Get the Most Out of Your Board Retreats

Board retreats are a powerful tool in effective board development and organizational management. However, too often, they lack key elements leading to missed opportunities and frustration. Check out Laurel’s webinar to make sure your next board retreat is not only productive and enjoyable, but also a strategic part of achieving your organization’s goals.

Engaging Your Board in Year-End Activities

The end of the year typically brings a flurry of activity between #Giving Tuesday, year-end appeals, holiday stewardship activities, and much more. This is a perfect time to engage your board in supporting fund development activities and build momentum and enthusiasm for growing their participation in the new year.Engaging Your Board in Year-End Activities

If you were unable to join us for this webinar or want to watch it again, click here:  https://youtu.be/kyZ5CYMkKto

Moving Your Board in the Right Direction

In our fourth Spreecast, Laurel and Board discussion moving your board in the right direction.  Check out the 30 minute video that gives great practical tips and information on:

  • Creating a strategically composed board
  • Finding the right board members for the right jobs
  • Knowing your board members and their preferences
  • What is the right sized board?
  • Lots of other great questions.

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You can join us every Friday at 12p Eastern for more great Spreecasts.  Join us, ask questions, learn practical tips in an easy to disgest format.

Next week we talk about effective time management.  Join us!

Fundraisers Share Their Vision for 2014

It’s the beginning of the year and many of us are making our personal New Year’s Resolutions . My New Year’s Resolutions are being more consistent with exercising, reading more and enjoying more time with my family.  Many of us also have 2014 resolutions or a vision for the non-profits we serve. Here’s what fellow fundraisers had to say when asked the question: “What is your vision for your organization in 2014 and what will be your role in making it happen?”

    Laura Mannion                      

Laura Mannion, Director of Development, Franciscan Alliance  Foundation, Mishawaka, IN

My vision for the Foundation in 2014 is to increase our fundraising by 30% so that we can maintain and expand our programs in communities in Northwest  Indiana where the unemployment rate is higher than both the state average and the national average.

Increased philanthropy will enable the Foundation to impact the lives of the working poor throughout our region.  Changes in health care have already increased demand.  To achieve a 30% increase in philanthropic donations, we have recruited a board of community leaders who are passionate about our mission.  Each of our board members is hosting events at their homes or private clubs to help us build affinity for our mission programs amongst those with the capacity to impact our mission.  In addition to working with our board, we are leveraging the strength in numbers of our employee base by launching an employee giving program.  We are also expanding our work with family and corporate foundations.   Finally, we are initiating physician giving and a grateful patient program while marketing planned giving opportunities. Working this diversified plan will enable us to continue to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis in embracing a community in need.

 Tricia Pic 1 011013 (2)

Tricia Brosnahan, CFRE,  Major Gifts Officer, Detroit Zoological Society,
Royal Oaks, Michigan

My vision for 2014 is to continue to build the organizational culture of philanthropy as we work together to fully fund the largest and most dramatic capital project in DZS history, The Polk Family Conservation Center.

My role is facilitating communication between staff, board and donors!

 

Michelle

Michelle S. Gollapalli, MBA, CFRE, CAP, Chief Development Officer, Bancroft,
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

My vision for Bancroft in 2014 is that we are able to raise awareness about the quality and range of the services we provide to children and adults with autism, brain injuries and intellectual and developmental disabilities and to tell our story in a powerful way that appeals to stakeholders who can really help move our mission, empowering the people we serve to maximize their potential.

Chad

Chad Hartman, Vice President of Development , Epilepsy Foundation,
Landover, Maryland

My vision for 2014 is that the Epilepsy Foundation will continue to have a keen focus on building a mission driven culture of philanthropy and serve as a national leader of best practices for all advancement activities.  We want a new organizational attitude, internally and externally, toward philanthropy and the development process.  The Foundation encourages every constituency to understand, embrace, believe in, and act on his or her collective and individual roles and responsibilities in philanthropy, stewardship and donor engagement in a collaborative and donor focused manner. 

I see my role as leading and supporting the organizational and department strategic and financial goals to expand public awareness, community services, education, and innovative research and new therapies for people living with epilepsy. 

We’ll revisit our fundraising friends six months from now to see where they are at in achieving their vision for 2014 and share their strategies for success. We’ll also ask various leaders and board members about their vision for 2014 as well.

In the meantime, check out our resources on building a culture of philanthropy and join us for our January 16 webinar on what you can do during the next six months to end the fiscal year strong.  Register now!

Fear and Fundraising

imagesFear and fundraising:  two words that, unfortunately, often go hand-in-hand.  Our volunteers and board members are afraid of approaching their friends and colleagues.  Our executive directors are afraid of their boards.  We are all afraid of not hitting our goals and causing program cuts, layoffs, etc.  But there is one fear that seems to bring down more fundraising programs and otherwise good gift officers more than any other.  And that is the fear that chief development officers have of their executive directors and their boards.

I recently had a chief development officer come to me and tell me that they were really worried the fundraising event the organization was planning would be a complete flop, take up incredible amounts of staff time and resources, and lead to very little money raised.

I asked my client, “Have you told your executive director and board this?  Have you forcefully stated that you think this fundraising event will be a disaster?”

“Well, I’ve metnioned my concerns”, my client said, “but the board really wants this event.”

When the event fails to meet expectations, fails to raise money, and other fundraising is negatively affected, is the board going to remember that the event was their idea?  Will they remember the chief development officer’s feeble protests?  Or will they take a hard look at the person responsible for fundraising: the chief development officer?

I think we all know the answer to this question and many of this have been in this position.  The business of fundraising is a highly quantifiable one.  You’re good if you raise money, you’re not if you don’t.  Period.  Yes, unfortunately it is just this simple.  Your board isn’t a good fundraising board?  Welcome to not-for-profits.  Your executive director came from the mission side and doesn’t really understand fundraising?  So what else is new?  Your department is under-resourced?  Show me one that isn’t.  As fundraisers its our job to succeed despite these challenges.

How?  We are the experts and we need to act like the experts.  If you think that the event the board wants to do so badly will be a disaster, you need to forcefully say so, and back it with metrics and historical data, until they tell you to be quiet.  If you need more fundraisers on your board, then you need to push steadily for a board overhaul.  Are you worried you’ll get fired or in trouble for being to pushy?  What do you think will happen if you don’t hit goal?

Fundraising is a business of uncertainty and it’s a business of persuasion.  We can’t always get our way but we can always try and push for what is best for the organization.  Pushing doesn’t mean being obnoxious.  It means being persuasive, providing best practices and data, and it means being respectful.  But it also means not being afraid of exercising your expertise.  After all, that is why they hired you.

Often its a good idea to set expectations upfront.  In the last job I was at before I did full time consulting I sat down with the executive director and the board chair before I started the job and I said. “I’m aggressive.  I’m going to really push for an increase in board giving and some term limits.  I want to completely overhaul how we handle our communications.  Is that OK with you and do I have your support?  If not, you shouldn’t hire me.”

They told me that was exactly what they wanted and they were true to their word.  That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have conflict at times or rough patches.  But we raised a lot of money and generally got on very well because of that fact.

So, don’t be afraid to be the expert and don’t be afraid of your boss or your board.  In the end, pushing for what is needed in spite of having some uncomfortable moments is the only way to success.

Check out our podcast with Beth Herman for more coaching tips

“And” Not “Or”: The Heart of Generosity

When I think about inspired, joyful, generous investing in our world to make it a better place, I focus on “and”, not “or”.  Just as the funny commercial shows us – sweet or sour chicken, bed or breakfast –  “or” can be a bad idea, I find that “or” hurts our not-for-profits as well.  Generosity is all about AND.

contagiousGenerosity

I invest my intellectual capital in the organizations that matter most to me. I prepare for board and volunteer meetings, think about the issues, offer ideas, pay attention. I’m present.

I share my connections. Invite people to my home and to events. Make introductions. Facilitate strategic conversations about the societal problems we are trying to solve.
I invest money with an open heart as generously as I am able.

When we talk about things like “give or get,” “time, talent or treasure,” “work, wealth or wisdom,” we are selling our missions short:

  • Give generously AND help bring in additional resources. You can sell tickets; inspire friends to support your walk; help a CEO meet a foundation leader or government official you know; use social media to connect friends and their friends to a treasured cause.
  • Give generously AND volunteer your time. You can mentor, share expertise, help build a house or dig well, give a talk, offer an internship, give blood, serve on a task force, stuff envelopes.

AND represents generosity. It doesn’t matter how little time you have to give or how little money. For those of us who can do and give more, we should. Sharing makes us all richer, happier.  We love Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog – here’s a classic piece from her blog on the science behind generosity.

Sharing makes the world a better place.

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.

“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.

Glaring At Each Other Over the Divider: Fundraising Leadership in Crisis?

This one dropped like a ton of bricks, didn’t it?  When you saw that headline in the Chronicle of Philanthropy this week that half of the top fundraisers in a survey of 2,700 (!) organizations are actively contemplating leaving their post, did you think: “Yup, that’s me.”?  Or did you think, “Geez, I wish ours would…”?  This story and the survey results themselves paint a pretty bleak picture about the state of fundraising leadership nationwide.

Before even getting to the introduction to the survey results themselves, one of the underlying issues emerges.  In her preamble, Linda Wood, representing the study underwriter – The Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund – says, “While familiar to fundraising professionals, the term culture of philanthropy is not yet well understood nor commonly used across the sector.”  Amen to that, Linda Wood.  If we’re being honest with ourselves, I’m not sure we would all say that the term “culture of philanthropy” is well understood and commonly used within the fundraising profession.

Slide1

So why are we glaring at each other?  Why are organizational leaders so dissatisfied with their fundraising leader – and vice versa?  (And why is this mutual disregard even stronger among organizations with budgets under $1 million?)  More importantly, what can we do to fix this crisis in fundraising leadership?

Solution?  We need to get over the idea that one staff member makes a fundraising shop.  Maybe, but not in the way that both this survey and the Chronicle’s coverage seem to be suggesting.  It is folly to expect that a highly-skilled, externally facing fundraiser who is passionate about being out with donors will be good at – or satisfied with – database maintenance and the detailed planning of special events.  A gut check on performance metrics is in order.  However, the additional reality is that many, many organizations are going to have one or maybe 1.5 team members to devote to development.  Simply hiring a bigger, more specialized shop isn’t the answer if it is years from reality for many.

Three other results from the survey suggest the resolution:

  • 75% of executives say that they don’t have a board meaningfully engaged in fund development
  • 25% of these executives will admit that they aren’t very good at fundraising
  • And 20% will cop to not enjoying this task very much.

There’s a whole lot of finger pointing in the headline of this survey, but there’s the heart of the matter:  nurturing a culture of philanthropy is everyone’s job, not just the chief development officer, not just the CEO, not just the board… And, not just these three entities working together.  A real culture of philanthropy exists when EVERYONE on the staff, among the volunteers, among the donors understands the role that philanthropy plays in the organization and what role they must play in creating resources.  

One of the CEOs at a Big Brothers Big Sisters agency with whom we worked puts it this way,  “When I interview anyone – from a match support specialist, to a member of the finance team, to a member of the partnership development team – I say to them ‘We are all fund developers here at Big Brothers Big Sisters. So what role do you see yourself playing in that?'”  He asks that during the interview process and sets a powerful tone for anyone coming aboard.  If this happens at all staff levels, imagine how much more intensive the expectations setting is for board members!

(Bob and I talked more about the process of setting expectations in the podcast called, “Take this Job and Shove it“… a podcast with more positive recommendations than the title betrays!)

Solution?  We just need to become “donor-centric”.  Again, maybe.  I certainly believe that donor-centric organizations are stronger than those who view and treat their donor base as a “mass of revenue to be acquired”.  (That’s a fun meeting to take: “Hello, revenue generator.  What transaction might we offer you to most quickly and efficiently get you to cough up more bucks?”)  Just as “culture of philanthropy” means as many things as the number of people you ask, “donor centric” is in danger of being a term in search of a definition.

This survey by CompassPoint is excellent – it really is.  But I think it misses one critical point:  being donor-centric and focusing on building a sophisticated, investment-minded, collaborative approach to philanthropy doesn’t solve the underlying crisis:  lack of shared bold vision.

  • A culture of philanthropy exists not when everyone can recite the case for support, but when everyone embraces the vision for what this organization is doing in the world.
  • A culture of philanthropy that encourages fundraisers to stay happens not when everyone is involved in relationship-building (though that’s really nice too!) but when everyone building relationships is guided by a desire to find others are are inspired by the ability to transform the world.
  • A true culture of philanthropy exists when everyone attached to the organization shares in boldly – but not rashly – staking a claim about “Here is the problem; here’s the role we play in creating a solution; here’s what happens when we make a mistake; here are the outcomes we’re aiming at achieving in the world.”

We are passionate about moving the needle on this challenge – creating a practical, “lived” approach to creating a culture of philanthropy – and helping solve this fundraising leadership crisis.  Here’s resource from our “Most Requested Tools” to help you get started.

Board Recruitment: Are we looking for the right thing?

Sometimes I am pulled up short, reminded that the amount of time I spend thinking about philanthropy is not the amount of time that normal people spend thinking about giving…

Driving home from picking up Hanukkah candles for our dual-holiday family, I happened to catch an NPR story on year-end giving.  “Ooooo, goody!”, I thought, but then spent much of the rest of the interview shouting at the radio, as the host seemed insistent on uncovering people who were pulling back or diverting their giving to Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.  “No, no!”, I yelled to the dashboard of the Prius, “People give ADDITIVELY when this happens!  They give MORE, not less!”  Of course, in my rational mind, I know that each person is different:  some are finding that they have much less to give, and some are using social services for the first time because of the storm, others will have to re-direct their giving, but many of us do give more when extraordinary circumstances call.  (Despite my rantings, the interview really is worth a listen.)

I was reminded of a profound observation made by the Philanthropist of the Year recipient at one of the AFP National Philanthropy Day luncheons I attended this year:  “Giving is a celebration of abundance, not of scarcity.”  This wonderful man gives and gives and gives because he experiences as a way he can honor the abundance in his life, not as something that creates scarcity in his life.

Right on.  But rare to find.  (And now we circle around to board recruitment…)

We, at The Osborne Group, love working with our clients on building a culture of philanthropy (here’s a tool on that topic!) and having a strong, strategically composed board is one critical part of that culture. (Here’s a podcast on that.)  As you think about new board members, you know you need people who:

  • are dedicated to your mission and our organization,
  • who make you a top priority for their giving
  • are wise, strategic, ethical
  • meet key criteria and bring needed skills

But how much are you listening for and seeking out those who feel about their own philanthropy the way this man (and, to be fair, his incredible wife) feel about giving.  Is thoughtful GENEROSITY on your board recruitment radar screen?

The Bank of America/ Indiana University Center on Philanthropy just came out with the 2012 study of high-net worth giving – one of my favorite studies of the year! – and one line caught my eye:  “Just 5 percent of high net worth donors reported having a mission statement for their charitable activity.”  I would bet that if the question were asked a little differently, more would see themselves as having a overall approach and belief system for their giving… and those are the people we’re look for, to join our boards:  those who not only think strategically about how to make our organization stronger, but how their own generosity – with time and with resources – can be used strategically to accomplish those goals.  The deepest level of engagement – ownership – comes when we find those people and put them to work for us.

I don’t usually promote “unicorn hunting”.  But that seems like a unicorn worth finding… and I’m not convinced that these people are as rare as that radio interviewer would have us believe…