Blog Archives

You need to dance with the person who brought you


board of directors3There is an old expression that says, “You need to dance with the person who brought you to the prom.” It essentially means you need to work with the person who got you where you’re at today in spite of the circumstances. When I think of this in terms of volunteer management (e.g. your board members and fundraising volunteers), it means you need to get the job done with those who you recruited.

The implication of this interpretation is that your organization is only as effective as those who you recruited to do the work that needs to be accomplished (e.g. raising the necessary funds, governing the organization, etc). So, you need to be very careful at the beginning of any recruitment process and pay special attention during the identification and recruitment process to the traits, characteristics, skills and experiences that an effective volunteer will need for the organization to be successful in whatever it is trying to accomplish.

This begs the question . . . what is the difference between traits, characteristics, skills and experiences?

  • 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

When I think of traits I’ve seen effective non-profit board members exhibit, I think of things such as:

  • Detailed-oriented
  • Focus
  • Collaborative / Team-oriented
  • Confident
  • Communicator
  • Decision-oriented
  • Optimistic
  • Accountable

Characteristics of effective board members in my opinion include someone who is:

  • Mission-focused and passionate about what you do
  • Eager to participate and ask questions
  • A life-long learner
  • Willing to contribute their time, talent and financial resources to your organization
  • Socially engaged in the community with a large circle of friends and influence

When I think about skill sets, there are are many different ones that need to be present around your boardroom table, which is why diversity is so important. In other words, you won’t find people who possess ALL of the skills you need. The following are some of the skills you need to make sure find their way into your boardroom:

  • Accounting & financial management
  • Marketing & promotion
  • Planning
  • Sales, resource development, fundraising
  • Insurance & risk management
  • Facility management
  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Human resources
  • Organizational development
  • Management

Experience is a tricky consideration because you should be looking for individuals who have had successful experiences not just any experience. When I was in the business of identifying board volunteers, I looked for people who had successfully:

  • Served on other boards
  • Participated in fundraising activities
  • Worked well with other people in team environments
  • Managed other people
  • Thrived in situations with deadlines and urgency
  • Managed their time
  • Been entrepreneurial and grown their own business

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it often where non-profit volunteers look at their social networks and asked others to get involved based on the likelihood of getting a YES regardless of whether that person possessed many of the traits, characteristics, skills and experiences necessary for success.

This is usually a recipe for disaster because “you need to dance with the person who brought you.” Essentially, if you recruit the people lacking what you need to help govern your organization or raise money to operationalize your mission, it is next to impossible to make quick wholesale changes, which likely locks you into an undesirable outcome.

How does your organization integrate the aforementioned traits, characteristics, skills and experiences into a prospect identification, evaluation and recruitment 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

Working with fundraising-phobic non-profit boards


boards on fireOrganizational culture is a difficult dynamic to change. After all, birds of a feather flock together, right? It is for this reason that simply changing the people sitting around your boardroom table is likely a very difficult strategy to employ (albeit not impossible or wrong). While this strategy is the most commonly suggested one by non-profit consultants, I recently found comfort and inspiration from Susan Howlett’s book Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully.

In Howlett’s easy to read paperback book, she recounts a story about working with a board that was resistant to fundraising. After trying everything, she simply asked everyone if they would be willing to call two of their friends and engage in a discussion about:

  • why they decided to serve on the organization’s board of directors
  • what the organization’s mission is and what it does
  • a recent organizational success story

At the end of the phone call or coffee meeting, board members were coached to ask their friend if they would mind receiving periodic updates (e.g. email, phone call or in-person visit) about what is going on.

If the board volunteer’s friend was agreeable, then in the subsequent months board volunteers were provided the following shareable things:

  • short emails with snippets of good news or links to online articles about the organization
  • requests to do something on behalf of the organization (e.g. call legislators or city council representatives)
  • invitations to attend something (e.g. facility tour, reception, etc)

In the end, Howlett’s strategy changed board culture and resulted in what she describes as a “board on fire.”

If you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend adding this book to your summer reading list. I suspect it will be a game changer for you if you’re grappling with the question of “how to inspire and engage your board in fundraising success?

After reading this joyful little book, I was reminded of the following basic truisms:

  • fundraising is a learned skill and not something people are born to do
  • engagement (e.g. cultivation) is important to fundraising volunteers because when it comes time to asking for money it feels like the pre-solicitation groundwork has been laid (e.g. they’ve earned the right to ask for money)
  • cultivation doesn’t happen without significant staff support (e.g. feeding volunteers materials to share, organizing informational house parties, etc)

look in mirrorIf your board is resistant to the idea of fundraising, I encourage you to first take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What boardroom trainings and generative discussions have you helped add to the board meeting agenda and support?
  • What cultivation materials have you provided to board volunteers with instructions on how to share with others? (e.g. stories, videos, articles, advocacy opportunities, newsletters, annual reports, etc)
  • What cultivation events have you organized? (e.g. lunch-n-learns, facility tours, house parties, etc)
  • What individualized coaching have you done with especially resistant board volunteers? (e.g. teaching others how to tell better stories)
  • How many cultivation visits have you gone with board volunteers on to model effective storytelling and information sharing? (e.g. modeling for others how to tell better stories)

I know it might be a bitter pill to swallow, but the reason your board might not be excited about fundraising could be because you aren’t excited about it or you aren’t supporting them effectively.

If you have done these things, you might want to ask yourself a different question, “How could I tweak these strategies to make them more effective?

Have you had success in changing your boardroom culture around the idea of fundraising? If so, what strategies did you employ to create a “board on fire?” 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

Using house party events to advance your non-profit interests


I try to keep an eye open for opportunities to learn new things every day. Last week, I learned something about house party events that was so simple, but potentially game changing if you take it to heart. What I learned was . . .

House party events aren’t just a fundraising strategy.

house partyAs a young non-profit professional, who was just learning his craft, I was first introduced to the idea of a “house party” event format as a fundraising technique. The idea was simple. Ask someone to host a small party in their home. Work with them to identify a guest list of potential donors from their list of friends and colleagues. Make a group ask during the get together and collect pledge cards. My former employer used to call these “leadership circle” events.

Personally, I didn’t like the house party strategy for fundraising. Early experiences demonstrated to me that donors were very effective at hiding in group settings. For example, someone who had the willingness to support your organization and the capacity to do so with a substantial gift, usually ended up making a smaller contribution when asked as part of a group in contrast with a one-on-one in-person meeting.

Fast forward to much later in my career, when I was working as an internal consultant for a large national non-profit organization. I was re-introduced to house parties. Instead of using it as a solicitation vehicle, local affiliates where encouraged to use the strategy for new prospect identification and cultivation. At first, this tool was branded “House Party of Hope,” and later it was re-branded “A Party with a Purpose.

Again, house parties were still being used as a resource development activity. So, I never saw this strategy in any other light. That is until just last week when we hosted a house party in our basement.

The purpose of our house party was to introduce the newly hired CEO for a statewide organization to our circle of friends. The stated purposes of this get together were:

  1. Introduce the new CEO to his organization’s constituency
  2. Introduce the organization’s constituency to the new CEO
  3. Use a facilitated question/answer format with the group to collect stories to help the organization craft a shared vision, set goals, and develop a new strategic plan

engage2Last week’s experience helped me see house parties in a whole new light. No longer was this strategy simply a tool in a non-profit person’s resource development toolbox. The more I thought about it, the opportunities seemed to be endless. Here are just a few of my thoughts:

  • Host a house party to validate a final planning document with any number of stakeholder and constituency groups
  • Host a house party to engage potential collaborative partners in a discussion about what is possible
  • Host a house party to engage staff, build team dynamics, address workplace challenges, start a new program, etc
  • Host a house party to collect stories from clients/constituents to gauge your organization’s impact, develop a marketing campaign, identify additional needs, etc
  • Host a house party to educate the community and initiate a call to action focused on your organization’s public advocacy agenda (Note: I believe I once read the American Medical Association did this in the 1950s or 1960s to defeat national healthcare legislation moving its way through Congress)
  • Host a house party to identify new potential board volunteers as a precursor to the board development committee building prospect lists

I literally believe the sky is the limit with regard to how a house party strategy can be used to advance any non-profit organization’s agency.

If you are interested in learning more about house parties, click-through the following links for a treasure trove of resources and reading materials:

Has your organization ever used a house party strategy? What were your objectives? Were your objectives met? 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

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

Nominating committee versus board development committee?


recruitmentI belong to a professional association and recently agreed to join their nominating committee to help the board of directors fill a few expiring board terms. This volunteer experience has made “board recruitment” top of mind for me over the last few weeks. I also can’t stop thinking about the various organizational structures and strategies/approaches to board recruitment. When this happens to me, I know there must be a blog post brewing.

Nominating committee approach

This method of undertaking board recruitment was what I was first exposed to as a young non-profit professional working for the Boy Scouts of America back in the 1990s.

A nominating committee is:

  • typically an ad hoc committee
  • pulled together a few months before existing board terms expire
  • composed of both board members and various other stakeholders
  • responsible for identifying board prospects
  • responsible for pulling together a slate of volunteers for a larger body of membership to consider

There are variations on this approach.

I’ve been involved in nominating committees responsible for:

  • identifying and evaluating prospects
  • ranking prospects
  • building a slate of prospects
  • presenting a slate of prospects to the membership (where the slate is exactly equal to the number of vacancies that need to be filled)
  • asking the at-large membership to approve the slate or send the nominating committee back to the drawing board to re-develop a different slate

I’ve also been involved in nominating committees responsible for:

  • sifting through nominations from the field
  • interviewing applicants (based on board gap assessment and what the board needs with regards to skill sets and experiences)
  • constructing a ballot of vetted prospects without regard for how many vacancies need to be filled
  • asking the at-large membership to vote for a smaller subset of what appears on their ballot

Board Development / Board Governance Committee

The alternative to an ad hoc Nominating Committee is a Board Development (or board governance) standing committee. In the last 15 years of my non-profit career, I’ve become more familiar with this approach to board recruitment.

A board development committee is:

  • standing committee that meets throughout the calendar year
  • composed of both board members and various other stakeholders
  • responsible for gap assessment
  • responsible for identifying and evaluating board prospects
  • responsible for recruiting board prospects
  • responsible for onboarding and orientation of new board volunteers
  • responsible for developing and implementing a board training calendar (e.g. external conferences as well as boardroom trainings)
  • responsible for annual review/evaluation of individual board volunteers
  • sometimes a resource to the board president on governance issues (e.g. assistance with committee structure, meeting design, annual board retreat, etc)

My two cents

I personally like the board development/board governance standing committee option over the old fashion Nominating Committee approach for the following reasons:

  • It feels more comprehensive in its approach to building/sustaining an organization
  • It feels more strategic with regards to aligning skills/experiences of volunteers with organizational talent gaps
  • It feels focused and more permanent (rather than “it’s that time of the year again” mentality)

In a perfect world, I believe your organization is best served when you can align your board development practices with approaches that are intentional, mindful and strategic.

While I recognize that membership-based organizations might struggle with this approach, I still think a board development committee can work in those environments and accommodate practices such as a “call for nominations” from the at-large membership.  In these situations, if there needs to be voting from the membership, then I obviously favor the practice of putting a slate of prospects in front of the membership for a thumbs up or thumbs down vote.

Your thoughts? What does your organization do to be intentional, mindful and strategic with its board recruitment, development and governance? Please scroll down and provide your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. After all, 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 skills and experiences are critical to your board volunteers’ success?


boarddev1Do you know which skills and experiences are most important for a new board volunteer to possess in order to succeed on your board? Knowing this could help your organization conduct better prospecting exercises and result in better prospect recruitment lists. Today’s post is the third in a three part non-profit board development series that started last week.  During this time, we focused on a recent survey released by our friends at non-profit technology research firm  Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members. The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.

The final two findings of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey that caught my eye related to skills and experiences. The first finding was:

Basic computer skills (e.g. email, Excel, etc) are the most important technology skill for service (44 percent).

The remaining 66% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-tech-skills

The other finding was:

Fundraising experience was the most cited (24 percent) skill set and experience that has the greatest impact on a board member’s success.

The other responses included:

nonprofit-board-professional-skills

As I digested these final two findings, I immediately had two visceral reactions.

Was Carol Weisman wrong?

weisman1If you haven’t heard Carol speak or read her books, then you need to figure out how to check those things off of your non-profit bucket list. She is amazing!

When I read the study’s finding about “basic tech skills,” my mind immediately wandered back to a Boys & Girls Clubs of America conference hosted somewhere in the Midwest more than 10 years ago. Carol was one of the keynote speakers, and she was talking about building an amazing board of directors.

I remember her sitting on a stool on a large stage with a wireless lapel mic telling fun stories about non-profit boards and individual board volunteers. She was also likely promoting one of her many books. I was a relatively new and young non-profit executive director, and everything she said sounded right on target.

During Carol’s presentation, one of the things she talked about was how technology is changing non-profit boardroom dynamics.  She shared a story about a board she had worked with that had embraced technology. If my memory serves me correctly, the following were just a few examples:

  • Every board member was provided a laptop computer by the organization
  • Board members received their board meeting agenda and info packet electronically
  • Volunteer who were out of town for meetings would use their webcam and remotely attend and participate

weisman2I am a member of GenX, and this news made my heart sing. I was so excited to hear that my Baby Boomer board could be transformed into that type of board. I came home from that conference with renewed focus and determination to figure out how tech can help my board become more engaged and efficient in governance.

I started digitally scanning my board packets. I created an intranet site for the board. I uploaded board packets and other materials (e.g. policies, procedures, etc) to the intranet. Needless to say, no one followed me, and I abandon my tech efforts a year later.

The lesson learned was:

“You get the board you recruit!”

We had not recruited the board that Carol described in her conference keynote speech. My board development committee had not included “better-than-basic tech skills” as a skill set criteria. The result was that my board possessed basic tech skills related to the Microsoft Office productivity suite and email. They were light years away from going paperless and using Skype.

So, I guess Carol wasn’t “wrong” because tech will obviously change the boardroom experience, but . .

  • change will likely take much longer than we thought (and will likely happen when GenX and Millennial board volunteers make up the majority on most boards)
  • change will occur faster only if board development and board governance committees include tech skills in their search criteria when assembling their prospect lists

If you are looking for additional board development tools to add to your organization’s board development toolbox, then you should read a wonderful blog post by the National Council of Nonprofits and check out their hyperlinks to additional online resources. The post was titled “Finding the Right Board Members for Your Nonprofit“.

Fundraising experience is underrated

scaredWhen I read that only 25% of survey respondents identified “fundraising skills and experiences” as having a great impact on a board member’s success, I literally groaned and rolled by eyes.

Sure, it was the number one response, but it was still only one-quarter of respondents. As my 10-year-old niece would say . . .

“Really? Seriously?”

I suspect that fundraising might not be as important for non-profits that rely on fees and government money to buoy their business model, but the vast majority of non-profits with which I’ve worked aren’t hospitals and universities. Many non-profits have fundraising at the core of their business model, and it is one of the most difficult things I’ve seen board volunteers struggle with.

More oftentimes than not, when I’ve seen a board volunteer frustrated and on the verge of resigning, it usually has something to do with fundraising.

Of course, the solution is the same as I mentioned in the last section . . . “You get the board you recruit, and the board development committee needs to include fundraising skills and experiences in their search criteria.”

The tougher question is “what are fundraising skill and what should we be looking for?” My suggestion is to look for the following when going through prospect identification and evaluation exercises:

  • people who donate to other charities and appear to have an appreciation for philanthropy
  • people who are social and appear to have larger than average social networks
  • people who have served on other non-profit board with a business model rooted in fundraising
  • people who belong to service clubs that organize fundraising activities
  • people who are passionate about your mission (e.g. are willing to walk across hot coals to achieve success for your organization)
  • people who are well-versed at “closing the deal” in their professional lives (e.g. people who work in sales, banking, self-employed, etc)
  • people who are assertive, persuasive, good communicators, relationship builders, etc.

Gail Perry speaks much more eloquently than I do on this subject. You might want to read her blog post titled “Mastering the ‘Soft Skills’ of Fundraising” and figure out if you can add any of those qualities to your board development prospect identification and evaluation process.

If you missed the earlier blog posts in this board development series, I encourage you to investigate the previous two posts from last week. You might also want to click-through and read SoftwareAdvice.com’s full survey report titled “Tech Skills and Other Considerations  for Joining a Nonprofit Board IndustryView“.

What are your thoughts and experiences regarding tech and fundraising skills and experiences and your board of directors? Are you doing anything different now as part of your board development process that might help other non-profit professionals and volunteers re-think their approach? Please use the comment box below to share.

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

How much time will it take to serve on your non-profit board?


thoughtsDo you know what is rattling around someone’s head during your non-profit board recruitment process? Knowing this could help you design a better process with better tools. This week and part of next week, we are focusing on a recent survey released by our friends at nonprofit technology research firm Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members.The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.

The second key finding of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey was:

“The most important consideration before joining a board is level of expected involvement (50 percent).”

The remaining 50% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-considerations

There are many different board development tools that organizations develop and use during the recruitment process to help answer a prospect’s question about involvement. The following are just a few examples:

All of these are great resources that you hopefully have in your board development toolbox.

Perhaps, one of the most unique tools I ever saw was a document titled “120 Hours That Will Make A Difference“. I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent, but I’m pasting the content of that document in the space below:


 120 HOURS THAT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Of the 8,760 hours that make up a calendar year, our organization and the clients it serves needs 120 of those hours.  When properly allocated, these hours have a huge impact on our organization and the kids that we serve.

Meeting Attendance

  • 12 hours at board meetings.
  • 10 hours at special events and fundraisers.
  • 10 hours in committee work.

Advocacy/Raising Awareness

  • 10 hours talking about our organizaiton with family, friends, associates, business vendors, religious groups, civic organizations and prospective donors.

Influencing

  • 18 hours convincing foundations, United Way trustees, local government officials, state legislators, business and community leaders that contributing to our organization is a wise investment.

Reading and Responding

  • 6 hours reading and responding to information sent to you from our organization.

Planning

  • 8 hours attending and participating in annual board retreats and strategic planning workshops.

Fundraising

  • 18 hours placing calls, writing letters and making asks in support of the organization. This time is best used assisting with one or more of our major fundraising events.  Remember, in order to ask for donations you must be willing to first give yourself.

Becoming Educated

  • 28 hours attending trainings and orientations, conferences and spending time in the organization’s facilities with clients and staff. It is important for you to be engaged in the mission to better understand the urgency of the work we do.

120 hours per year equates to 10 hours per month, or about 2 ½ hours per week in support of an organization that is making a difference in our community.  The commitment is modest, but it is time well spent.

ARE YOU WILLING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?


So, what do you think about the document?

  • informative
  • specific
  • eye opening
  • daunting

I know some of you are likely thinking that a tool like this will likely scare off some people . Well, my response is:

good news

You are not looking for warm bodies to sit around your boardroom table. You have serious work that needs to be accomplished, and that work will take a commitment of time from a group of very talented people.

Think of it another way. How upset would you be if someone lied to you in order to gain your commitment of time?

This question is top of mind for the majority of board volunteer prospects with whom you are talking. So, what are you doing to clearly communicate the answer to this critical question? Additionally, what else are you sharing with prospects during the recruitment process? Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your answers to this questions. You are also more than welcome to share links to other documents and resources you find helpful in answering this question.

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

Do you know what your board volunteers need from you?


boardroles1Most non-profit organizations have a very clear understanding of what they need from their board members, but there is a better question that needs to be asked. “Do you know what your board volunteers need from you?” This week and part of next week, we are focusing on board development questions at DonorDreams blog. Our next three posts look at a recent survey released by our friends at nonprofit technology research firm Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members. The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.

The first key finding of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey was:

“Personal fulfillment is the most commonly cited benefit of serving on a board of directors (50 percent).”

The remaining 50% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-benefits

Some of you might be wondering why these results matter. Simply stated, your board members need to get what they want out of their volunteer experience. If they don’t, then they won’t likely hang around your boardroom for very long.

Personal fulfillment

While most people will tell you they understand this concept, the reality is many of us struggle with this for the duration of our life on this planet.

Achieving a sense of personal fulfillment is a complicated success equation and is different for each us. The following factors are just a few things connected with this idea:

  • setting and achieving personal and professional goals
  • establishing a connection to something greater than yourself (e.g. community, God, volunteer board, etc)
  • experiencing failure
  • venturing into the unknown
  • being recognized and appreciated

oprahI think Oprah wrapped all of this up best when she said:

“Real success means creating a life of meaning through service that fulfills your reason for being here.” 

The reality is that many people have agreed to join your non-profit board of directors because they think it will add meaning to their lives. When you stop to think about this, it is mind-blowing at first and then it quickly turns into a daunting challenge.

Hopefully, this survey finding has you thinking about how your organization approaches board development and governance.

The following are just a few suggestions you might want to consider.

Be thoughtful on the front end

We’ve all been there . . . you have a few (or many) vacancies on your board, and you need to get them filled quickly. You ask for suggestions from the board. You set-up appointments with prospects. You put on your best smile and charm those people into saying ‘YES’ before they know what hit them.

Well, you got what you wanted. But will they get what they want? Have they even had an opportunity to think through what they want?

fulfillmentStructure your board development process in a manner that allows the following to occur:

  1. They get a chance to learn what you are all about
  2. They learn exactly what’s being asked of them
  3. You get a chance to learn what they are all about
  4. You have time to figure out what experiences will give them a sense of fulfillment

The reality is these objectives cannot be accomplished in one meeting. Consider including the following in your board development process:

  • a tour of your programs and facilities
  • a written volunteer position description
  • time with other board volunteers (e.g. invitation to committee meetings and/or board meetings and meet-n-greets)
  • sharing key governance documents (e.g. strategic plan, financial audit, resource development plan, budget, conflict of interest policy, commitment pledge, etc)
  • Q&A opportunities

You’re asking an individual to join your non-profit family. You might consider doing this in a mindful manner.

Speaking of family . . . you might want to find a way to include your board prospect’s spouse and family in your board development process.

Recruitment and on-boarding future board prospects in this manner might help you make their board experience more fulfilling, which will increase the likelihood of keeping them around for a little while.

Why is ‘keeping them around‘ important?

Simply stated, “turnover” — regardless of whether it is staff turnover, donor turnover or volunteer turnover — is a damaging and expensive prospect. Looking at it through a relationship lens, how many donors and prospects do your board volunteers bring to the table? And how are those relationships damaged when a board member walks away from your organization unfulfilled and potentially frustrated with their experience.

Be thoughtful on the back-end

partnershipI cannot tell you how many boards I’ve worked with on board development and governance projects push back on the idea of year-end board member evaluations.

I suspect the push back centers on the word “evaluation“. So, my advice is stop calling it that. I just sat through a wonderful board development presentation last week and the organization simply calls their board evaluations the “year-end sit-down” during which time the following questions are explored:

  • How did the individual board volunteer contribute in the last year? (Note: this is all about thanking them profusely for those contributions)
  • How did those contributions help the organization? (Note: this is all about showing them how their contributions support the bigger picture)
  • How did those contributions align with board member roles/responsibilities expectations? (Note: this is all about acknowledging that you see them doing what they said they’d do when they first signed up)
  • Were those contributions rewarding (aka fulfilling) to the board volunteer? (Note: This is about you listening and partnering with them on mindfully finding a sense of fulfillment and happiness in life)
  • Where does the board member see him/herself contributing in the upcoming year? (Note: This is all about you meeting them where they are at and aligning the organizations needs to what they can contribute rather than vice versa)

These year-end conversations are a firewall for you. They provide an opportunity to thoughtfully check-in on whether or not the board member’s needs are being met. And if they aren’t, then you have time to make adjustments.

If you want to get a peek at what the next few blog posts will be about, you are welcome to check out SoftwareAdvice.com’s full survey report titled “Tech Skills and Other Considerations  for Joining a Nonprofit Board IndustryView“.

Does your non-profit organization have a well-defined board development process? If so, please use the comment box below to share.

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

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

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?

TRUST

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
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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