After our orientation meeting, Steve dove right into the task, and along the way, became an ardent supporter and coach for Blue Ocean Society. Once the board determined that developing our board was critical to ensuring our capacity to perform our mission, Steve facilitated our creation of a board member role and responsibilities document. In less than a year, we recruited 3 new board members who have brought tremendous strength to the organization. I am now proud to talk about our board and able to better articulate the organization's accomplishments. Steve is wonderful to work with - positive, accessible, and skillful at providing ideas and advice. His many years of experience in the non-profit sector make him an ideal consultant and I'm so glad we worked with him.
Jen Kennedy, Executive Director, Blue Ocean Society

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The Path Is the Goal

Scrolling through Twitter this evening, I came to a post from @DeniseWakeman: The path is the goal – Buddhist Saying. This stopped me short. Made me think. Why am I getting a ring of truth from this? I did a Google search of the title and found the title of a book by Chodyam Trongpa. A Short book on Buddhist meditation. The essence: Meditation is the way into finding answers to life’s big questions.

The parallel that rings true for me is an analogy with relationship fundraising in the nonprofit realm. To help secure commitment from donors to the nonprofit mission, we need to facilitate the connection. This takes investment in building a relationship. A little meditation won’t hurt.

At the start of class meetings in the Northeastern University MS Leadership program, I turn down the classroom lights, ask students to close their eyes and to become fully present in the here and now. Right here. Right now. Something I learned from Yoga. The good Yogi take the first five minutes of Yoga class…to get us quiet, close our eyes, breathe with thought, and excise all unnecessary thoughts from consciousness. To be fully present in this moment, ready to practice.

I find that this helps my students in my Leadership and Nonprofit Management classes disregard their Smart phones and laptops and get right with what we are considering in that time we have together.

I encourage friends who lead nonprofits to get board meetings, staff meetings off to this kind of start. To clear the mind of the extraneous and be fully present. Right here. Right now.

I encourage you to take a Yoga class. To dissolve in the experience. And to consider that sense of mindfulness as a goal for how you engage friends, volunteers, staff, donors, the people you serve. The path is the goal.


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Back to Your Donors: The Extra Mile Campaign

Most nonprofits have wrapped up or are wrapping up their holiday appeal. Most of these direct mail (or, more inclusively, “direct response”) campaigns are run in November – December, with follow-up in January – February. Increasingly, nonprofits recruit board members to conduct a personal solicitation component of the holiday appeal to high-level and “special handling” donors. This usually adds significantly to the dollars raised. A recent client conducted an e-mail component and raised revenue 20% over the previous year.

Now is a good time to consider an Extra Contribution or “Extra Mile” campaign. Nonprofits identify donors who did gave, perhaps early in the annual appeal (November) and ask that these donors consider going the “extra mile” and adding to their gift. Nonprofit staff and volunteer leadership need to feel comfortable taking this step. It’s possible that some donors will be turned off by this approach. In my experience, there is a significant number of donors who will consider doing more for your mission if you make a good case.

Your case for an Extra Contribution should be 100% focused on those who rely on the service you provide.

And of course, you have already thanked your donors at least once for their recent annual appeal gift. It’s a good idea to start the appeal letter with another “thank you.” To clearly acknowledge that your nonprofit and your clients (I refer to them as primary customers) appreciate what your donors have done. But there are unmet needs. And you will note one or two of these: the number of clients who need to be served but aren’t because there isn’t quite enough in the cupboard to get the job done.

Give it some thought. Talk it over. Let your development committee know what you’re considering and ask for their feedback.

The potential is there to add another 10% to annual appeal revenue. Food for thought.

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Strategic Thinking VI: Recruiting to Build the Nonprofit Board

Is your Nonprofit outgrowing your current Board? Does it seem no matter what you do, there is a lack of zip from most Board members?
It’s a tricky proposition to achieve Board development, even as the Nonprofit is evolving. We want to build capacity for our Nonprofit to better deliver the mission, and generate revenue that makes this possible.
Here are a few suggestions to get things moving in the right direction:
– You need at least two or three members of the current Board who get the need for change and are willing to work to make this happen.
– The chair of the Board needs to be an ally who will work with a core Board group and the Executive Director to get things moving in the right direction.
– At the next Board meeting, be totally transparent with what is happening: A recruitment effort supported by the Chair and led by a committee (Governance? Nominating?) appointed by the Chair to identify candidates, interview them, ask for resumes, work with a job description that accurately lets qualified candidates know where this is going and what is expected.

Some candidates may not agree to join the Board. Perhaps they will serve on a committee. This gives them a chance to get to know you and the organization. If commitment develops with this approach you can build a cadre of Board prospects starting with committee appointments.

This is hard work, and requires more effort than just the Executive Director.

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‘Tis the Season to Thank the Board

Here we are in the days before Christmas. Staff party is all set. Hanukkah is happening for those of us of the Jewish faith. We have gifts for the mailman, the paperboy, the person who cuts our hair.

How about the Board? Some of us are lucky and have a Board member or three who send special treats for the staff to share. Now it’s time (hopefully not too late!) to return the favor and send a thoughtful something to our Board members. Thanking them for their service.
It could be something as simple as a greeting card. No doubt that will be appreciated. But maybe we can do something a bit more. We could get a few bud vases and deliver a small arrangement to members’ homes. We could invite Board members to our staff party. We could host an end-of-day reception just for them.

Something to let our leading volunteers to know they are appreciated.
Is there time do do something?

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Random Acts of Kindness at Thanksgiving II

This week do something totally unexpected for a complete stranger.
Treat the driver behind you to coffee on you at Dunkin Donuts…or your favorite drive thru.
At the market: Check the shopping cart of the person behind you. Is there a turkey in the cart? Ask the person if you can treat for their Thanksgiving turkey.
Have a couple of $15 or $25 gift cards in your pocket. At the supermarket, walking down the street, at your lunch spot: If you see a person sweeping the floor or sidewalk or emptying trash or stocking shelves, step up. Wish the person Happy
Thanksgiving. Give them a gift card as a token of your appreciation.
This is kind of the opposite of terrorism. Maybe it’s do-good-ism. Let’s be do-good-ists this week.
Happy Thanksgiving.

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