The Gallup survey of US confidence in the economy currently (stable) and future (wary) http://www.gallup.com/poll/184271/economic-confidence-index-level-masks-volatility.aspx?utm_source=ECONOMIC_CONFIDENCE& reflects what has been happening in Europe with Greece still on the brink of financial failure. How does the economic outlook in the US impact our fundraising prospects?
Nonprofit leaders should maintain strong effort to connect with your stakeholders: The people who benefit from your mission directly and indirectly, the people who support your mission directly and indirectly. Work from a plan that will strengthen the bonds with individuals in your networks. Focus on people with the ability to deliver all manner of resources to energize the mission. The goodwill, future financial support, and contacts developed by networking during this period of economic uncertainty will be the silver lining to support your fundraising efforts.
Networking is the art of identifying, cultivating, and engaging friends of your organization. These relationships ultimately may yield monetary support, non-financial support; they can become ambassadors who cultivate more friends. Now is the time to identify these potential friends, hone your message, and plan how to best deliver the message. By getting your staff, board of directors, and other volunteers ready for brighter days, you’ll build your capacity to thrive even in the shadow of economic uncertainty.
The best place to start is a meeting of the board of directors, who must constantly stay mindful of their role as emissaries for the organization. They know the mission, they know the goals, they know the good that the organization brings to the community. How do they communicate this value? How do they spread the good news with people they work with, play with, pray with?
Start with a conversation. Take some time at a staff meeting and the next board meeting to talk about reaching out to friends to share your mission. There may be members who are doing this now. Identify them before the next meeting. Ask them to share their techniques with the group. Use their experiences to kick off the discussion. Listen for the ideas that have been most successful. Share a summary of the results with all who can benefit from these experiences.
Continue the conversation. Be sure to put the discussion on the agenda for subsequent meetings. Find out in advance who is trying the new techniques. Ask one or two of the new practitioners to report on what they’re doing.
Engage communications experts to share advice. Do you have a director of communications on your staff? If not, does one of your board members or volunteers have communication expertise? Strategize with this person about your approach to engaging networks. Incorporate messages that are consistent with your brand so your staff and volunteers are talking about your work in a unified and consistent way.
Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? Is someone on your team experienced working with social media and willing to show others how to effectively use these tools? It’s likely that this person will be younger than most of the team. If so, this is an excellent opportunity to let an up-and-comer show their stuff. An effective plan for social media can engage people you otherwise might miss who will support your mission once they learn what the organization is about.
What’s your story? Nonprofit organizations have numerous stories about your clients’ great experience with your services. Incorporate telling stories as part of “conversation time.” A program staff person or a volunteer probably has more than one such story to share. Let your group hear a story or two each time you meet, and encourage your board, staff, and volunteers to retell these stories when they are out engaging their networks.
There is a reservoir of good will out there, ready to hear about the good you do. And every day, your volunteers and staff talk with many people who will want to help bring the “good” you deliver to more people. Your organization’s job is to forge links through staff, board, and volunteer networks so you can grow the circle of friends and supporters. When you take the time to apply creative approaches to communication through networks, you engage and energize people for your mission. It takes commitment and work, but it will put your organization in the strongest possible position, despite economic uncertainty.
Nonprofit boards struggle with quorum issues, which usually is an indicator of lack of motivation.
Board members want to use their precious time effectively.
Do they look forward to board meetings with eager anticipation? Or with foreboding?
Take a few steps that will inject a bit of energy into the process:
– Assure that each discussion item links to your strategic plan. How does it connect to where you’re going? If it doesn’t, why do you need to discuss it?
– Assure that each item you’re discussing leads to something the board will need to act on. Or if not act on, that it ties to a policy of the nonprofit that’s clearly in the purview of the board and comes under the auspices of the board.
– Executive, officer, and committee reports all should be submitted in writing a week prior to the board meeting so members have ample time to read them and bring any questions to the meeting. Member time should not be wasted by having members read reports that should have been read in advance of the meeting.
– Allow time for what Chait, Ryan, and Taylor call ‘Generative Discussion.” I recommend that this be conversation time. Not Roberts Rules of Order time. When a member can come with data on a trend related to one of your strategic goals, present to the board and there can be some thoughtful and fun discussion about what’s happening in the world that may be impacting your community and what you may need to do in the future to prepare for it. This can be very stimulating. Not recommended every meeting. But a good “charge the batteries” opportunity for the board.
The assumption should be that everyone’s time is too valuable to waste.
Meetings are held only when board action is essential.
Meetings start on time and only extend overtime with permission of those present.
Make your meetings Strategic!
Loved our weekend in Durham June 5 – 7, starting with Portsmouth Harbor cruise Friday morning. Lobster fest Friday night in New Castle was extra special. When we left Durham Sunday, we had raised and given $1.2 million to the University as our gift. We have just learned from gift chair Brad Aiken that the number has moved up to $4.7 million, making ours the largest thus far from all classes. Class of 1966 is preparing to exceed our gift. This is great! We love our Land Grant university and wish it well, always! In all ways.
Helping the new member of the Board of Directors feel at home is the responsibility of the executive director and the chair of the Board.
The work of putting together a great orientation session and an effective Board manual of course can be delegated, but it’s the job of the nonprofit leadership to make sure that this work is done, and that it’s done well.
Having a two-hour session (including lunch or dinner) featuring the CEO, the Board chair, the treasurer and the chair of the development committee can help give the incoming members a good picture of what’s important and what’s expected of all Board members.
Conducting this session in such a way that engages the new members so they get to ask questions, and offer their viewpoints on key issues facing the organization lets them know that leadership expects even new members of the Board to hit the ground running. And along with this information comes an expectation that the new members will volunteer for at least one committee assignment. And how many events during the year are Board members expected to show up and participate in? All of this should be understood before the commitment is made, and the new members should be ready to sign up at or shortly after orientation for the important work that lies in front of this nonprofit.
A business-like approach that communicates the importance of what the nonprofit does, and the contribution of each and every member of this Board of Directors. Helping the entire Board, including the new folks, get into sync gives the group a chance to articulate and then work toward a shared vision for the future. Delivering the mission with a strong sense of purpose.