Category Archives: Board governance

Are you making decisions for your board members’ time?


Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with PARTICIPATING concept letters

Just the other day I was in a conference room with a non-profit executive director and their board president. I was asking questions such as:

  • why did your board decide to go from meeting every month to every other month?
  • why are we having a hard time getting board members to the table to engage in a little planning work?
  • why is it that getting board members to participate is still difficult even though we keep doing things to make it easier?

You get the idea.

Of course, the answers to these questions aren’t easy and they can vary from organization-to-organization. The following are just a few explanations:

  • they are recruiting volunteers with the wrong traits, skills and experiences to serve on their board
  • they aren’t doing a good job with setting expectations during the recruitment process
  • they might not even have a structured recruitment and onboarding/orientation process in place
  • they might not be using board governance best practices in the boardroom, which results in long, boring “report meetings,” and what busy person has time for that?!?!

However, to my surprise, the answer I heard back on most of these questions was, “I know these are busy people and I’m just trying to be respectful of their time. So, I try not to set up too many meetings or ask them to do too many things.

At face value, this sounds very respectful. Right?

But what if you turn this situation around and look at it from a different perspective? What would you see?

When I did this, I saw a person making decisions about other people’s time. And in all seriousness, what right does anyone have to do that?

Maybe I tend to look at the world too simplistically. But doesn’t it make more sense for . . .

  • non-profit staff to wear the hat that involves identifying all of the work and volunteer opportunities necessary to fulfill the organization’s mission and vision?
  • board members and other volunteers to wear the hat that involves saying “YES” or “NO” to which opportunities they wish to participate?

OK, so I can already hear some of my non-profit friends muttering about scarce resources (e.g. only so many volunteers) and the organizational priorities that must be achieved. To this,I simply say a few things:

  1. Perhaps, your planning processes need to do a better job at prioritizing organizational needs (aka not everything is a high priority)
  2. Perhaps, you should choose a different planning model (e.g. alignment model, search conference, etc)
  3. Perhaps, you should use this paradigm shift to recruit more volunteers and align your recruitment efforts with those projects that need more people power

While this thinking might not be the right answer for you, I urge you to put thought into the following question:

“How can you stop making decisions for your volunteers’ time?”

Why? Because it is presumptuous of you to think it is your right to make those decisions in the first place.

Disagree with me? Agree with me? AwesomeSauce! Please scroll down and tell me why using the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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Need some input from readers on ‘Organizational Best Practices’ to use with board members


Good morning, DonorDreams readers!

This is part five in a five part series that I started last week with two posts titled:

If you’ve read the previous two blog posts, you know I’m trying to write an eBook on the topic of “How to Engage Board Volunteers.” So far, I’ve taken my inspiration from an old favorite training curriculum titled “Inspiring & Managing Your Board for Fundraising Success,” and I’ve divided my eBook into the following sections:

  • Setting Expectations
  • Accountability & Urgency
  • Planning
  • Mission-focus
  • Organizational Best Practices

Within these sections, I want to provide samples and explanations of tools and practices that successful non-profit leaders use to keep their board volunteers engaged.*

The following set of tools (probably better characterized as ‘practices’) are ones I’ve identified as being effective in implementing simple “organizational best practices:”

What other tools or practices have you used to keep your organization organized and meetings running efficiently?

Please take a minute out of your busy schedule to provide some feedback. Your suggestions on additional tools is also greatly appreciated.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

*Note: I would be extremely grateful if you would share your best organization’s resources for possible inclusion as a sample in my eBook. If you are concerned about organizational privacy/confidentiality, I am more than willing to redact your organization’s name from whatever documents you provide if that is what you desire.

Need some input from readers on ‘How to Do Planning’ with board members


Good morning, DonorDreams readers!

This is part four in a five part series that I started a few weeks with two posts titled:

If you’ve read the previous blog posts, you know I’m trying to write an eBook on the topic of “How to Engage Board Volunteers.” So far, I’ve taken my inspiration from an old favorite training curriculum titled “Inspiring & Managing Your Board for Fundraising Success,” and I’ve divided my eBook into the following sections:

  • Setting Expectations
  • Accountability & Urgency
  • Planning
  • Mission-focus
  • Organizational Best Practices

Within these sections, I want to provide samples and explanations of tools and practices that successful non-profit leaders use to keep their board volunteers engaged.*

The following set of tools (probably better characterized as ‘practices’) are ones I’ve identified as being effective in the area of “Planning:”

I believe it is important to remember how many different plans potentially can exist under your organizational umbrella. The following is an incomplete list of plans I’ve seen throughout my years in the sector:

  • Long range plan
  • Strategic plan
  • Tactical plan
  • Business plan
  • Resource development plan
  • Board development plan
  • Marketing plan
  • Facility maintenance plan
  • Compensation & Benefits plan
  • Annual performance plan
  • Individual development plan
  • Program plan

What other tools or practices have you used to clearly communicate ideas such as:

  • Why board participation in planning important?
  • Why participation from other stakeholder groups in planning important?
  • Why are so many plans important to the success of your non-profit organization?
  • How to align plans for internal efficiency

Please take a minute out of your busy schedule to provide some feedback. Your suggestions on additional tools is also greatly appreciated.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

*Note: I would be extremely grateful if you would share your best organization’s resources for possible inclusion as a sample in my eBook. If you are concerned about organizational privacy/confidentiality, I am more than willing to redact your organization’s name from whatever documents you provide if that is what you desire.

Need some input from readers on ‘How to Provide Mission-Focus’ with board members


Good morning, DonorDreams readers!

This is part three  in a five part series that I started last week with two posts titled:

If you’ve read the previous two blog posts, you know I’m trying to write an eBook on the topic of “How to Engage Board Volunteers.” So far, I’ve taken my inspiration from an old favorite training curriculum titled “Inspiring & Managing Your Board for Fundraising Success,” and I’ve divided my eBook into the following sections:

  • Setting Expectations
  • Accountability & Urgency
  • Planning
  • Mission-focus
  • Organizational Best Practices

Within these sections, I want to provide samples and explanations of tools and practices that successful non-profit leaders use to keep their board volunteers engaged.*

The following set of tools (probably better characterized as ‘practices’) are ones I’ve identified as being effective in helping create “mission-focus:”

  • Inviting volunteers to tour your organization’s programming during hours of operation
  • Bringing clients into the boardroom in-person, via video or through an activity (e.g. asking clients to put together a Wish List for your organization during the holidays as if they were writing a letter to Santa and sharing those lists with board members so they can see things through your clients’ eyes)
  • Staff presentations in the boardroom focused on a program or need
  • Involving board members in a strategic program opportunity (e.g. judging a contest or client competition)
  • Infusing storytelling into your organization culture and use it as a vehicle to help volunteers discover mission-focused stories they are passionate about sharing with others

What other tools or practices have you used to clearly communicate ideas such as:

  • Why a board member or volunteer is passionate about your mission?
  • What’s happening outside of the boardroom throughout your organization?
  • Why the organization is so important to those you serve?

Please take a minute out of your busy schedule to provide some feedback. Your suggestions on additional tools is also greatly appreciated.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

*Note: I would be extremely grateful if you would share your best organization’s resources for possible inclusion as a sample in my eBook. If you are concerned about organizational privacy/confidentiality, I am more than willing to redact your organization’s name from whatever documents you provide if that is what you desire.

Need some input from readers on ‘How to Create Accountability and Urgency’ with board members


Hello DonorDreams blog readers!

This is part two in a five part series that I started yesterday with a post titled “Need some input from readers on ‘How to Set Expectations’ with board members.”

As you know if you read the first post in this series, I’m currently working on writing an eBook on the topic of “How to Engage Board Volunteers.” My plan is to divide the eBook down into the following sections:

  • Setting Expectations
  • Accountability & Urgency
  • Planning
  • Mission-focus
  • Organizational Best Practices

Within these sections, I want to provide samples and explanations of tools and practices that successful non-profit leaders use to keep their board volunteers engaged.*

The following set of tools are ones I’ve identified as being effective in helping with “accountability & urgency:”

In addition to using all of the aforementioned tools, I’ve used online services to help with project management and predictive performance.

What other tools have you used to clearly communicate ideas such as:

  • Is a board member doing what they said they’d do
  • Is a volunteer working “within the boundaries drawn by the board
  • Is the organization succeeding
  • Are board members doing what needs to be done

Please take a minute out of your busy schedule to provide some feedback. Your suggestions on additional tools is also greatly appreciated.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

*Note: I would be extremely grateful if you would share your best organization’s resources for possible inclusion as a sample in my eBook. If you are concerned about organizational privacy/confidentiality, I am more than willing to redact your organization’s name from whatever documents you provide if that is what you desire.

Need some input from readers on ‘How to Set Expectations’ with board members


Hello DonorDreams blog readers!

I’m currently working on writing an eBook on the topic of “How to Engage Board Volunteers.” The purpose of this eBook is to provide non-profit leaders with examples of tools that can be used to engage their board volunteers in their governance and resource development functions.

I’ve taken my inspiration so far from an old favorite training I used to use titled “Inspiring & Managing Your Board for Fundraising Success,” and I’ve divided my eBook into the following sections:

  • Setting Expectations
  • Accountability & Urgency
  • Planning
  • Mission-focus
  • Organizational Best Practices

Over the next few days, I will share with you a variety of tools I’ve identified in each of these sections. I’m hoping you will use the comment box functionality on each of the blog posts to share your thoughts and additional tools you’ve had success with using.*

The following set of tools are ones I’ve identified as being effective in helping “set expectations:”

What other tools have you used to clearly communicate ideas such as:

  • To what is a volunteer saying YES when agreeing to serve on a board
  • What are their roles/responsibilities
  • What should volunteers be prepared to discuss and do in upcoming meetings
  • What actions did a volunteer commit to coming out of a meeting

Please take a minute out of your busy schedule to provide some feedback. Your suggestions on additional tools is also greatly appreciated.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847


*Note: I would be extremely grateful if you would share your best organization’s resources for possible inclusion as a sample in my eBook. If you are concerned about organizational privacy/confidentiality, I am more than willing to redact your organization’s name from whatever documents you provide if that is what you desire.

You need to dance with the person who brought you – Part 2


leadershipLast week in a post titled “You need to dance with the person who brought you,” I wrote about the difference between traits, characteristics, skills and experiences and specifically what combination of these go into making effective non-profit board leaders. Today, I’m looking at the same thing, but I want to turn this lens on the non-profit executive director position.

To recap . . .

The differences between traits, characteristics, skills and experiences (in my opinion) are:

  • A trait is something someone inherits or is born with
  • A characteristic (e.g. quality) is something that describes someone
  • A skill is something that someone has learned
  • An experience is something someone has experienced

With regards to traits and innate abilities, I started writing about this topic a few year ago in a post titled “Non-profit executive directors take the heat every day.” I shared with readers the following talents that Joe Lehr once shared in with non-profit professionals in an article he wrote. The following is a list of those talents:

  • Belief — passion, fire, and strength of conviction all stemming from organizational mission, vision and purpose.
  • Vision — an ability to see the organization’s future and getting others to see and believe in it, too.
  • Focus & clarity —  sorting through a lot of information, knowing what is most important, and getting others to see clearly see it.
  • Maximizer — a burning desire for greatness and an ability to act as a catalyst for all other stakeholders to reach for greatness (via accountability, transparency, urgency, etc).
  • Empathy — self-awareness, emotional intelligence, along with the intuition and ability to sense what others are feeling and thinking and use that to effectively communicate with others.

I generally agree with Joe and won’t spend more time and space discussing traits, and . . .

If you are a believer in the science of personality testing, there is much written on what inherent personality traits a great non-profit executive director should possess.

From a Myers-Briggs perspective, Paul Sohn speculated in his post titled “The Best Jobs For All 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types In One Infographic” that ENFJ’s and ENTJ’s might be well-positioned for success.

In a study published by Dewey & Kaye titled “Nonprofit Leadership Development: A model for identifying and growing leaders within the nonprofit sector,” they found many non-profit leaders are rated highly as “High D’s.” This personality aspect is described as:

Direct and Decisive. D’s are strong-willed, strong-minded people who like accepting challenges, taking action, and getting immediate results. People with a high D component like to take charge and are typically found in positions or power and authority.”

While the jury is out and the science isn’t precise (in my humble opinion), the fact is that boards can really stumble when hiring an executive director if they don’t try to wrap their collective heads around what a successful candidate innately needs to bring to the table.

As it relates to characteristics, I’ve seen successful executive directors features/qualities:

  • well-networked with a large circle of influence
  • organized and focused
  • an understanding of the complexities associated with organizational development
  • hard working and strong work ethic
  • unfazed by long work hours
  • servant leader at heart and joyful warrior
  • high integrity
  • role model who is a mentor to others
  • self-starter who works well in fuzzy supervisory environments
  • connection and personal story that connects them to the organization’s mission

Skills are learned as a result of life experiences, and the good execs seem to have honed the following skill sets:

  • resource development/fundraising
  • board development and supportive of board governance
  • great communicator
  • collaboration and partnership development
  • leadership
  • financial management
  • human resources
  • planning
  • volunteer management and engagement

From an experience perspective, non-profit executive directors who thrive seem to have:

  • worked at various levels of a non-profit (e.g. front line operations, fundraising and management)
  • had success at all levels of resource development and not just one aspect (e.g. individual giving, corporate philanthropy, grant writing, government funding, etc)
  • successfully provided guidance and leadership to teams of people
  • excelled in environments where they had limited real authority and succeeded because of their ability to influence outcomes

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with these categories and lists, the reality is that non-profit boards have a handful of roles/responsibilities they cannot shirk. One of those responsibilities is hiring and managing the organization’s executive director. Failure to take this seriously is a recipe for disaster.

How does your organization integrate the aforementioned traits, characteristics, skills and experiences into its executive director search process? What specific tools have you used that you found helpful? Are their any specific traits, characteristics, skills and experiences that I missed that you would add to the list?

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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

What should you do when a board member quits fundraising?


This certainly seems to be the topic of the month for non-profit people running in my circles. I’m not sure why this is the flavor of the month, but I’ve been asked this question so many times recently I took is as a sign from the universe (or the fundraising gods) that I should blog about it.

Why do board members quit on you?

quit1Oh, well let me count the reasons . . .

  1. They feel lost when it comes to asking for charitable contributions (aka lack of training)
  2. They feel uneasy about asking friends for money (aka they are asking inappropriately due to a lack of training which results in any number of FEARS and the feeling that they’re begging)
  3. They feel unsupported by staff (aka staff aren’t going out with them to help and model best practices)
  4. They sense there is a lack of organization behind their efforts (aka meetings are poorly attended or poorly organized, acknowledgement letters are sent late or sporadically, etc)
  5. Prospective donors are assigned to volunteers by staff without input from volunteers (aka they aren’t asking people with whom they are comfortable soliciting)
  6. They are busy people and there aren’t accountability tools being used by staff to keep everyone focused (e.g. report meetings, dashboards, scorecards, campaign reports, peer-to-peer phone calls)
  7. Fundraising efforts lack urgency (aka deadlines always seem to be extended, goals seem to shift/change, etc)
  8. They weren’t recruited appropriately and didn’t know what they were saying ‘YES’ to when joining the board (aka your board recruitment process lacks “expectation tools” like volunteer job descriptions, commitment pledges, etc)

I could go on and on and on with this list, but that wouldn’t be productive. Suffice it to say, if any of the aforementioned reasons describe your organization, you need to address it. Quickly! Otherwise, no matter how many new board members you recruit to replace the ones who quit on you, the problem will continue to recur.

All of this begs the question, “What can and should be done about board volunteers who quit on their fundraising responsibilities?

Step One: Have a heart-to-heart discussion

heart to heartI have no idea why this is so scary for so many non-profit staff and board volunteers. It doesn’t have to be a confrontation. Here are a few talking points:

  • Describe what you are observing (e.g. a reluctance to fundraise)
  • Assure them that it happens in the case of many board volunteers
  • Ask them what the trouble seems to be
  • Listen – Listen – Listen (empathize where appropriate)
  • Ask them how you can help
  • If there is nothing you can do to help, then ask them how they’d like to move forward

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it too many times. Board members disengage and no one asks them if everything is OK and if they are in need of assistance.

It is troublesome when non-profit families start acting this way, which is why Step One is always to sit down and listen.

Step Two: Engage in cultivation & stewardship

quit2If the reasons given by your board volunteer aren’t things beyond anyone’s control (e.g. family member illness, work-related challenges, etc) and they simply don’t feel comfortable with solicitation, then ask them to get heavily involved in cultivation (e.g. engaging new prospective supporters) and stewardship (e.g. showing existing donors gratitude and return on investment) activities. (Note: don’t simply let them focus on other non-fundraising activities like programming or marketing)

The following is a partial list of things you can ask of reluctant fundraising volunteers:

  • Host a house party with people who don’t currently support your organization (e.g. party where staff briefly talk about the organization and the host follows up with participants to see if they are interested in learning more)
  • Invite people who don’t currently give to your organization to tour your facilities and see the mission in action
  • Invite people who aren’t donors/supporters out for a cup of coffee and simply chat about the organization (e.g. it is important for the board volunteer to share reasons why they are involved and passionate about the organization)
  • Hand write letters to donors to express gratitude for their support
  • Make phone calls to donors in the middle of the organization’s range of gifts chart to express gratitude, engage in a discussion about their reasons for support, and share a piece of organizational good news
  • Invite larger major gifts donors/supporters out for a cup of coffee, share a copy of the most recent annual report, share any recent pieces of good news or programmatic results, and talk passionately about the future

I’m not suggesting you ask a reluctant fundraising volunteer to do one of two of these things. I am suggesting you immerse them in these activities. You might try asking them to complete five handwritten letters, five phone calls AND five in-person contacts every month for the next year.

Why?

In my experience, there is something curative when board members have substantive encounters with others that focus on community need, mission, vision, and impact.

I’ve seen a heavy dose of this approach help many volunteers get over their cold feet or malaise when it comes to fundraising.

Step Three: Finding a New Seat on the Bus

seat on busSometimes we can’t fix the problem. Board members are people, too. Their parents get sick. Their marriages falter. They end up with a new boss who demands more from them.

When these things happen, the first order of business is empathy. This is what you’d do for a family member going through the same thing. Right? And board members are your non-profit family.

But whatever you do, you cannot make exceptions for individual board volunteers with regards to their fiduciary responsibilities. It is an all or nothing proposition.

I’ve seen it too often where one board member is given a pass (usually for good reason). It’s a slippery slope. Others board members start identifying reasons in their life why they can’t participate in fundraising. Worse yet, a schism materializes in the boardroom between “those who fundraise” and “those who don’t.”  When this happens, resentment and ugliness aren’t far behind.

So, what does finding a new seat on the bus look like? It could be any number of things including (but not limited to):

  • Taking a short sabbatical from the board
  • Resigning from the board and moving into a new role (e.g. joining a committee, becoming a program volunteer, helping with small projects, remaining on as a donor, etc)
  • Acting as an advisor (e.g. monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly coffee meetings with the CEO or development director)
  • Becoming a community ambassador (e.g. speaking periodically at service clubs, etc)

We don’t banish or fire board members (unless of course it is a toxic/destructive situation). People who support our mission are valued and important. We keep them involved, but we do so in roles that are mutually beneficial and fulfilling.

How has your organization dealt with and addressed board members who quit fundraising (or maybe never really got started)? 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

What should your non-profit learn from Great Britain’s Brexit vote?


brexitLast week, British voters stunned the world in a number of different ways. First, they voted in a non-binding referendum to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which triggers a process to disentangle Great Britain from the European Union (EU). Second,  global financial markets have reacted poorly to this news because it injected a large amount of uncertainty into all things financial (apparently there is now a projection by some economists that there is a 30% to 50% chance the United States will now enter into another recession because of this vote). Finally, and most importantly, many people were stunned by reporting in the days following the referendum that there appears to be a growing number of voters who felt misinformed and regretted their vote.

As I listened to last week’s news coverage, I couldn’t help but worry about what this all means for the American non-profit sector.

Of course, the risk of another recession obviously spells trouble for non-profit organizations who are still digging out from the 2008 economic crash. However, this isn’t really what concerns me the most.

The fact that voters felt misinformed and ignorant about what they were voting on is a chilling realization and one that should concern every non-profit professional.

If you stop and think about this phenomenon for a few minutes, it isn’t really surprising.

  • People are busy
  • Many people report feeling as if our world is getting faster and faster
  • Information pours into our lives at breakneck speed (e.g. network television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter, cable television, data reports in the workplace, email-email-email, etc)
  • There appears to be a blurring of the lines between opinions and facts in the media
  • There is a media outlet (and internet link) validating every point of view . . . so if you believe it, then you can reinforce it thus hardening your opinion and becoming less likely to hear opposing viewpoints

information overloadCommunications experts refer to this experience as “information overload.”

You may be asking yourself, “So what?

Well, there are consequences . . .

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased productivity
  • Tuning out and unplugging

I’m sure some of you have heard the old marketing adage that it takes at least seven times of someone hearing/seeing an advertisement before it actually breaks through the noise and registers with them. This is a concept called effective frequency.

OK, so now you might be asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with my non-profit organization?

Let me attempt to answer this question with a few questions for you to consider:

  • What are the consequences of your donors not hearing your post-solicitation stewardship messaging?
  • What problems could result if your board members aren’t reading the reports and materials you send them prior to making decisions in the boardroom?
  • What could happen if staff aren’t processing and reacting appropriately to outcomes data, properly reading/implementing program curricula, or understanding the deliverables written into grant agreements?

If your answers were:

  • increased donor turnover
  • fewer dollars raised
  • bad decision-making
  • poor programming
  • decreased productivity and performance

. . . then you are likely on the same page with me.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is absolutely happening in your organization, but I am asking you to weigh the possibilities.

There are more theories and studies showing us the internet is rewiring our brains and changing: a) how we read and b) how we process information. (If you want to read more, click herehere . . . and here)

information-overloadSo, if you are still with me, you might be wondering what can be done to improve the likelihood that donors, board volunteers and staff are hearing (and understanding) what your organization needs them to know. While I am not a communications expert, here are a few thoughts:

  • Use more pictures and graphics
  • Tell more stories to convey your messages and contextualize your outcomes data
  • Segment your donors and do a better job at targeting your messaging
  • Use multiple communications channels (e.g. in-person, phone, mail, email, outdoor advertising, Facebook, Twitter, etc)  and stop over reliance on email and mail
  • Integrate infographics, dashboards and scorecards into your boardroom materials
  • Redesign your meetings (board and staff meetings) to be more interactive / participatory

How does your organization communicate with its stakeholders? How do you know if your key messages are being properly received and understood? Please use the comment box 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Are values at the center of your your fundraising program?


values1Anyone watching television or engaged in community conversations in recent months knows that our communities are entering into another period of time punctuated by values. Some people are talking about life, liberty and happiness. Others of us are focused on equality versus freedom (which are two values that are somewhat mutually exclusive). Perhaps, this elevated values debate is because our country is heading into a divisive Presidential election year. Or maybe it is because big policy debates are underway about LGBTQ and gun rights issues. Regardless, all of this talk has me thinking about the role of values and your non-profit organization’s resource development program.

Whenever I facilitate a strategic planning process for a client, regardless of which planning model I use, the process typically starts off with assessment of the current state and quickly rolls into facilitated discussions about mission, vision and organizational values. I always find it interesting that board volunteers find it easy to talk about mission and vision, but they generally seem to struggle with the values piece.

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise any of us. After all, values discussions can be emotional. Consider the following famous expressions about values:

  • Give me liberty or give me death!” ~Patrick Henry
  • Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury – to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.” ~Albert Einstein
  • Only men would think of cutting themselves to determine who the packleader is. Idiots.” ~Christopher Paolini

So, a values discussion can be emotional. Got it! And then a planning facilitator like me comes along and tells your organization it is important to come up with a list of “shared values.” I guess when I look at it from this perspective, it totally makes sense that people want to punt on this exercise.

Regardless of how difficult this might be, it is still important.

Why? Well, I think Roy Disney probably put it best when he said:

It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

values2All of this gets me thinking about the countless discussions I’ve been a part of throughout the years with non-profit staff, boards and fundraising volunteers where difficult fundraising decisions were being made. The following are just a few examples:

  • Should a gift from Big Tobacco be accepted when the organization runs anti-smoking and healthy life skills programming with its youth clients?
  • Should a named gifts contract be signed with a donor who wants to put a Bible quote on the outside of the building when the organization is secular and committed to serving everyone in the community?
  • Should a pledge be booked to one campaign versus another fundraising activity when a donor is clear about the benefits they desire and fuzzy about their intent; all of which is juxtaposed against staff wishing to achieve the goals laid out in their individual performance plans?

UGH!

Of course, the easy answer is always . . . “What do your organizational policies say about this issue?

However, weren’t those policies shaped and developed in a crucible of shared organizational values? I hope so.

Moreover, how many times have you dusted off those policy binders only to find they don’t speak clearly or directly to your issue? When this happens, then you’re right back where you started . . . stuck and left with your organization’s shared values.

There seem to be a number of different schools of thought on the question of fundraising values.

  1. Some people believe your fundraising program should align with the organization’s shared values (hopefully found in your strategic planning document)
  2. Other people believe your fundraising program should align with the organization’s shared values, but it should also have a set of supplemental values focused specifically on the unique activities stemming from resource development activities
  3. Still others believe that fundraising staff come with a set of values that bind them together as a profession

The Association of Fundraising Professionals subscribe to the third school of thought and have this to say about values:

An ethical fundraiser aspires to: Observe and adhere to the AFP Code and all relevant laws and regulations;  Build personal confidence and public support by being trustworthy in all circumstances; Practice honesty in relationships; Be accountable for professional, organizational and public behavior; Be transparent and forthcoming in all dealings; and, Be courageous in serving the public trust.”

To be honest, I’ve never  operated under any one of these schools of thought. I guess my career has been guided and shaped by a hybrid (aka mishmash) of these ideas.

values3I’ve always taken the AFP ethics/values statement to heart, embraced my organization’s set of shared values, and superimposed my own set of individual values. As an Eagle Scout, my individual values have always been rooted in the 12-points of the Scout Law (e.g. trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent).

However, after some thoughtful consideration, I’m left worried that this approach could result in conflict. After all, what happens when an organizational value is in conflict with an individual value?

My best advice to those of you who care about values and the impact these potential conflicts might have on your organization is as follows:

  • Invest time in developing your organization’s list of shared values
  • Incorporate these values into your various systems (e.g. recognition, compensation, recruitment, etc)
  • Integrate these shared values into your supplemental planning documents (e.g. resource development plan, baord development plan, marketing plan, individual performance plans, etc)
  • Start every policy development exercise with a discussion about values
  • Find a way to talk about your organization’s shared values in every board meeting (e.g. generative discussions, CEO report, committee reports, etc)
  • Most importantly, build an organizational culture where it is safe for people to talk about their values in the context of shared organizational values (keeping in mind that your board is in a constant state of flux with volunteers coming and going)

To those of you who don’t care about this topic, I encourage you to turn on your television and watch some of the news coverage focused on what’s happening in Congress in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting. If you don’t want your non-profit board room to look like that, then I suggest you start caring about the power of values.

Has your organization had to deal with a difficult decision recently? Did values play a role in fueling the conflict or solving the problem? If so, please use the comment box 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
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