (e.g. feedback on how someone does their job from a skill set perspective)
  • professional development opportunities

Let’s face it . . . none of us are perfect and everyone has room for development, education and growth. Right? For this reason, I really like the professional development portion of the tools I’ve been helping clients build in recent months.

I recently read the following about professional development opportunities:

  • 70% comes from on the job learning and targeted work experiences like special projects
  • 20% comes from coaching, shadowing and mentoring
  • 10% comes from training sessions, conferences, etc

This was a “DUH” moment for me, but back in the day when I was developing plans for my staff I used to focus a lot more on formal training opportunities.

Do you include a professional development planning component in your staff’s performance plan? If so, what things do you include, and how does it compare to the aforementioned formula? What type of on-the-job special projects have you used to help employees grow?

Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and ideas. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

National Philanthropy Day is November 15th

philathropy dayGood morning everyone! I’m up early and running out the door to my local fundraising chapter’s National Philanthropy Day celebration in the Fox River Valley in Illinois. As I busily through things together and guzzle coffee, I’ve been wondering how you plan on spending your Philanthropy Day (which is officially on November 15, 2014).

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, National Philanthropy Day is described as follows:

“Philanthropy is “the love of humankind,” and National Philanthropy Day® (NPD)—November 15—is the day that thousands of people around the world come together to both (1) put that word into action and (2) recognize the change that word has brought to our communities.

NPD is a celebration of philanthropy—giving, volunteering and charitable engagement—that highlights the accomplishments, large and small, that philanthropy—and all those involved in the philanthropic process—makes to our society and our world.

National Philanthropy Day® is both an official day and a grassroots movement. Every year, since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed November 15th as National Philanthropy Day®, communities across the globe have celebrated by hosting events to recognize activities of donors, volunteers, foundations, leaders, corporations, and others engaged in philanthropy.”

For more information, click here to check out the Philanthropy Day website.

Here is the amazing thing about this special day. You don’t have to register for a conference or all-day special training event to participate in Philanthropy Day. In my opinion, here are just a few things you could do to have your own personal celebration:

  • Make a contribution to your favorite non-profit organization
  • Pick-up the phone, call a donor, and say thanks (or tell them how much you admire their commitment)
  • Volunteer a few hours at a local non-profit agency
  • Reach out and help a neighbor with something like raking leaves or driving them to an appointment

So, think it over and then scroll down to the comment box. I would like to hear how you plan on celebrating National Philanthropy Day this year.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Non-profit unicorns . . . have you seen one lately?

unicornAs you know, there is no such thing as a unicorn. It is a mythical creature and the inspiration for this morning’s post about various fundraising policies and procedures documents that everyone says are important but rarely exists on the front line of  many (especially smaller) social services non-profit agencies. I thought it might be a good idea to name these “unicorns” and explain what they are and why they’re important.

Before I begin, I want to give a shout out to my BFF — Michael Johnson — who is a planned giving consultant at H. Freeman Associates. He is the real motivation for this morning’s post because he posted the following comment on one of my blogs from last week titled “Your agency’s fundraising program is like an iceberg“:

“Great post, Erik! This speech underscores the importance of having good gift acceptance policies and an operating plan in place to back up our brilliant marketing. We always need to “Begin with the end in mind” and ask ourselves what we will do when our marketing campaign is successful and the prospective donor responds. Otherwise our donors may become frustrated.”

It was Mike’s reference to Gift Acceptance Policies that got my mind whirling and thinking about today’s topic. THANKS, MIKE! :-)

Gift Acceptance Policies

Sometimes donors like to support your mission with things other than cash. In fact, I just sat through a training a few months ago where my friend Mike talked about how donors give more “stuff” than they do “cash“.

It is for this reason that gift acceptance policies are important. They spell out in advance “what you do and how you do it” with regards to gifts of stuff. In a sample policy that I recently reviewed, an agency included policies and procedures for the following types of donated “stuff“:

  • publicly traded securities
  • securities that aren’t publicly traded
  • real estate
  • tangible personal property like art, jewelry, etc
  • insurnace
  • in-kind gifts and pro bono services
  • deferred gifts (e.g. charitable gift annuities, irrevocable charitable remainder trusts, etc)
  • revocable gifts like bequests

I refer to this policy and procedures document  as a “non-profit unicorn” because I very rarely see it, and when I do it is typically larger non-profits (e.g. universities and hospitals) who have taken the time to develop them.

If you are interested in more info on gift acceptance policies, the National Council of Nonprofits has done a nice job uploading resources and samples to their site. However, please remember that policy making is a a responsibility of the board of directors. So, make sure to include them in the discussion and development of your agencies policies and procedures before asking the board to approve them.

Named Gifts Policy

Sometimes donors like to put their names on stuff, and a Named Gift Policy helps non-profit organizations with the following:

  • identifying what can be and can’t be named (e.g. buildings, rooms, endowments, scholarships, events, etc)
  • identifying the process and rules associated with naming something
  • identifying the process and rules associated with unnaming something

Our friends at the Association of Fundraising Professionals have done a very nice job making the case for why this type of policy is important and providing a number of samples and links to resources. This online article is definitely worth the click!

Again, I consider this a “non-profit unicorn” because I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a policy like this.

Donor database policy and procedures manual

Many non-profit organizations have donor databases, and very few of them have put into writing things such as:

  • how to input a pledge
  • how to input a gift
  • how to run solicitor reports
  • protect donor privacy (g. what can be shared and with whom)
  • how to enter donor’s names (g. Mr & Mrs, etc)
  • what information to collect and where to put it
  • how to track soft gifts
  • how to enter a new donor
  • how to track volunteers and prospects

The biggest reason this policy and procedures manual is critical is because your agency won’t always have the same person entering donor information into the database. With turnover comes inconsistency and lost institutional knowledge. Long story short . . . the lack of a policy and procedures manual for your donor database typically results in a G.I.G.O. situation (garbage in, garbage out).

Want to avoid the feeling of wanting to throw your database out the window? I suggest developing your policy and procedures manual.

I know that I sound like a broken record, but I’ve only seen a few of these in all my years of working with non-profit organizations, which is why it is a “unicorn” in my book.

Our friends at Metafile (ResultsPlus donor database) published an awesome nine page white paper that speaks to this issue. Click here to view their sample template.

Does your organization have one of these policies? If so, what was your motivation for creating it? What samples/templates did you use to get started? Are there other “unicorn documents” that you’ve heard about but never seen? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Your agency needs to ask “What is my why?” every once in awhile

I recently saw a great YouTube video from Alease Michelle talking about how she found personal inspiration from Eric Thomas (aka ET The Hip Hop Preacher on Facebook). She put together a 5-minute online video all about the question: “What is my Why?” By the end of her video, I was thinking about non-profit organizations and their WHY, which is what inspired this morning’s post.

Before I start, I thought you might want to check out Alease’s YouTube video first:

The place that you and your donors go answer this question about your non-profit agency is your MISSION STATEMENT.

Mission statements are the most important tool in your organizational toolbox when it comes to explaining why you exist, with whom you work, and what you do. This is different from vision statements, which exist to tell the world where you are going and the vision you have for your community (or the world).

Mission statements are not static. This isn’t a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of thing. As Alease talks about in her YouTube video, your WHY changes from time-to-time, which means your mission statement should evolve, too (albeit infrequently). For example, there was a non-profit in my hometown that started off more than 100-years ago as an orphanage. When those closed down, this agency evolved into an organization that provided a variety of services for kids with behavioral-issues. Finally, it expanded its scope to serve adults (e.g. those who they were previously serving and just aged out of the program but still needed assistance). With each evolution, their mission statement also evolved.

Another place where you will likely address the question of “What is my why?” is in your case for support document (aka case statement), which is the bedrock of your fundraising program. Simply stated . . . your internal and external case for support documents explain to fundraising volunteers (e.g. internal case) and donors (e.g. external case) what you do and how the dollars being solicited will support those efforts. In other words, it answers the question “what is the donor investing in?” which is essentially “what is my why?” Right?

This exercise is always timely when your board is going through a strategic planning process. However, it can be done at any time. Remember, this isn’t a role/responsibility for staff alone. It is the board of director’s responsibility to set the organization’s mission statement, vision, and case for support.

If your organization is looking at creating or revising its mission statement or case for support, the following are a few online resources that I dug up and think you might find helpful:

So, have you considered “What is your why?” I would love to hear what that is. I would also love to hear how you tell the world about “your why?“. Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Your agency’s fundraising program is like an iceberg

antique documentOne of the many projects I’m currently working on involves cataloging a resource development toolbox for a client. The things I’m finding in that toolbox are amazing and include: samples,templates, whitepapers, training curricula, calculators, and even an online wizard to help with resource development planning. (Cool stuff!)

However, there is one document I consider an absolute treasure for the ages. It was a speech delivered by Mrs. Leonard (Be) Haas in 1963 to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. The speech was titled “The 10 Basic Commandments of Successful Fundraising“.

(Note: In an effort to provide context and give credit where it is due . . . Haas was a fundraising consultant who helped launch Grizzard & Haas in Atlanta, GA which became a powerhouse fundraising firm in the Southeast United States. From what I can tell, the firm spun off into two powerful and influential firms today — Grizzard Communications and Alexander Haas, both of which are still located in Atlanta.)

After reading Mrs. Haas’ speech, I picked my jaw up off the ground and marveled at how on target she was about our profession more than 50 years ago.

While I would love to re-publish the entire speech, I’m not going to do it because:

  1. It is long
  2. While I’m fairly sure it is a public domain document (a 51 year old speech that wasn’t likely copyrighted), I want to be respectful.

However, there is one section of the speech that I can’t resist sharing. It is Haas’ fifth fundraising commandment that she titled “Consider the Iceberg”.  I encourage you to read the following passage and use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

“The actual mechanics of a fund-raising campaign all reduce themselves to very simple terms.  The job is to get the right man to make the right appeal to the right prospect for the right amount at the right time.  Guess you could call this our exclusive “Bill of Rights.” 

This objective may sound simple, but it requires as much behind the scenes planning and hard work as the part of the iceberg below the sea relates to what you see above the surface.  Getting the right people committed to work, compiling a list and evaluating the prospects so that you have the right prospects, putting those two together so that you have the right man making every important solicitation-armed with a pre evaluated request for a specific amount, this vital planning and preparation takes a lot of – time, hard work and know-how. 

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., once said, “When you have gone to all the trouble to sell a prospect on the worthiness of your project, he also has the right to expect you to answer his next question-how much should I give?”

Our experience shows that making specific, individualized requests are imperative for success.  By this we do not mean asking the prospect for X dollars.  Rather, you would say “We are seeking 19 gifts in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, and we hope you can make one of these,” or “We must have a grant of $100,000 to kick this campaign off and assure success.”

Organizing the soliciting teams, scheduling the campaign, pre-selling the prospects, backing up the solicitor with a competent office staff, these are all part of the iceberg beneath the surface of fund-raising. This thorough approach spells the difference between success and failure.”

Have some time on your hands? Click here to read the speech in its entirety.

Does your agency have a fundraising toolbox? If so, what is in it? Is there something in it that you believe everyone needs in their toolbox? What is it? Would you like to share it? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Please also share your reaction to the snippet from Haas’ 1963 fundraising speech.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Does your non-profit agency utilize the power of “IF-THEN”

if thenFor those of you following the last few blog posts, you know that I’m reading “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control“ written by researcher Walter Mischel, which is a book about human behavior, delayed reward and resisting temptation. There are tons of organizational development lessons throughout the book, and there is so much that non-profit organizations can learn from this research.

For example, chapter five — “The Best-Laid Plans” — looks at a concept researchers labeled “hot stimulus” (aka temptation), which is one important factor in the entire delayed reward equation at the root of the marshmallow test. In this chapter, they looked at strategies that children were asked to use in order to improve the amount of time they spent on a project before caving in to a distraction or reward.

One of the strategies that seems to work well is creating “If-Then Plans.” The way this works is when a child is presented with a situation like a foreseeable distraction or temptation, they automatically do something that helps insert their self-control. Here is how Mischel talks about this phenomenon on page 98:

“With practice, the desired action of an implementation plan becomes initiated automatically when the relevant situation cues occur:

  • When the clock hits 5 pm, I will read my textbook;
  • I will start writing the paper the day after Christmas;
  • When the dessert menu is served, I will not order chocolate cake;
  • Whenever the distraction arises, I will ignore it.

And implementation plans work not just when the IF is in the external environment (when the alarm rings, when I enter the bar) but also when the cue is your internal state (when I’m craving something, when I’m bored, when I’m angry).

When I read this chapter, it got me thinking about how powerful IF-THEN planning can be and has been for countless numbers of smart non-profit organizations. The following are just a few examples:

  • IF our executive director resigns or leaves some day, then we will a) hire an interim executive director, b) form an executive search committee, etc.
  • IF our largest funding source cuts or stops funding our agency, then we will cut XYZ from the operating budget and immediately access X% of  funding from our reserve funds and raise Y% of funding from a special appeal to select major gifts donors.
  • IF our capital campaign feasibility study comes back with news that we can raise less than expected, then we will scale the building project back in the following ways:  X, Y, and Z.

Developing IF-THEN plans for your agency on a variety of different issues can help your organization get through tough situations like executive turnover. More importantly, it will help you avoid distracting shiny-object-types-of-issues that are endemic to most crisis situations.

Has your agency developed a succession plan or anything else that qualifies as an “IF-THEN” plan or strategy? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. I would love to hear about your successes and your lessons learned.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Is your non-profit board more like the grasshopper or ant?

marshmallow1As I explained in last week’s post titled “Should you administer the ‘Marshmallow Test’ to new non-profit board prospects?,” I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which means I’m looking for good books to read at the airport and on the airplane. The newest eBook on my iPad is “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control“written by researcher Walter Mischel. This book is all about individual human behavior, but I find myself thinking a lot about non-profit organizations while turning the pages.

For example . . . let’s look at Chapter 6 — “Idle Grasshopper and Busy Ants

I’m sure most of you know Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant, which is all about the virtue of hard work and planning ahead. Mischel uses this classic story to frame his Marshmallow Test work around immediate rewards versus future rewards and what it tells us about people and their future.

While reading this chapter I couldn’t help but think about non-profit boards and the decisions they make pertaining to saving for a rainy day and building a “rainy day fund“. I’m sure this idea is top of mind for me because a number of my current clients use “number of days cash on hand” as a key performance indicator (KPI) to measure their agency’s financial stability. In fact, right before cracking this chapter of the book, I was visiting with a client who has less than a month of operating cash in the bank, and they are working through ways to grow that number.

Whenever working on issues like “number of days cash on hand,” my thoughts often wander to questions like:

  • Why do some board volunteers make decisions in the non-profit boardroom that they wouldn’t dare make in their own corporate boardroom?
  • Why does building a rainy day fund of 3-, 6- or 12-months feel wrong to so many boards?
  • Why are some non-profit boards so focused on today and less focused on tomorrow?

THEN IT HIT . . . after reading the following sentence on page 61:

“There’s no good reason for anyone to forego the ‘now’ unless there is trust that the ‘later’ will materialize.”

I read this sentence over and over again, and then I wondered the following things:

  • Could this mean that your non-profit board of TODAY doesn’t want to save for a rainy day because they can’t visualize (and don’t trust) the agency’s non-profit board of tomorrow?
  • Could it mean the board doesn’t have faith in their policies, processes, procedures and practices for bringing on the next generation of board members? Will the future board be good stewards of the rainy day fund?
  • Could it mean the board doesn’t have faith in who the next executive director will be and whether or not they will see the rainy day fund as an excuse to relax fundraising efforts?


Wow! It is all about trust and the uncertainty of the future. DUH!

Of course, this begs the question: “What can we do TODAY to build trust among board members in what future boards look like and how they will act?

grasshopper and antI believe the answer is as simple as evaluating what “The Ant” would do if they were a member of your board of directors.

I think The Ant would build a strong Board Governance Committee that would take the following roles/responsibilities very seriously:

  • Board Roles and Responsibilities
  • Board Composition
  • Board Knowledge
  • Board Effectiveness
  • Board Leadership

I think The Ant would invest in development of policies to help guide future boards such as:

  • bylaws
  • investment policies
  • resource development policies
  • board development policies

I also think The Ant would roll policy development into planning projects such as:

  • long-range plan
  • strategic plan
  • board development plan
  • resource development plan
  • succession plan

Reading this chapter also took me back to what I said in last week’s post about administering The Marshmallow Test to prospective new board volunteers. For example, I’m left wondering how many “Ants” versus “Grasshoppers” sit on your board of directors? Does your board governance committee look at this dynamic when conducting its annual gap assessment? Should it? If so, how?

Please scroll down and use the space below to share your thoughts and experiences with regard to the questions I just posed in the previous paragraph. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Should you administer the ‘Marshmallow Test’ to new non-profit board prospects?

marshmallow testI’ve been on the road a lot lately. When this occurs, I typically look for eBooks to help pass the time during airport delays and other frustrating travel hiccups. Last week, I downloaded The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control. I selected this work of non-fiction because I blogged about it on October 26, 2012 in a post titled “Does your non-profit agency pass ‘The Marshmallow Test’?” It was part of an ongoing series we called “Organizational Development Fridays” at DonorDreams blog, and it was based on OD blog posts at johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly”.

The Marshmallow Test blog post was one of my favorite posts during that time period. So, when I saw the eBook I knew that I just had to read it.

I suspect the next few DonorDreams posts this month will likely connect back to this book. Today, we are talking about the always elusive idea of what characteristics and traits make-up a productive non-profit board volunteer.

The Marshmallow Test explained

The Marshmallow Test (as it has been dubbed by the media) is an experiment to test self-control in small children. In a nutshell, here is how it works according to Walter Mischel, the book’s author and lead researcher:

“On the table were a desk bell and a plastic tray the size of a dinner plate, with two cookies in one corner of the tray and one in the other corner. Both the immediate and the delayed rewards were left with left with the children, to increase their trust that the treats would materialize if their waited for them as well as to intensify their conflict.”

Here were the rules:

  • The researcher would explain to the child that they had to leave the room for a little while. The child would be left alone with the rewards in plain sight.
  • The child could ring the bell at any time and the researcher would come back immediately.
  • If the child waited until the researcher came back without ringing the bell, then the child would earn the two cookies (aka marshmallows) on the plate in front of them.
  • If the child rang the bell and summoned the researcher back, then they would only earn one cookie.
  • The child had to remain in their seat and not wander off to play in other part of the room.
  • The child was allowed to eat one cookie at any time, but if they did then they forfeited their right to the second cookie.

Researchers observed behavior and timed how long various children took before they rang the bell or caved in and ate a treat.

In subsequent years, researchers have followed up on their research and found that kids who did better on the tests (exercising self-control and opting for the delayed reward) actually did better in life (e.g. income, retirement savings, weight control and health, etc)

Using marshmallows during board recruitment?

Of course, this is a whimsical question. I’m not suggesting you pull out marshmallows and administer the test as part of your agency’s board recruitment process, but the mental image makes me giggle.

However, as I read more and more of the book, I find myself wondering if some of the characteristics and traits of those who practice self-control should be added to our board development prospecting processes.

For example, the following is a list of key board member competencies and characteristics that I recently found included in a sample non-profit board member job description:

  • Has achieved recognition and status within the community.
  • Is knowledgeable about the social concerns of the community.
  • Has the resources (personal and/or corporate) to apply to the needs of the organization.
  • Is committed to youth and the agency’s mission.
  • Has the ability to listen, analyze, and think strategically.
  • Has the ability to work well with others and demonstrates tolerance of differing points of view.
  • Is willing to prepare for and regularly attend board meetings and relevant committee meetings.
  • Exhibits honesty and sensitivity.

In Chapter 8 “The Engine of Success: I Think I Can!” the author ends the chapter with the following list of characteristics and traits of successful people who exercise self-control and maintain an optimistic view of life:

  • pursue goals with persistence
  • develop optimistic expectations for success
  • cope with frustrations, failures and temptations
  • inhibit impulsive responses
  • develop mutually supportive, caring friendships

I couldn’t help but wonder if these characteristics and traits should be added to our prospecting criteria when searching for new non-profit board volunteers?

What criteria does your agency use as part of its board development cycle? How do you assess whether or not a prospect possesses those traits and characteristics? How many of your board volunteers would pass “The Marshmallow Test” if it were administered at the start of your next board meeting? What does that say about your board? ;-)

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


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