The Three Most Important Board Roles

Type “board roles” into your favorite search engine and you will come up with a wealth of topics and purveyors of The Answer.  Still the question persists:  “But WHAT should my board be DOING?”  With so much information already out there, why is there such confusion, hand-wringing, frustration on the part of the staff team – executive and imagesdevelopment –  and on the part of the board about what a high-performing board should be doing to support the fund development efforts of the organization or institution?  I don’t want to devolve into a marketing pitch here, but we strive to deliver practical solutions here – and I think the problem with many of these resources is that they are not answering the practical question being asked… and maybe we’re not always clear on what we’re asking about board roles.

Here is what the answer is NOT:  the answer is not about whether you have a “hands on” or “rubber stamp” board, whether this board is a working board or a governing board.  In reality, all boards should be hands-on sometimes – and occasionally rubber-stamp a wise strategy.  Governing is hard work so I have never understood that distinction.  The answer doesn’t come from a pretty flow chart (…and anyone who knows me knows that I love a good flow chart – though a less popular approach when making a point with my spouse.  Different post.  Different day.)

The answer is found in discerning what we’re really asking about:  are you looking to understand and agree on the board’s fund development roles or their fund development jobs

Fund Development jobs are relatively simple – and we should keep them that way.  This is not to say they don’t need support and training, but there are just five JOBS we need board members to fulfill, each in different measure, and according to their skills and abilities:

Slide1When board members support the fund development program by doing those five jobs, we’re in good shape.  No matter what size your staff is now, you’ve got “force multiplication” and the potential for peer-to-peer outreach, even if most of the solicitation is done (or supported) by staff members.  It takes training to make sure board members have the skills and abilities to those jobs well.  (Go here for an easy-to-adapt tool on engaging your board in stewardship.  And go here for a past webinar on engaging your board in fund development.)

It is true that you can focus on those jobs and still not get anywhere in your fund development program…  It causes the plaintive cry where I started this post.  In my experience, that cri de coeur often comes from the fact that board members didn’t first embrace the ROLES that enable the jobs to get done well.

We need to allocate the right people to the right specific jobs once we have them.  First we must recruit for these roles, and not be shy about stating explicitly what role every board member must play in fund development.  Lucky for us, there are only three really important roles for you to share with your board:

1)   Give generously and be willing to talk passionately and convincingly about why you invest.  To be a good “fund developer” and carry out those five jobs, every board member must identify with those they are reaching out to, know what a good donor looks like, be proud and vocal about their support of this organization.

2)   Assess the risk of your fundraising approach, creating balance and mitigating risk.  Every board member – whether you are trained in fund development or not – should be able to recognize that holding ONE fundraising event on which all or a significant percentage of the year’s revenue rides is RISKY.  That’s really, really risky.  So, do not do it.   Same goes for relying on one donor, or one source of giving.  Something happens to one donor or one sector and…. pppphhhft.  Equally, every board member should be able to recognize that doing 17 events or campaigns is probably not a good use of resources and splits attention in too many directions.  And, with a little education, most board members can embrace the wisdom of focusing on building a robust pool of leadership donors who provide significant investment each year.

3)  Be available, demand that your availability is used well.  Agreeing to take on those five roles – or some of those five roles – but then neeeeeeever quite getting around to doing what you are asked shirks this role. Promise what you will deliver.  Then, you can and should demand (Staff: talking to you now…) that your time be used well, on the right jobs with the right donors and that everyone measures the effectiveness of what they’re doing, not to punish anyone, but to see what works best and do more of that.

What should a high-performing board being doing?  Embracing three roles that lead the way to five effective jobs.  Practical?  I think so.

Letter to a Friend (About Why I didn’t Give More to your Gala)

A good friend who sits on the board of the organization that she loves invited us to their gala and then called to follow up.  Isn’t she a good board member?  I’m so proud of her!  We couldn’t attend.  But we did give… just not a stretch gift.  And look above: this is a GOOD friend… someone I’m really proud of and have great feelings about.  Why didn’t I give more?Gala X

I have lost track of the number of times that I’ve used the Tarnside Curve to illustrate why donors don’t make stretch gifts based on the relationship they have with the person doing the asking.  But my email to her spelled it out at greater length and I decided to share it with you in hopes that like her and her organization, you might find some lessons learned to apply to yours.

Dear Very Good Friend,

First, I’m so sorry that we can’t make it to the Gala.  It would have been lovely to catch up with you and see you in your new role on the Board.  Second, I wanted to share with you why I am not giving more.  I know that you asked for my input on fundraising for your organization before, and this seemed like a good moment to share my thoughts.

As I was going through your organization’s site and figuring out how much we should give, I had some thoughts.  Please know that I realize how hard it must be to run Organization X and that most of the staff are out there doing the real work of helping clients who need it.  And I don’t know any of the back story on the site, who wrote it, the politics, etc.  In any case, this isn’t meant to come off as belittling any of the work they do on the ground or who they are as people.  Not at all.  I’m sharing my thoughts with you because if Organization X were my client, it’s what I’d do.  If it’s helpful, then share and feel free to share as is.  If it’s not the teachable moment I think it could be, and/or would hurt feelings and be unhelpful, then please don’t.

I tell my clients all the time that there are plenty of great organizations out there to support.  Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find them.

I went to Organization X’s site because of you and your clear passion about the work they do.  I trust you.  I value your opinion.  I don’t know all that much about Organization X.  This is how many many donors are introduced to organizations, especially in the context of events.

So there I am now looking around on the site and trying to figure out how much to give.  Should I do what’s comfortable, or should I forgo something I want to do and stretch?   If I do the stretch, then I have to explain it.  Already, I’ve explained to the family that we’re giving to Organization X because “Aunti loves them and I respect her and want to support her cause.” 

But to go the extra mile on this, I’d have to say more. I’m looking… I’m looking… I’m not seeing much.

When I get to the “stories” page, the first thing I see is the founders page and it’s a little bit off-putting because it suggests that the organization was founded on a whim.  I am willing to bet that the founders story is an awesome one that had much more than, “had nothing better to do” as a beginning.  But this is what it says.  I stop reading.  I’ve got 10 minutes to my name here and this isn’t what I’m looking for.  So then I move on to see if there is an annual report anywhere.  What I am looking for is a breakdown of the financials, what the annual budget is and also an idea of giving levels. Here again, I come up empty-handed.  OK… what about an idea of what various levels of giving means in terms of impact?  Nope.  Nothing to be found.  I sit back a minute.  It dawns on me that there are no photos.  That the site is all text, and not even written particularly well.  Ugh.

My thoughts go back to you.  I remind myself that you are super-smart and that you wouldn’t sit on a board for no reason.  Organization X MUST be doing terrific work.  I just don’t have any sense of it.

And so… I make my “comfortable” gift.

After the gala is behind you all and you can sit and think, here are a few things that I’d do right away:

1. Create impact statements.  My son and his friends just raised money to plant trees and gave it to http://www.plantabillion.org/  Every $1 plants 1 tree.  They want to plant one billion.  Take a look.  It’s a huge goal.  But they aren’t afraid to throw it out there.  And incredibly, every $1 of that billion feels important.  When I give my gift to Organization X, what does that mean?  What can I feel good about in making this contribution besides vaguely knowing I’ve done something good because you say I have?  Create impact statements to tell visitors to your site and donors new and old the impact of gifts made at various levels.  This is going to be useful for far more than just your site.  (Sidebar:  I didn’t include this in my letter, but you can download a great resource on writing impact statements here.)

2.  Post your financials.  You don’t need to create and post an annual report in my opinion.  Hardly anyone reads those.  But what they do look for is exactly what I looked for.  To not have that information up makes you look bad.

3.  Make the site more visually appealing.  You have this know-how.  I realize you can’t post photos of the clients for safety sake.  But there are all kinds of creative images you could post that don’t show faces.  Look at what other like organizations are doing.  I know you know this already, but Facebook is ranking images and video much higher than plain text in terms of their edge rank, their news feed algorithm that determines which posts get seen and by whom.  That says it all, doesn’t it?

4.  Be sure all the content is appealing and it’s not there for political reasons alone.  If you are going to share stories, make certain that they are really strong.  And know that most visitors are looking for client stories.  It helps me feel good about giving when I see a story of a client whose life was transformed by Organization X.  When I have my consultant hat on, I talk about helping donors feel like superheros for supporting them.  Keep that in your mind as you decide what to post on the site.  Would reading it make someone feel like a superhero for supporting?

I could go on.  But I won’t because I know it’s going to take time to get through this list as it is and that is going to take commitment from more than just you.  No matter that I know how hard it is to think about these things right after going through the hard work of putting a successful event together, it’s really important that you all do this.  I’m happy to chat about this whenever.   In the meantime, good luck tomorrow night!  I’m sorry I won’t get to be there.

Good for you for being involved with Organization X.  I’m proud of you and will be rooting for you guys tomorrow… 

Love, Neesha

Have you had a friend – a GOOD friend – visit your organization’s website?  Asking for that frank assessment of the public face you are sharing with the world can offer invaluable feedback.

“Know Something Important…”: Stewardship for Board Members

A very wise client of ours shared this story with me:  The day he was being inaugurated as the new leader of his school, the retiring, long-time head of school advised him that his most important role from that day forward was to “know something important about every member of this community.”  His advice was not to know everyone…  Or to manage his board…  Or to placate his faculty.  He was to make it his business to know something important about everyone.  This, in one elegant, simple story, guides my thinking today on stewardship – especially board stewardship.

We know that when we stop with “thank you” we haven’t really delivered stewardship.  And we know that when we thank and list donors in an annual report or on a donor wall , we haven’t really delivered stewardship.  AND we know that when we steward thoimagesse “easy” donors who give restricted or designated gifts, we also haven’t delivered stewardship.  (We know this, right?  Of course we do.)  Even the most thoughtful offices and officers can be stymied by board members… They are always THERE, right?  We discuss strategy; they know our organization from the inside out; they give because they believe in all we are doing.

Not so.

Board members who receive great stewardship themselves will share it with others.  We must model the kind of stewardship experience we want them to deliver on our behalf.  That’s important but that’s the smallest reason.

Precisely because they are always there, Board members should receive the best we’ve got in the stewardship category:

  1. Are they being deployed well?  Do they feel their service is being well used?  Are they on the right committees and doing things that are personally satisfying for the organization?
  2. Why does their gift matter?  Sure, board members care about all that you do, but there is probably some aspect of your institution that makes their heart beat a little faster, that they especially love that you all accomplish together…
  3. And that bring us back around to that good advice:  know something important.  What did each member of your board bring to the table – expertise, insight, willingness to take a stand on a tough subject, lead an effort, be diplomatic when diplomacy was difficult?

Great board stewardship rolls together that old adage:  “Time, Talent, and Treasure”.  We are strongest when the board brings all three.  Our relationship is strongest when we steward all three.

Board members:  what is the best stewardship you have received from your organization?  Share here!  To listen in on the best stewardship, we have received – check out this podcast.

Why Not More Peer Learning at Conferences?

IFF2013

Last week I spent the last leg of a two week European business trip “presenting” at the International Fundraising Festival in Prague. I put presenting in quotes because so much of the value of this conference comes from the participants learning from each other. The festival, held every two years by the Czech Fundraising Center over three days at the Villa Gröbe, spends the entire second day in “open” sessions where the participants decide which topics they would like to discuss and facilitate the sessions themsleves with us presenters and experts participating and providing tips and guidance where we can.

At The Osborne Group we are privledged to work with many different types and sizes of NGOs including some very large organizations with affiliate structures that hold their own large scale conferences, both national and international. Interestingly, when surveyed, they all very consistently say that while they get lots out of the more formal sessions, they get equal value out of the conversations that develop in the hall between sessions, at dinner, at the bar, and around the coffee dispenser. Anyone who has attend a conference understands the basic truth in this. The IFF has very successfully created a conference that duplicates this informal experience formally, a conference in the spaces and gaps of a typical conference.

photoSo while I did present on Crowdfunding and Fundraising and Activism during the first and last days of the conference, I think the bulk of the real learning took place during the open sessions where topics were as myriad as dealing with stress in fundraising, running a social enterprise, the nature of and limits of corporate social responsibility, and many others. Overall, at least 16 different topics were discussed.

So, why don’t we consultants and conference organizers employ this technique more? I think we tend to find it hard to loosen the reins when we feel that more basic and fundamental areas need to be addressed. In other words, there’s no way I’m going to let these affiliates decide to talk about the ins and outs of crowd funding when none of them have a table of gifts or can even tell me their year to year donor retention rates! I get it and there is merit to this. The fundamentals must be taught but I also think these fundamentals can come out in a more organic way when suggested and organized by the participants themselves. I had a great session where when ended up talking about many fundamentals including metrics, A/B testing, and discussing impact over just reporting news. The original topic centered around how the an organization might do better prospecting.

Many of us presenters use case studies and audience exercise in our workshops. This is admirable but I would like to take this further and again let participants really have more of a hand in the topics that get covered. This can be done in the format that IFF has done it but it would be fine I think if there was just time and space reserved at a conference for participants to organize themselves and talk about topics of their own choosing. So often at conferences there is almost no unstructured time between the formal workshops, dinner, and other “official” “must attend” events. Let’s build in some time for informal learning.

Moreover, when a group takes reponsibility for its own learning and participation (as opposed to just listening) is understood to be part of the format, participants are much more likely to ensure that their own questions get answered, that they will take practical and implementable advice back to their office with them, and that they’ll actually remember what they’ve learned for a much longer period of time.

We “experts” need to do more to promote this type of learning. I’m hopeful that the next time I encounter peer learning won’t be at the IFF 2015.

The Four Agreements for Development Officers

4 agreementsYears ago I read the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and was reintroduced to it a couple of weeks ago while watching “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). It got me to thinking about how these agreements are helpful not only in our personal lives but also in our lives as professional fundraisers.

In his work, Don Miguel Ruiz describes how implementing these agreements can help us with the relationships we have with ourselves and with one another. When I think of the first agreement, “Be impeccable with your word”, it reminds me of donor stewardship at its best.

Agreement 1 – Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.  –The Four Agreements

When we speak the truth about our work and how our donors have moved our cause forward we are using the power of our words to build a more authentic bond with our donors. When we talk about the true impact our donors’ gifts are having – the lives changed, families transformed, animals saved – we allow it to come from a place of integrity and sincerity about our work and who we are as an organization.  When we use our words both written and verbal, we use them in ways that inspire our donors for continued action while demonstrating gratitude for what they have already done.  By being impeccable with our word, we also speak the truth during times of adversity or when there is an issue with a donor’s gift.

Throughout my career (and honestly, on a daily basis), I have the opportunity to practice the second agreement, “Don’t take anything personally.” As fundraisers, how often do we take it personally (even if for a minute) when a donor says no to a gift request or the donor makes a gift much lower than we asked?

Agreement 2 – Don’t take anything personally.  Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. – The Four Agreements

Of course, there will be a period of self-reflection when a donor declines our request or a gift comes in at a lower amount. We think about things we could have done differently, such as the timing of our solicitation, or the actual program we thought this donor was passionate about. However, when this self-reflection becomes self-defeating, the concept of not taking anything personally is a tool that can help us move forward and continue to build the relationship with the donor that will manifest into a joyous, inspired gift.

I can recall clearly the day when a donor, whom I thought was ready to make a significant gift, called me “a pest” after months of what I thought was a good relationship. So yes, for a moment… actually several moments, that lasted the rest of the day… I did take her comment personally. Fast-forward three months later, after letting go of that comment and figuring out what she would say yes to, I called the donor. She enthusiastically agreed to meet and she made a joyous, inspired, generous gift of $500,000.  Of course, there was a lot of re-evaluating and strategy that happened between “The Pest Comment” and having this great experience with the donor, but the fact of the matter is, it happened when I let go and resolved to not take it personally.

Along with sometimes taking donor reactions personally, we might also fall victim to making assumptions about the donor’s passion for our organization. The third agreement, “Don’t make assumptions”, speaks directly to this.

Agreement 3 – Don’t make assumptions.  Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. –The Four Agreements

Our board relationships can often be ones where we make assumptions. For example, one might assume “Of course we are our Board Chair’s top priority. After all he is the Chair.”

But I have experienced both as a fundraiser and witnessed as a consultant, that this is not always the case. When organizations have as a practice to meet with their board members individually with the purpose of engaging and asking questions about the board member’s thoughts, feelings and plans as a volunteer and as a donor, they are able to decrease assumptions and deepen their board relationships.

The Fourth Agreement, “Always do your best”, brings all the above tools together and speaks to the reality that our “Best” varies and gives us the freedom to be our authentic selves.

Agreement 4 – Always do your best.  Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. –The Four Agreements

It’s the end of the fiscal year and your annual review is right around the corner. While some may use this as a time of reflecting on what didn’t go right or goals that were not made, it can serve you to use this time to reflect on when you truly did your best. About ten years ago, I began collecting examples of when I did my best by keeping a file called “Accolades.” This is where I kept emails and notes from donors, colleagues, bosses, etc. who commented on my work or something I accomplished. I looked at this during those tough times when “to do” lists were long and time was even shorter.  Further, when it was time to do my self-review, I could pull from these examples instead of trying to remember all that I did. This file has served me well as a reminder of doing my best and the value I bring to my organization and the people around me.

I encourage you to take a look at the Four Agreements and experience for yourself how one or all of these agreements can serve as a tool both personally and professionally. You might find that many of these agreements you have already made with yourself and the mission you serve!

Build the Better Budget: Non-Profit Budget Tools from Consultant-Land…and Reality.

An old friend and I were catching up the other day and she observed, “Your approach to philanthropy has really changed since you joined a board, hasn’t it?”  While I’m not sure that it’s been a change in only one direction, I do know that leading a board has made me a better consultant, more cognizant of the tough realities of non-profit management and tied into the calendar.  And that means it’s budget planning time…  I’ve been diving through the waves and waves of non-profit budget planning tools available, both to make sure we’re doing the best possible job as a board, and to take a look at what’s out there, as I wear my “consultant” hat.  But first, a few thoughts on the budget process before the tools are needed…

It may be cold comfort for those who recognize themselves in these situations, but here are the budget and goal-setting processes we hear too often:

  • The budget is set as a mandate from on high and the goal is delivered, Moses-like on tablets carried from the top the mountain.Buried-in-Paperwork-300x200..
  • The year’s impact goals are never really set and the budget is forced to fit the fund development projections…
  • …and that projected goal is developed with a shrug of the shoulders – “Who knows what we can raise next year?  We’ll know when we do it…”
  • …or the budget and goals for the coming year are dictated by donor interest, “We’ll do what our donors support.  How should I know what our budget should be until our donors tell us what they want?”

Being a responsive organization that can build visionary plans and achievable goals does not involve carrying stone tablets, delivering divine proclamations.  And being a donor-centric organization stops considerably short of doing whatever “The Donor” – whoever that mythical being is – wants accomplished.

On to the ideal!, says the consultant side of me.

Ideally, the organization’s leadership will begin with an annual review of the strategic plan:  where has progress been made?  What progress is next?  Which strategic goals need adjustment?  Which have been accomplished?  And from this review of the agreed upon, multi-year strategic plan, the year’s tactical goals for creating impact and outcomes should emerge.  Then the team asks themselves:  what is needed?  What investment of time, equipment, or resources is needed to achieve this goal?  Is it new staff?  New phone system?  And a first pass at the budget is developed from the strategic goals to the impact goals sought in the next fiscal year.

Simultaneously, the fund development team is building their goal from their gifts received and name-by-name projections (you are doing name-by-name projections on your table of gifts, right?!).  The projected goal is hand-built and movement toward key thresholds like reaching 20% of the philanthropy goal from board giving is established. This name-by-name projection is added to the projections for the broader channels of funding, based on program tweaks or overhauls (and the budget costs for those factored on too!) to arrive at an achievable goal.

THEN, these two are compared and any gap is discussed calmly, with a spirit of “Can Do!” give and take.  Cuts are made or more cost-efficient ways to do things are uncovered and the goal grows with innovative ways to increase giving and other revenue sources.

Isn’t that exactly the way it happens every year?  Riiiight.  Perhaps in consultant-land…  Back here in reality, it is seldom that tidy.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive for it.

Here are the TWO things (just 2!) we can’t cut corners on:

  1. You must create impact goals tied to the revenue needed to achieve them.  We are doomed to bad business planning and low sights when we don’t know what it costs to deliver the change we seek to make.
  2. You must hand-build that philanthropy goal from the ground up, person by person at the top of your table of gifts and campaign by campaign

If you find yourself applying a flat percentage increase to your fundraising goals or to build your new budget number:

STOP RIGHT NOW. 

TURN AROUND AND GO IN ANOTHER DIRECTION. 

Success in impact and in fund development requires that your goals must be tied to reality.  If you’re having trouble writing a persuasive case for support or convincing donors to give, it’s probably because you don’t have a great answer to this question.

So, to those tools to get this done:

I mentioned in an earlier blog piece, the embarrassment of riches that the wonderful folks at the Wallace Foundation have provided through their new Financial Planning Toolkit.

  • For those going through the budget planning process – especially board leaders – here’s a practical, step-by-step guide for leading this in your organization:  Five Step Guide to Budget Development from the FMA.  This readable .pdf is suitable for sharing with the whole board.

I was also happy to find a thoughtful piece on when to run a surplus budget, break-even budget, or deficit budget from Blue Avocado written by Jeanne Bell called “Nonprofit Budgets Have to Balance: False!”. Did you know you had a choice?  You do.

Need even more?  The National Council of Non-Profits has an extensive toolkit specifically on the budget building process.

A final thought:  my board experience has also taught me that it is just as important that your fund development committee (and fund development staff!) be conversant about your 990 – the ultimate reflection of this entire process – as your finance committee.  Donors deserve to know how your budgeting and spending choices will carry out their giving wishes – that’s the best stewardship and the right way to be donor-centric.

How to Empower & Manage a Junior Board

By: Megan O’Connor Mershon

For the past six months, my partner and I have been bringing together the best and brightest development professionals to talk shop. We host interactive meetings under the name “Innovative Development Professionals” and provide an open, confidential forum for fundraisers and other nonprofit/foundation rock stars to talk through development activities. Instead of bringing in panel speakers who simply talk at the group, we work collaboratively to find solutions to members’ fundraising problems. At a recent gathering we discussed the daunting task of developing a junior board.

As mentioned above, our forums are confidential.  But know that this particular guest speaker was from a very large, very successful international agency. This notable organization has an extremely effective, active, celebrity filled, junior board.  Their effort was spearheaded by one ambitious development manager who gave us the raw, honest truth about what one needs to do to attract and keep the cream of the crop of young leadership boards.

Junior Board Management
Why put in all the effort?  Take a look at this recent article about the UN’s Young Entrepreneur group.  By the way “Young Entrepreneurs” is a far more enticing name than a “Junior Board “or worse yet… a “Young Leadership Committee”.

Our guest gave us the following tips in empowering and keeping a Junior Board:

1.  Manage Your Expectations – Junior Boards take up more time for less INITIAL money
.  Donors in their twenties and thirties most often don’t have the financial capacity to give in the same ways those later in their careers can. With that said, often times they require more attention than your major donors. If your organization is committed to starting a junior board you also need to be mentally prepared that at the start, these people will require more of your attention and contribute less to your bottom line.   Stay open and patient, they will produce.

2.  Inspire and Support Serious Ideas – Individuals in their 20s and 30s are often times noncommittal. As a generation that RSVPs to things via Facebook verses response cards, younger people often get away with canceling plans on a moment’s notice and not following through on promises. To avoid a junior board that makes lofty promises, but doesn’t deliver results, ask each board member that comes up with a fundraising idea to submit a proposal. Those who go through the trouble of submitting a proposal prove that they have the dedication and commitment to warrant your attention and capacity.

3.  Flex your communication style – In order to effectively manage a junior board, you need to communicate more than you think. Their level of activity will directly mirror your level of communication with them. As a result, get in the habit of sending weekly summaries of activities. Appoint a communications chair and put them in charge of compiling a weekly roundup newsletter that both gives an update on programs, but also tracks progress on the junior board’s projects.  Note, the communications you create can often be repurposed to send to other donor groups.

4.  Consider life stage – As you would with any other donor, consider the life stage of your junior board.  At this age, people get married, go to graduate school, change careers frequently and have children. As a result, while a member might have signed up for a three-year term, they can be one job offer away from needing to take a leave of absence from the board. Be patient and give junior board members their space. It’s not you, I promise, it’s them. They will come back to you when things settle down as they have already proven their demonstrated interest in the organization.

5.  Embrace & Respect the Party Animals – Younger people are particularly social. As a result, the fundraising activities of your junior board will likely be parties. Before you freak out, remember the following:

  • Party guest lists = an increased contact list for your organization.  Be sure to capture all those names and have a plan for what to do with those guests after the party is over.
  • Allow for the fact that people who are new to the world of philanthropy have an easier time asking people to purchase a ticket to an event than they do asking people to make an outright donation.  These events will ease your junior board members into making future asks on your behalf.  Be sure that you treat the friends they have brought to the table well.  Remember, we all want to be well liked and respected.  Give your junior board members a reason to be admired by their friends.  Inspire those friends to thank your junior board members for introducing them to you.

6. Attract the right group – With the junior board that I manage at my organization, we started attracting members using good ole’ networking techniques.  We reached out to those who had offered us pro bono assistance, volunteers or even those who had made contributions from the 20-30s age bracket. From there we asked each person to bring one friend to the first meeting. By starting with a group of people who had already engaged in some way with the organization, along with their friends, we started with a very tight knit group of individuals. Another way of attracting junior board candidates is to post an advertisement on your website. IDP members have tried this tacit and were pleasantly surprised how many people applied. Lastly, publicize your Junior Board activities. Potential new members are attracted to and apply for junior boards after seeing Facebook posts, tweets, event listings and other press mentions.

Near the end of our conversation, we came back around to the fact that this — all this work! — is the very reason why it’s hard to sell the idea of building a junior board to senior management.  Our guest’s bottom line was this:  Engaging the a junior board will add enthusiasm and energy to your board meetings, bring a new skill set to the table and increase your reach.  Also, we know that there are immediate financial benefits to attracting the (grown) children of high net worth families to our work.   It’s worth it when done right.

Megan is the Development Manager at Goods for Goods and on the side writes another fashion blog – http://www.step-brightly.com/