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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

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

Illinois budget crisis impacting non-profit organizations — Part 3


illinois budgetEarlier this week and last week, I started writing about the State of Illinois’ budget crisis and how it is impacting non-profit organizations. In Part 1 of this series, I shared survey results provided by United Way of Illinois along with other insights and perspectives . In Part 2, I talked to a non-profit executive director whose organization lost significant funding as a result of Illinois’ budget impasse and shared some surprising developments. Today, I have a suggestion for Illinois non-profit leaders to mull over as the crisis deepens (and there is lots here for non-profit leaders from other states to chew on, too).

Frog in boiling water

We’ve all heard the story about frogs and boiling pots of water. Right?

Assuming that some of you haven’t any clue of what I’m talking about, here is a nice summary from Wikipedia:

“The boiling frog is an anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that occur gradually.”

I have no clue what the origins of this old story are, but I do know this . . .

IT IS A MYTH!

boiling frog1Don’t want to take my word for it because you might have heard it from your grandfather or another beloved family member. No problem … I completely understand. Let me provide you with scientific proof. Simply click here, click here for more, and click here if you are in deep denial.  If you clicked all three links, I’m guessing you probably also believe a number of other grossly inaccurate things about other animals and suggest you the Snopes.com article titled “Critter Country: Wild Inaccuracies

So, what does any of this silliness have to do with non-profits and the Illinois budget impasse?

Your organization is like a frog!

In other words, your non-profit should (and likely will) jump out of the boiling waters of government funding if things get too hot. It is a simple matter of survival.

Question #1: When?

I’ve lamented too often — right here on this blog — that too many non-profit boards operate poorly. They don’t understand (and sometimes reject) their legally defined fiduciary responsibilities, focus their meetings obsessively on monitoring rather than governance, micromanage the organization and its staff, rubber stamp things (oftentimes very important things) that staff put in front of them, and my list can go on and on.

If anything in the last paragraph describes your organization’s board of directors, please hear me clearly . . .

You’re at risk!

In other words, you might just be on the road to proving all of the scientists, who said in the last section that “the boiling frog story is an urban legend,” are liars.

boiling frog2Your board is likely made up of smart people. If they aren’t being used (at a minimum) as a “sounding board” on the issue of government funding and what to do about it, then my suggestions are:

  • Stop business as usual in your boardroom
  • Start adding a 45 minute “generative discussion” agenda item to every one of your monthly meetings for the foreseeable future
  • Focus your discussions around various aspects of your government funding situation
  • Bring in guest speakers who know more than you do about state funding and your grants
  • Pose open ended questions and facilitate an engaging dialog where everyone is encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings
  • Don’t just have theoretical conversations … also pose action oriented questions (e.g. what are our options? what should we be doing?)

If you and your board can make this adjustment in non-profit governance, I guarantee you that . . .

It will be clear when it is time to jump out of the boiling pot!

Question #2: What?

boiling frog3Of course, the more difficult question for most non-profit organizations is “What to do about it?

If your organization isn’t reliant on government funding, the answer is easy . . . carry on and try not to gloat too much around your non-profit friends. For those of you who rely on modest (or perhaps significant) government money, then you want to keep reading.

If you and your board have decided the water is getting a little too hot, then here are a few suggestions:

  • Re-exam your non-profit revenue model
  • Explore other models (refer to previous section about generative discussions in the boardroom)
  • Make a group decision about which model (or hybrid model) is best for your organization at this time
  • Don’t try to turn the battleship all at once … choose one (or a few) things to “try on for size” and experiment with small aspects of your new revenue model (e.g. write a private sector foundation grant, engage a corporate partner, identify prospective individual donors and start a conversation with them; write a business plan for a potential social enterprise, etc)
  • Invest time, energy and effort in evaluation of every new thing you undertake and commit to nurturing a culture of improvement and excellence
  • Celebrate every success from top-to-bottom and side-to-side of your organization (no matter how big or small it may be)

If you got this far and still find yourself scratching your head over the idea of different non-profit revenue models, then you need to click-through and read a Bridgespan white paper titled “Ten Nonprofit Funding Models“. I also highly suggest clicking on and reading every hyperlink embedded in the white paper.

If you don’t believe your organization can do this without help, then I have some good news. There are countless non-profit consultants (myself included) who are available for hire.

Stop listening to stupid people

boiling frog4I’ve heard state funders (e.g. foundations, United Ways, etc) say loudly and clearly, “The state cannot expect funders to fill the gap created by the State“.

I do NOT believe foundation leaders and United Way professionals are “stupid people“. However . . .

I have heard some people (in fact some are even dear friends of mine), amplify the cautionary words of foundations and United Ways and then twist them by concluding “private sector philanthropy” cannot fill the gap. It is these folks to whom I urge you to please stop listening.

The reality is that foundations, corporations and United Ways only account for 20% of the $358 billion of charitable giving. The remainder of the pie (a huge whopping 80%) comes from individuals either directly or through bequests.

Moreover, charitable giving is only 2% of our country’s GDP.

The pie can be increased. There is room to expand and grow. Foundation leaders and United Way professionals never said private sector philanthropy couldn’t be the solution (or at least a big part of the solution). They were simply say that politicians need to stop telling voters their organizations will fill the gap.

Are you a doubting Thomas? If so, then I have a proposition for you . . .

Add this topic to your board agenda. I think it makes for an awesome generative discussion. If you’re an Illinois non-profit organization and you’re looking for someone to speak in your boardroom on this subject and facilitate a generative discussion, then please contact me because I would be willing to consider it.

Next up in this blog series?

I’ve sent emails to a handful of politicians and policymakers who I trust and respect. I’ve invited them to share their thoughts on this subject. If any of them respond, then I’ll publish those next week.

In the meantime, please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences on the Illinois budget impasse, the impact you’re seeing on the non-profit sector, your thoughts on what organizations should be doing about it, or anything else that is top of mind regarding the state of government funding (federal, state or local) and those trends. 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

Making the case for periodic assessment of your non-profit organization


assessmentA few weeks ago I received a call from a friend who asked me (aka The Healthy Non-Profit LLC) to submit a proposal to conduct an organizational assessment for a regional non-profit organization. He recently joined the board of directors of this organization, and during his first few meetings he concluded that his fellow board members might need a little “perspective”. As we spent a little time on the phone framing the proposal, he made a very specific request of me . . .

Please go into great detail about why it is a best practice for non-profit organizations to invest in an organizational assessment facilitated by an external consultant.”

In the space below, I attempt to elaborate on this question by sharing two personal non-organizational stories that I consider analogies for non-profit organizations. I also end this post by sharing the actual one-page of text I included in my proposal and ask DonorDreams readers to please use the comment box to help me add/subtract to this case for support (for the benefit of future proposals).

Story #1: Mom & Dad aren’t on the same page

Mom_DadI am a lucky son because both my Mom and Dad are still married and living in the same community and same subdivision where I grew up (except they moved across the street when I went away to college). A few years ago, both of my parents retired and have been trying to figure out what to do with their new found time.

Just the other day while visiting Mom and Dad, the conversation turned to the subject of “To Infinity and Beyond“. To clarify what I mean by this, here are a list of questions that were being asked and not really answered:

  • How long do you plan on staying in your current house?
  • Have you given any thought to what you want to do when staying where you’re at doesn’t make any more sense?
  • Oh? You want to move to Florida? When were you thinking you might do that?
  • Where in Florida do you see yourself living?
  • Are you keeping the house in Illinois and planning to live like “snowbird retirees“? Or are you selling the house? And when are you planning to do that? And when do you plan on thinning out all of your STUFF?

UGH!

If you’ve ever gone down this road with your parents, you know how frustrating this discussion can become.

In my instance, it became clear that these two people, who spend approximately 75% of their lives no more than 100 feet from each other, were NOT on the same page. I’ll spare you the details (and protect their privacy), but suffice it to say one of my parents has a two-year plan in mind and the other was taking the long view with a 10-year plan. And this was just the beginning of their differences.

So, what does this have anything to do with your non-profit organization and the best practice of periodic organizational assessment?

Simple . . .

Next time you are in your boardroom, I encourage you to stop whatever you’re doing, look around the room at each of your board volunteers and imagine how each one of them would answer the following questions:

  • Who are we as an organization? Why do we exist?
  • Where are we going as an organization?
  • Where should we be going as an organization?
  • What is currently working well for us?
  • What are we challenged by?
  • What opportunities exist outside of our four walls that we should be trying to take advantage of?
  • What storms are brewing on the horizon that we need to better position the organization for?

I guarantee that if you do this exercise honestly, you will probably find the same thing I found with my parents which is . . .

You will see awesome people, who are engaged around shared values and a mission, BUT who all have a slightly different view on things that are very important to your organization.

It is for this reason that periodic assessments are necessary. If done by someone external to your organization (possessing a fresh set of eyes and ears), then you can learn a lot about what isn’t being said and then incorporate it into the next step — a planning process (of some sort).

Story #2: My trip to the doctor

doctorI’ll keep this story short and sweet since this post is getting too long. Yesterday, I went to my doctor for my annual physical.

Why did I go?

  • A bump recently appeared on my finger
  • I’ve been fatigued more than usual lately
  • I’ve had the same cold virus going on five weeks now
  • And a variety of other little reasons that I shouldn’t go into on the internet LOL

You’ve probably heard that an annual physical examination by your doctor is a best practice. In fact, it is  strongly encouraged by most insurance companies that typically don’t even charge you a co-pay for such a visit.

Why is this form of annual assessment of your health considered so important by health practitioners?

Simple . . .  there are things you cannot see and do not have knowledge of that this assessment will help diagnose and lead you to act upon. The same logic holds true for your non-profit organization.

editAsking a small favor of you . . .

As I explained at the beginning of this post, the following is approximately one page of text that I included in my recent proposal. Would you please do me the small favor of reading it and provide your two cents on what you would add or subtract from this written case for support? You can also simply tell me what is missing (or what you really like) in the comment box below. My plan is to incorporate your feedback into the next proposal I’m asked to write like this one. Thank you in advance for your help.  🙂

Why is periodic assessment a best practice?

In layman’s terms, periodic organizational assessment is akin to a physical exam that people periodically engage in with their physicians.

While assessments take many different shapes, almost all attempt to answer the following questions:

  • Who are we?
  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?

Answers to these questions typically become a precursor to board activities such as creating an organizational:

  • Long term plan
  • Strategic Plan
  • Business Plan
  • Short-term tactical plan

While looking carefully at the question of “Who are we” might seem silly to some people, it is important because organizations morph and change over time. Moreover, the “need(s)” that an organization was initially created to address may no longer exist or may have evolved.

The question of “Where are we now” is oftentimes difficult to ascertain without the help of an external consultant. The reason for this is the same reason people pay therapists / counselors to help assess what is going on inside of ourselves. The simple truth is that it is hard to get outside of our own bodies to see what is really going on. What makes this even more difficult with non-profit organizations is the fact that there are many different people sitting around the boardroom table oftentimes with various opinions and perspectives.

The question of “Where do we want to go” is more of a planning discussion than it is an assessment question. However, good organizational assessments have the ability to access what various stakeholders are thinking about the future. Being able to see all of these different viewpoints can help the board frame productive discussions at the start of a planning process focused on vision and goal setting.

As it is illustrated on the previous page, organizations go through a predictable lifecycle, and an organizational assessment can help board volunteers see where they are at in that cycle and have productive discussions about what to do about it.


 

Thanks for indulging me today. I appreciate being able to share a few stories and a portion of a business proposal with the smart readers of the DonorDreams blog. I truly believe that we can all learn from each other (as I’ve stated hundreds of times over the last five years of blog posts). Today, I am doubling down on this believe by asking for your feedback. I appreciate your willingness to participate in such an exercise.

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

Writing your resource development plan in steps: Final Words


planning flow chartWelcome to the fifth and final part of this ongoing series of posts on how to write your non-profit organization’s annual resource development plan. As I’ve previously mentioned, this series was inspired by how many DonorDreams blog readers were clicking on the “Time to start writing your 2015 resource development plan” post, which I wrote a year ago.

Let’s quickly recap where we’ve been in the last few weeks with this series:

Today’s post is all about tying up a few loose ends with regards to process. Enjoy!


Let’s bring this entire series of posts full circle by going back to something I said in both the first and fourth posts, which was:

“S/he who writes the plan, owns the plan. And s/he who owns the plan is the only person who will care enough to implement the plan.”

The Board of Directors

engagementPlease keep in mind that “planning” is a key role/responsibility of your non-profit board. With this in mind, the task force / committee I suggested you recruit in the first blog post does not have the authority to make your written resource development plan “the law of your non-profit kingdom”. Only the board can do so, which means they better have a seat at the planning table and participate.

Of course, the reality of the situation is that asking ALL of your board volunteers to sit down and develop a comprehensive fundraising plan is not likely going to happen. However, it might not need to if your planning process is designed appropriately.

Consider these two scenarios:

Scenario #1: The committee develops the draft resource development plan, and the board uses a planning retreat to become familiar with, discuss implementation, and take ownership of the plan

Scenario #2: As the committee completes various draft sections of the plan, those pieces are included on board meeting agendas where generative discussions are facilitated and board feedback is looped back into the committee’s revision process

Personally, I’ve seen both of these approaches work, and I suspect there are many other ways to engage board volunteers in taking ownership. If you’ve had success with another process, please scroll down and share your experiences in the comment box section of this blog.

The Strategic Plan

auto realignmentWhile most resource development plans are aligned exclusively with the organization’s annual budget, it is important not to forget about the strategic plan.

As with everything in life, ideas need money and the same is true for your strategic plan. Make sure that the strategies and tactics in your strategic plan find a place in your annual budget. This way when your annual resource development plan is aligned with revenue side of your annual budget, then everything will exist in harmony.

Another alignment consideration is to make sure the planning committee is knowledgeable of all resource development related strategies and tactics in the strategic plan. This will increase the likelihood that those items will get integrated into this planning document and take a form with more depth and detail.

Alignment isn’t just for cars. It is equally important for organizations, too.

Annual Performance Plans

performance1Just a few quick words on this subject.

As I mentioned in the previous section about strategic plan alignment, your resource development plan should also align with both your executive director fundraising professional’s annual performance plans.

If you want to increase the likelihood that your plan gets implemented, then hold someone accountable for it.

Kinda simple, don’t you think?

The only word of caution here is that the board of directors needs to understand that alignment at this level doesn’t absolve the board of their role in implementing the plan.

Think of it this way . . . staff support the board who in turn make the plan come to life.

Monitoring & Evaluation

measure1How many times have your developed a plan, adopted it, put it on your organizational bookshelf, and watched it collect dust? Unfortunately, this is all too often a common occurrence.

There are many ways to keep a plan alive and on track including:

  • reports
  • dashboards
  • scorecards
  • post-event / post-campaign critique meetings and evaluation

Before developing any of these tools, it is important to sit down and decided what are the most important things to measure.

When it comes to campaigns or events, the following are a few metrics many organizations appear to track:

  • Board solicitation phase – actual vs. goal
  • Community face-to-face solicitation phase – actual vs. goal
  • Targeted mail solicitation phase – actual vs. goal
  • New donor acquisition – actual vs. goal
  • Donor renewal – actual vs. goal
  • LYBUNT renewal – actual vs. goal
  • Individual volunteer solicitor progress – number of pledge cards assigned vs. number of worked & returned cards

With regard to your overall resource development program, the following are a few metrics I’ve seen some organizations track:

  • # of donor solicitations
  • # of cultivation calls
  • # of stewardship contacts
  • donor retention / donor turnover (e.g. LYBUNT, SYBUNT, etc)
  • goal vs actual on various revenue streams (e.g. grants, major gifts, annual campaign, special events, etc)

Phew . . . this five part blog series has come to a merciful end. Hopefully, your organization is well underway with its resource development planning efforts. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. 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

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

Philanthropy is emotional. Is your agency embracing this reality?


philanthropyI was on the phone yesterday talking with Pamela Grow over at The Grow Report about a toolbox project I’m currently work on. During that call, she shared an emotional donor story, and my response was simply “philanthropy is emotional“. For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to get neither Pamela’s story nor my simply conclusion out of my head. Whenever something like this happens, I always take it as a sign from the “blogger gods” that I need to write about it.

So, that’s what you’re getting this morning . . . a handful of stories and examples from my life to prove the point that philanthropy is emotional and ask what you’re doing about it. Hopefully, you can share a few stories and examples of your own.

What exactly is philanthropy?

I know that when I think of “philanthropy” my mind immediately wanders to non-profit organizations and charitable giving. However, the concept of philanthropy is much more expansive than just money being donated to agencies. The following is a simple definition that Google spit out at me when I asked:

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, “promoting the welfare of others” includes volunteerism, advocacy in addition to charitable giving.

live unitedOur United Way friends totally get an A+ on this one because they’ve been running around for a decade now telling us to LIVE UNITED which encompasses the following ideas:

  1. Give
  2. Advocate
  3. Volunteer

I guess when I step back and look at the bigger picture of philanthropy, I can’t help but wonder how it can’t be an emotional activity. After all, the act of reaching out to help someone else and expecting nothing in return is a selfless activity that is rooted in love and caring. Both of which are emotional. Right?

My first tearful national conference

youth of the yearMy first Boys & Girls Club national conference was in New York City in 2001 literally months before the terror attacks.

During one of the general sessions, the 2001 National Youth of the Year stepped to the big stage and told his story, which included:

  • a father who had died
  • a mother who was addicted, in prison and infect with HIV
  • a Boys & Girls Club that became home
  • hope and inspiration

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

His story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.

A donor’s tears

tears2Fast forward to one of my first engagements as an external consultant. I was assisting with an organizational assessment and conducting interviews with board members, volunteers, collaborative partners, donors, former donors and various other stakeholders.

The organization was experiencing a number of pain points and found itself under scrutiny by the newspaper, television stations, and its supporters. As if this wasn’t bad enough, those who the agency served were starting to organize and protest.

I had the privilege of interviewing someone who had “done it all” including:

  • program volunteer
  • fundraising volunteer
  • board member (I believe two different stints on the board)
  • donor

There she sat, sharing her perspective on the current state and desired future state of the agency, and there were lots of tears.

Why was she crying?

Simply said, she understood the importance of the agency. She had witnessed and participated in the transformational gift this organization provides its clients. Her tears were rooted in frustration and fear.

  • Frustration that the current issues haunting the agency were getting in the way of fulfilling its mission.
  • Fear that the current issues might permanently close the doors and impact clients.

Her story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.

An executive director’s tears

tearsI often find myself standing in parking lots after meeting “kicking stones” with staff, board members, volunteers, etc.

After one meeting, there I was in the parking lot with the executive director and their eyes started to pool with tears. It would be simple for me to chalk those tears up to:

  • being “sideways” with the board president
  • tight cash flow
  • inability to expand services
  • pressures being brought by partners to build organizational capacity
  • powerlessness to be able to give hard-working staff a raise

In reality, this executive director was thinking about opening up a job search and leaving the agency because they weren’t sure that they were the right leader to solve these challenges  The stress was eating them up.

The tears stemmed from the fact that they saw program staff, volunteers, and clients as part of their extended family, and the thought of leaving was akin to divorce or death.

Non-profit staff dedicate their lives to promoting the welfare of others. They are usually donors. They typically work for a lot less than what they could earn in the for-profit sector (by choice). They see, touch, hear, and feel “mission” on a daily basis.

This executive director’s story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.

What are you doing?

Are you on the same page with me now? Do you believe that philanthropy is emotional? If so, then what are you doing to infuse emotion into the following functions at your non-profit agency:

  • marketing and PR?
  • resource development and fundraising?
  • board governance?
  • staffing?
  • programming?

One of my favorite non-profit PSA commercials is the one featuring Denzel Washington talking from his heart about the roots of his philanthropic spirit. Every time I see this commercial it brings tears to my eyes. Click the video or YouTube link to view this iconic public service announcement and bear witness to another emotional example.

Please take a minute or two to scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences about an emotional philanthropy story. It is the holiday season and a time to give. So, why not give the gift of inspiration to your fellow non-profit colleagues?

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

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