Blog Archives

Strategies for turning your volunteers into donors

On Tuesday, I completed my three-part blog series on “Non-Profit New Year’s Resolutions” with a post about volunteerism. Coincidentally, later that morning I opened an email from my friends at VolunteerHub containing a guest blog attachment about a study they recently completed about volunteerism. The two posts were not coordinated, but I suspect this is the blogosphere gods telling us that 2015 better be “The Year of the Volunteer” at your organization. I hope you enjoy the following guest post from VolunteerHub’s Corbit Harrison.

Here’s to your health!

Study: Best Practices for Converting Volunteers to Donors

By Corbit Harrison
Chief Operating Officer at VolunteerHub

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to increase donations?

If so, then it would be a great idea to target your volunteer base. Volunteers are among the “warmest leads” for donors and most familiar with your organization. In fact, the recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America study reports: “Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Nearly eight in 10 (79.2 percent) volunteers donated to charity, compared to four in 10 (40.4 percent) of non-volunteers.”

So, here’s the big question: how does a nonprofit convert volunteers into donors?

VolunteerHub recently surveyed 200 nonprofits on their best practices for donor management. The results show that many nonprofits are still struggling to tap into the true potential of monetary donations made by volunteers.


Below we share some of the challenges — as well as some remedies — that your organization may want to consider for its own strategic planning purposes.

Challenge: Tracking donor management is time-intensive

There’s a laundry list of reasons why, but the end result is the same: many nonprofits are behind the curve when it comes to implementing new technology. So, perhaps not surprisingly, one in three nonprofits responding to our survey are still manually entering data into spreadsheets in order to document donor information. Another 15 percent use a system of their own creation.

Solution: Implement a dedicated CRM

Approximately 50 percent of respondents utilize a constituent relationship management (CRM) system for tracking purposes.

Of those using a CRM, a name that comes up often is Blackbaud’s The Raiser’s Edge. It is the most widely-used CRM among those surveyed (51 percent of this subset). Additionally, once a system is in place, users tend to stay with it; seventy-two percent of respondents have remained with the same electronic donor tracking software for two years or more.


Challenge: Donor management processes are clunky, and data is scattered

Eight in ten of those nonprofits responding to our survey report that their donor management practices leave room for improvement. Manual data entry and validation issues head up the list at 40 percent, with close to another 20 percent identifying the isolation of volunteer and donor data sets as problematic. Other issues cited include ineffectual donation tracking and spotty donor engagement.

Take a look at what some of your nonprofit colleagues shared: “We have multiple pieces of information in multiple places… hard to have transparency around contact information as it relates to volunteers [and] donors.” Another writes, “The biggest headache pertaining to donor tracking and engagement is that it is outdated and inefficient.” Still more comment that tracking volunteer to donor conversion metrics and/or keeping contact information up-to-date present problems.

Solution: Get volunteer management and donor software to “talk” to each other

Best-in-class volunteer management systems and donor management applications are designed to keep their respective data all in one place and integrate with one another. This combines data from both volunteer and donor groups for much more efficient marketing and fundraising efforts. Synchronization between the two systems offers a 360-degree view of your constituents, by-passing the need for time-consuming manual data imports or exports.

VolunteerHub’s integration with The Raiser’s Edge, among Blackbaud’s other CRM solutions, is the perfect example of how integration can build new synergies.

Download the Donor Management Study

Ready to make 2015 the year of converting volunteers to donors? Download our study of over 200 nonprofits and learn:

  • CRM utilization rates
  • Donor management best practices
  • How to reduce manual data entry
  • How to engage more volunteers and donors
  • Tips for converting volunteers to donors

Click here to download the executive study.

Here’s to making 2015 your best fundraising year yet!

About Corbit Harrison

corbit harrisonCorbit Harrison is VolunteerHub’s Chief Operating Officer and has been actively helping nonprofit organizations engage constituents for over 10 years.

Fundraising New Year’s Resolutions — Focus on volunteerism

new years resolutionsIn my last two blog posts, I talked about a USA Today article from John Waggoner titled “Resolutions you can keep,” which I came across during my New Year’s Eve Napa Valley vacation. I previously mentioned there were three important fundraising concepts in the final two column inches of this article that non-profit organizations should take to heart as they start a new year. Last Tuesday’s blog was about sustainable giving strategies, and last Thursday’s post focused on sacrificial giving and upgrade strategies. Today, I am finishing this three-part series with a post about volunteerism.

So, the third (and final) notable thing that Waggoner said in the final two inches of his newspaper article was:

If you can’t afford to give money, give your time: The most rewarding way to feed the homeless is by hand. And anything you give to charity will probably leave you feeling better than you did on New Year’s Day.”

Some of you may be wondering how volunteer recruitment, retention and management is related to resource development. The simple truth is that volunteers are a “resource” . The following are just a few of the things volunteers will bring to the table for your organization:

  • new ideas
  • access to grant opportunities
  • specialized skills
  • wage replacement costs
  • donor dollars

I once read that a study looking at lifetime giving of traditionally cultivated donors compared to donors who started as volunteers found that those who start off as volunteers gave significantly more over their lifetime. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Volunteers are cultivating themselves better than any of us could do through a site tour, coffee meeting or house party.

volunteersA few days ago, I reviewed a PowerPoint training on a fundraising website that I run for a client. I stumbled across the following startling statistics pertaining to volunteer management:

  • Americans volunteered over 8 Billion hours of service in 2007. Those hours are worth more than $158 Billion (Volunteering in America Study, CNCS)
  • Households that volunteer give 40% more to charity than those that don’t volunteer
  • 80% of volunteers will give financially if asked
  • Fewer than half of the non-profits that rely on volunteers have adopted volunteer management programs

The last bullet point was shocking to me.

If your organization relies on volunteers and doesn’t have a written volunteer recruitment, retention and management plan, then I sincerely hope you take today’s blog post to heart and make it your 2015 New Year’s Resolution to correct this oversight.

Even of your organization isn’t reliant on volunteers, I encourage you to consider doing something in 2015 to change how you approach the idea of volunteerism. Doing so can have a profound impact on your resource development efforts.

The following are a few good links to other resources I think you will find interesting and helpful:

What does your non-profit organization do to attract, retain and manage volunteers? Do you have specific resource development strategies focused on helping volunteers cross that bridge and become a donor? Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Other New Year’s Resolutions?

A good friend, who also happens to be the CEO of a non-profit organization, sent me a nice note last week after reading one of the posts in my “Fundraising New Year’s Resolutions” blog series.

In addition to updating me on some of the progress he’s made with donor stewardship (see the chocolate covered strawberries section of the July 24th post titled “How to ‘surprise and delight’ your non-profit donors“), he also shared with me a new non-profit blog he is following that calls itself “Nonprofit With Balls“.

I’m not joking around, and the truth is that this blog’s post titled “Ten resolutions for the nonprofit sector for 2015” is kick-butt! If you are looking for other ideas for New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to click-through and check them out. It is definitely worth the click!

Here’s to your health!

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

A basic truism about fundraising volunteers

horse to waterI believe it is a basic truism that you can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do. Every example I can think of ends up not working.

As a nation, we tried to force people to stop drinking (when they didn’t want to) by passing a constitutional amendment banning alcohol. The result? A black market and the rise of Al Capone.

Tell someone to stop smoking or lose weight (when they don’t want to) and it might result in short-term results, but the relapse rate in the long run is high.

While I’m sure there are exceptions to what I am calling a truism, I think I am more on the right track than the wrong track with this belief.

So, if you’re buying what I’m selling this morning, I have one simple question for you:

“Why do so many of us try to force non-profit board members to do fundraising when they tell us that they are strongly opposed to do it?”

I know, I know. We do it because many of our fundraising models need volunteers to be involved in order for it to work. Obviously, another basic truism in fundraising is that “people give to people.

However, I still go back to where I started . . . forcing people to do what they don’t want to do is a recipe for failure.

So, what is the solution?

In my opinion, the answer can be found in the old Texas two-step:

  1. Stop recruiting people to do things they don’t want to do
  2. Start engaging people in honest discussions about what they do want to do

birds of a featherBoard Development

There have been many blog posts written on this subject, but it is time to stop agreeing with what is written and start putting those thoughts into action.

Your board development and recruitment process must include honesty, transparency and a number of tools that set expectations before a volunteer is asked to say “YES” to joining your board.

If someone wants to join your board but doesn’t have the stomach for fundraising, then you need to find another role for them in your organization (e.g. program volunteer, committee work, etc).

This type of strategic focus in recruiting like-minded people when it comes to fundraising will help solve your problem because you’ll no longer be forcing people to do what they don’t want to do.

your seat on the busResource Development Plan

Unfortunately, this board development strategy won’t be enough to completely solve your problem.


Because not everyone around your boardroom table will be comfortable participating in every aspect of your fundraising program.

Some people are drawn to planning parties (e.g. special event fundraisers). Other people are attracted to your pledge drive and sitting down face-to-face with their friends to ask for money. There are also be a number of people who appear to disdain traditional fundraising activities, but who are open-minded to opening doors, going on donor solicitation visits (as long as you do the talking and asking), and various other stewardship activities.

The reality of the situation is that you need people to do all of these things in order for your fundraising program to be successful.

This is where involving everyone in writing your annual resource development plan comes into play.

Getting everyone involved in the planning process is akin to asking them to choose which seat on the bus they want to sit.  In doing so, you avoid the pitfall of arm twisting and making people do what they don’t want to do (which never works and is where we started in the first paragraph of this blog post)

So, there you have it! Your agency’s fundraising problem is solved.  ;-)

Good luck rolling out this two-part strategy and please circle back to this space to let me know how it works out for you.

Here’s to your health!

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

A donor learns a lesson from a skunk

I’ve been doing lots of interviews with donors recently, and gosh do they some of the darndest things.  :-)   I have two donor stories that I just can’t resist sharing this week (today and Thursday) with DonorDreams blog subscribers.



skunkAs I walk down the driveway of an 80-something-year-old donor, he starts sharing a story with me about a skunk that appeared in his very nice and upscale neighborhood.

One morning while walking down the driveway to get the newspaper for his wife, he observed a skunk walking in circles and making its way down the street towards his house. As the skunk got closer and closer, this donor realized it accidentally had gotten its head stuck in a plastic soda cup, and it was circling and weaving around because it was disoriented and couldn’t see where it was going.

Not knowing what to do, this donor called the police department and asked for help.

As you can probably imagine, neighbors came out of their homes to see what was happening. Additionally, people driving by pulled over to investigate what all the commotion was about.

One of the people who had pulled over, asked the donor what was going on. After explaining the situation to her, she simply asked:

“Why hasn’t anyone here just walked up to the skunk and pulled the cup off of its head?”

Of course, no one had wanted to get sprayed by the skunk, and in the case of our 80-something-year-old donor he didn’t move very well anymore.

Sensing that no one was willing or able to do what was necessary, this lady walked up to the distressed animal, grabbed the cup and shook it gently until it came off of the skunk’s head. No one got sprayed, and the skunk ran for cover under the nearest bush.

With nothing left to look at, everyone went along on their merry way.

Problem solved . . . thanks to one lady who had the courage to step up and do what was obvious to everyone.


As I approached the end of the driveway with the donor and the skunk story came to an end, I couldn’t help but ask “Is there a moral to the story?

Which of course there was . . . he simply smiled and said:

“Do what you can do!”

As I drove away, I couldn’t help but smile. This donor had just summed up the entire interview that took me an hour or two to complete in a matter of a few minutes. In fact, he summed up so much more including the mantra for your agency’s:

  • resource development program
  • programming
  • volunteer efforts
  • special projects
  • board engagement

As you organization runs around your community talking about needs and the case for support, there will be lots of people who just stand there looking at you like that skunk. They will be paralyzed and unwilling to step up to do what is obviously necessary.

You need to keep in mind that it isn’t your job to convert these people. That is hard work and likely going to be a waste of time. Instead, it is your job to find the few people who are willing to do what is necessary.

Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a donor with a fun story that invoked an epiphany related to your non-profit work? If so, please use the space below and share it with the rest of the world.

Here’s to your health!

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


Does this story sound like any of your non-profit board volunteers?

Board Disengagement in Four Scenes

Guest Blog Post
By Dani Robbins reprinted with permission from Nonprofit Evolution blog

disengagedI received a call from a old friend (we used to be real close :-) ) who served on the board of a very prominent organization. This is the story she told me. I share it with you to both illustrate how easy it is to disengage good board members and how important it is to institute and follow good process.

Scene 1: The Invitation

The call came inviting my friend to serve on a very high profile board. She was a little surprised yet also very excited. She asked about expectations; she asked about commitment; she asked about orientation. She received what she considered to be reasonable answers and was told that a lunch to answer all her questions would be set. She said yes.

The lunch was never set. She was voted on the Board. The orientation was never held. She attended a retreat that set committee goals for the year.

Scene 2:  Year 1, Chairmanship

My friend was asked to serve as a committee chair and began immediately working to build a committee and meet the goals from the retreat. Every suggestion she made was shot down by the executive director. Every recommendation the committee made, with the executive director in the room, was challenged — and sometimes later changed — by the executive director. My friend, who talked to the executive director every time it happened, got to the point that she realized she was spending significant political capital, and consistently alienating the executive director, who had also been a friend, to accomplish something that no one else wanted. She finished her one year term as chair and gave up the role.

She thought the executive director was so happy to have her out of the role that it never occurred to him to ask why. It’s possible the remainder of the executive committee felt the same way; they didn’t ask either.

Scene 3: Year 2, Gamesmanship

My friend continued to attend board meetings, missing only one or two, yet every suggestion she made in the room, usually based on best practices in the field, was challenged by members of the executive committee. The suggestions she offered were later introduced by other committees as their own work.

My friend felt alienated and disillusioned, and while she loved the organization, she didn’t love her experience in governing it.

Scene 4: Year 3, Disengagement

The next retreat was set and a board survey was sent out. She was honest with her concerns and her experience. She shared that she was troubled that the board didn’t have a strategic plan and hadn’t set any goals for the executive director. She shared that it felt like the organization was governed by a select few and the rest of the board were just in the room. She voiced her concerns within the bounds of the survey questions.

The retreat agenda came out; it didn’t reflect any of the issues she raised. My friend described it as a meeting to set strategies for goals that did not exist, or at a minimum had not been communicated.

She continued to attend meetings and participate marginally. A few months before her term expired she sent a note thanking the executive committee for the opportunity and asking to not be considered for a 2nd term.

She may be one of the few board members in the history of this high profile organization, with its high profile board, who declined a second term.

No one asked why.

The Scenes that Didn’t Happen

My friend didn’t share her frustrations outside of her conversations with the executive director when she was a committee chair and inside the boardroom. She did share her suggestions within the boardroom but (possibly inaccurately) felt from the responses she got to her ideas that there would be nothing to gain from sharing her frustrations.

The executive director, with whom she did meet occasionally, never asked her how she was enjoying her term.  There was no conversation about her goals for service and if those goals had been met.

The board chair never called to check-in. Neither did the board development chair.  There was no assessment of her service or to gauge her opinion of board process.

The Lessons for the Rest of Us

Board disengagement happens while good, dedicated, people are focused on other things. It’s rarely intentional, and it is usually quite detrimental. It’s what stands in the way of our boards, and therefore our agencies, fulfilling our missions, which would be more easily accomplished if everyone was on point, on the team and moving the organization forward.

There are a few ways to avoid it.

Talk to your board members –- the ones you serve with or serve! Check in with each of them individually to see how they are enjoying their experience. If they have goals, find out if you are meeting them?  If they’re frustrated, find out if there are things you can do to address their issues? Find out if there are opportunities to improve board process.

Information is information. Ask the questions. Get the answers. Once you have the information you can decide what to do with it. It’s what we do with the information presented to us that separates the good leaders from the great!

Have you served on a board where you felt marginalized and ineffective? What did you do? What would you have told my friend? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please offer your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.
dani sig

Nonprofit Blog Carnival call for submissions: Letting the non-profit sector go to the dogs

Betrys3Approximately 14 years ago, I was a young and eager executive director of a non-profit organization in Elgin, Illinois. While I had already worked in a number of different capacities in the non-profit sector, it was the first time I had held the job of “executive director.” Thinking back to that time in my life is where I pull my inspiration for the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival.

As a new executive director, everything was new and there were days I found my head spinning, especially when I thought about which metrics and indicators I needed to watch with regard to my agency’s health.

However, I very clearly remember the day when all of that stopped. It happened after a Board Development committee meeting, and one of my board members pulled me aside. He asked me how things were going.

We talked about the organization’s health and how I knew what I thought I knew. It was at that moment he decided to play Oprah and pointed me in the direction of the following two books written by Frederick Reichheld:

Just to give you a small taste of what these two books are all about, here is a short quote from chapter one of “The Loyalty Effect“:

“. . . businesses that concentrate on finding and keeping good customers, productive employees, and supportive investors continue to generate superior results. Loyalty is by no means dead. It remains one of the great engines of business success. In fact, the principles of loyalty — and the business strategy we call loyalty-based management — are alive and well at the heart of every company with an enduring record of high productivity, solid profits, and steady expansion.”

Not to be too dramatic, but that informal book club assignment changed my point of view on all things pertaining to the non-profit sector. After reading those books, my personal non-profit management litmus test usually centered around this simple question:

“What would Betrys do?”

As you’ve probably guessed, Betrys is our 13-year-old Welch Terrier who is featured in all of the pictures you see in this blog post.

This brings me to the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival . . .

With all of the talk about donor loyalty in recent years, I thought dedicating an entire Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme to the broader idea of LOYALTY might be fun.

So, calling all bloggers!  Please write and submit a post this month focused on how non-profit organizations can and should be building loyalty among any of the following stakeholder groups:

  • donors
  • employees
  • volunteers
  • board members
  • social media networks

If you can identify another type of stakeholder group with which you believe a non-profit organization needs to build loyalty, then please feel free to blog about that, too. This is intentionally a broad topic. Feel free to get creative. All I ask is that you include in your blog post strategic or tactical suggestions on how to build loyalty so that our collective readership can walk away from our content with lots of new ideas.

To help get into the spirit, I will dedicate all of the content at DonorDreams blog in May 2014 to the idea of building loyalty.

Betrys1But wait . . . there is more!

If you couldn’t tell from the title of this post, I am a dog lover. Is there anyone or anything in this world that embodies LOYALTY more than dogs?

At the end of the month, there will be difficult decisions made about which submissions get published and which ones end up on the cutting room floor. If you can incorporate some reference to the canine community in your Nonprofit Blog Carnival submission, then you will get bonus points.  :-)

So, I’m sure some of you are wondering what I mean.  

A reference to the canine community could be as simple as working your dog (or someone else’s famous dog like Spuds MacKenzie, Snoopy or Lassie) into your post. It could be more complicated like the time when John Greco centered an entire organizational development blog post titled “Puppy Perspective” around his dogs.

Good luck and regardless of whether or not you get a dog into your post, please have some fun with this month’s carnival!

Betrys2How to submit your work for consideration?

You are welcome to write your blog post anytime during the month of May (or even submit a post you may have previously published); however, I must receive your submission by the end of the day on Monday, May 26, 2014:

How do you submit? Simply email the following information to nonprofitcarnival[at]gmail[dot]com:

  • Your name
  • The URL of your post
  • A two of three sentence summary of your post

We will publish the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 right here at DonorDreams blog.

Go visit April’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival

In April, the carnival was hosted by Nancy Schwartz at ” her blog — Getting Attention!”  The theme was “The Work Behind Your Work: Your Methods and Wants for Nonprofit Blog Carnival“. She asked bloggers to consider the following questions:

  • the methods and tools you use to stay focused, productive and happy on the job
  • or the barrier that keeps you from getting there

If you’re interested in reading what some very smart and talented bloggers had to say about this Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme, click here.

Betrys4Miscellaneous details?

Click here to learn more about the Nonprofit Blog Carnival. If you want to view the archives, then you want to click here.

Do you want to become a “Friend of the Carnival” and receive email blasts twice a month with reminders about the Carnival? Click here if you want to receive those reminders.

In a tip of my hat to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival that I hosted last May, I leave you with this Dr. Seuss-inspired quotation to inspire your much anticipated submission:

“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go . . .”

I am very much looking forward to see what you decide to do and where you decide to take this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival.

Here’s to your health!

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

Four non-profit trends pertaining to volunteerism

volunteerismYesterday, I attended my first Fox West Philanthropic Network meeting in a number of months. I forgot how much I love those networking and professional development meetings. The program topic was “Volunteer Recruitment & Management” and featured staff and volunteers from a number of Fox Valley agencies, who spoke eloquently about their experiences.

To open the panel discussion, Bob Hotz from American City Bureau shared the following four recent trends that he sees  in volunteerism:

  1. There is a trend toward wanting to help with a specific program or project.  This contrasts with just general support of both time and money.  This seems tied to wanting to experience that my contribution of resources (time or money) will have the impact I am looking for.
  2. There is a trend toward time-defined or episodic volunteering.  (e.g. a day of service or a 5K run, does not tie up months of time or commit me to something long-term)
  3. There is a trend toward contributing expertise.  (e.g. More than just time, people want to feel that their skill sets are being put to good use.)
  4. There is a trend toward incorporating a learning component into the volunteer experience.  (e.g. It is not only what a volunteer contributes, but also what they learn and get out of it.)

Bob used this framework as a springboard for the panel to jump into topics such as:

  • volunteer recruitment
  • orientation and training
  • volunteer evaluation
  • retention
  • generation differences including needs and approaches to working with these different age groups

For those of you looking for additional resources on these topics, here are a few links you may want to investigate:

For those of you who want to have a discussion about these issues, please scroll down and use the comment box to pose questions or share your thoughts and experiences on these topics.

Here’s to your health!

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

Having difficult conversations with board, staff and donors

difficult conversations2From time-to-time, we all need to have a difficult conversation with someone. It could be an employee, board volunteer, donor, collaborative partner, or even a spouse or loved-one. I was in such a position a few days ago, and needless to say it didn’t go very well. In the subsequent days, I spent a lot of time licking my wounds and thinking about what I could’ve done differently. So, I’ve decided to share some of my thoughts with the readers at DonorDreams blog and hope you’ll also share your thoughts and experiences.

Setting the stage

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page. The following are just a few examples of difficult conversations I see non-profit professionals having every day:

  • correcting poor performance or disciplinary action with an employee
  • engaging a board member in a discussion about poor attendance at meetings or following through on things they’ve committed to do for the agency
  • speaking with a donor who spontaneously donated — before your fundraising volunteers could schedule an appointment to visit — and made a contribution of less than what you were planning to ask them to give
  • talking with a funder about a set of grant deliverables that your agency agreed to achieve but might now be having difficulty achieving

I’m sure we could identify many more of these types of conversations without even trying very hard. Won’t you please share?

What not to do

As I look back upon the many difficult conversations I’ve had in my professional life, I’ve made many mistakes and some of those mistakes I continue to make over and over again for some dumb reason. Here are just a few of those missteps:

  • I procrastinate and put off having those conversations
  • I obsess and over-think those conversations, essentially having different version of those conversations in my head prior to the actual conversation
  • I try to set the stage with a pre-discussion email outlining the issues that need to be discussed
  • I get emotional and take things personally
  • I wear my emotions on my sleeve
  • I get entrenched in my opinions and don’t leave any room for alternate viewpoints

I could also go on and on with developing this list of mistakes. I’ve made so many of them throughout the years. I know you probably have a few things to add here. Won’t you please share?

Best practices

difficult conversations1I’ve done some research into how I can do better in the future with engaging others in these type of conversations. Here are just a few of the best practices that resonate with me:

  • Don’t have this conversation in your head before having it in-person because over-thinking creates anxiety and frames issues that might not even come up
  • Stay away from email because people read tone into written communications that you may not intend . . . but perception is reality
  • Go into the discussion prepared to: a) hear the other person and b) possibly change your mind
  • Encourage questions to promote understanding
  • Restate what you hear the other person saying in order to make sure you’re hearing them correctly

As with the previous section of this post, I know there are many more best practices. Won’t you please share your best practices?


When you Google the search words “having difficult conversations,” there are a ton of great resources. Here are just a few that I’ve found helpful:

Without sharing the ugly details about one of your difficult conversations, please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Share resources that you’ve found useful. Share things that you’ve learned not to do. Share things that you always try to do. Life is too short . . . we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Who is showing up to your non-profit board meetings?

Decision are Made by those who Show Up

By Dani Robbins
Re-published with permission from nonprofit evolution blog

showing upMy community had a paltry 10% of eligible voters turn out to vote on Election Day. My neighbor said that any vote that didn’t have at least 40% of the eligible voters voting should be thrown out. But, of course and for good reason, it doesn’t work like that. Elections – and most other things – are decided by those who show up.

Now you may be thinking: “That’s nice Dani, but this is a nonprofit blog. What’s this got to do with non profits?” Everything; it works the same way for agencies. Many states ban proxy voting and require email votes to be 100% unanimous. Assuming you have a quorum, the decisions made by the board will, primarily, all be made by those in the room.

That means it not only matters who you elect to serve as Board members, it matters which of them chose to show up to meetings. It’s hard enough to figure out how a large group of smart people are going to vote; it’s even harder if you don’t know who will be in the room. As such, you need to know who’s planning to attend every meeting.

Good Execs do their homework before the meeting and usually know how people are going to vote before the meeting begins……which doesn’t ensure they will do so.” (Board Meetings Gone Wrong) Even when you do your homework, and think you know how they will vote, a parking lot conversation can change someone’s mind.

The foundation for ensuring you have the right people in the room starts long before a board meeting is scheduled. It starts and also ends with the Board Development Committee.

When you are recruiting new prospects, unless you are willing to change the meeting time, those who tell you they cannot come to the meetings should not be considered as board members. Most agencies already carry one or two board members who consistently miss meetings; don’t add to that count.

The agenda that is set should also reflect, to some degree, the behavior of those expected to be in the room. This is most applicable to consent agendas. When you consider if a consent agenda is right for your board, consider the board members who most often attend. Do they typically read materials in advance or in the room? If they read them in advance, consent agendas can allow more time for robust generative discussions. If they read them in the room, they may not have time to read all the materials and may be voting on things about which they are not entirely clear. If that is the case, consent agendas can create issues of liability for your agency.

If you don’t have enough board members show up, the ones that do will not have their votes counted if you do not have a quorum. Quorum issues are the best indicators of disengaged board. As mentioned in Engaging the BoardIf you have consistent issues with having enough Board members in the room to make decisions, I recommend you take a look at how your board was built and how it is being developed.

Finally, it behooves you to consider removing disruptive or disengaged Board members. For instructions on how, click here. It is a difficult option to consider, but each of our roles in nonprofit leadership requires us to do what’s best for the organization. If the work of the board becomes focused on defending or covering for an inappropriate board member, other more relevant work is not being accomplished.

We can’t always control who shows up, but we can control who is invited to serve.  If we build the board intentionally and thoughtfully, it is far more likely that those who show up have the capacity, the wisdom and the experience to appropriately govern our organizations, and our organizations have the resources, impact and reach to change our world.

What’s been your experience? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please share your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.
dani sig

Do the ‘engagement equations’ govern your non-profit?

Doing the Math; Not Necessary!

By John Greco
Originally published on March 9, 2012
Re-posted with permission from johnponders blog

math1“I regard it in fact as the great advantage of the mathematical technique that it allows us to describe, by means of algebraic equations, the general character of a pattern even where we are ignorant of the numerical values which will determine its particular manifestation.”

— Friedrich August von Hayek

Say what?  Algebraic equations?  Where might this be going?!?

Here goes:  we can equate certain actions, or conditions, or results — without applying numerical rigor — and yet produce a meaningful, insightful, valuable answer.

I’m going to attempt to do Friedrich proud…  While my finance, accounting, and engineering friends might cringe, I am going to pose a couple of equations that I think are incredibly meaningful in describing organizational life, yet they require no calculation whatsoever.  I call them my “engagement equations.”

First up:  Involvement = Commitment. 

The general idea here is that as we involve people in diagnosing and solving problems, their commitment to carrying out the resulting course of action grows stronger.  Hence, more involvement means increased commitment.

That’s the proactive application of the equation.  The reactive application might be when we see low commitment, we should suspect low involvement.  And the prescriptive:  if leaders want a more committed workforce, they should first seek to involve the workforce in diagnosing why there is low commitment!

Bottom line, we can equate commitment with involvement and be pretty confident it’s not a false equivalence.

I promised two, so next up:  Performance  = Freedom.

This one’s about the length of the leash.  It prompts us to consider that when an individual or team is performing well, we should allow them more space, more autonomy, more freedom.  We might get even more performance …

And, of course, there is the flip side:  when performance is slipping, more attention might be warranted.  Narrow the range, focus on the action.

math2(I feel compelled to counter a possible negative perception of this last point by noting that isn’t it a very good thing if a manager sees when an associate or team is struggling, and at the right time and in the right way enters the picture and provides just the right amount of help to get back on the right track?  Less freedom is not always a bad thing!)

Shifting our attention to the other side of the equal sign, freedom — autonomy — when earned by performing, can move performance to yet another level; and when there is no freedom, it might very well be thecause of the lagging performance, and not the effect.

Before I close, I can’t help but point out a bit of irony I see when looking at these two engagement equations together…  One says “come closer, get involved” whereas the other suggests “I should leave you alone; you’re good!”

And what about the synergy?  Involvement equals commitment can driveperformance, and performance equals freedom can enhance commitment!

So there you go, my “engagement equations” … which, honestly, factor into a lot of my work when seeking to improve organizational effectiveness.  And I thought I’d never apply that algebra class in real life…

math3I look forward to seeing the ones that you’ve run across!

Lastly, in closing, one more — a bonus! — a pretty well known non-mathematical equation, presented in song! from none other than Sir Paul McCartney and his Beatle buddies —

And, in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.
john greco sig


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,562 other followers

%d bloggers like this: