Endorsements

Steve Smith worked with us to re-build our board of directors in 2008. Board members came to understand "best practice" and developed job descriptions that are still informing our work. Steve helped us to pull together stakeholders and identify new community resources. We were surprised to realize the support available right in our own community! Board members felt comfortable with Steve right from the start, he took time to understand our organization and made sure that all of our work was a good fit for us. Steve tailored his work to our needs and the board took full ownership of the results
Chris Casserly, Executive Director of Rochester NH Child Care Center

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Finding the Right Members for the Effective Board

Last week I wrote about how nonprofit leaderscan go about identifying good candidates for their particular Board.
Part of the focus needs to be on people who share a passion for this nonprofit’s mission.
Here’s a way not to go about it.
A couple of years back, I was at Staples making copies of handouts for my nonprofit fundraising class. Another gentleman was there, making copies of a document. He noticed the subject matter of my material. He asked if this was part of my work. Within 5 minutes of the start of this casual conversation, he asked if I’d consider joining a nonprofit Board he was on that needed help.
Well, I had a clue right then and there why his Board was troubled.
The search and selection process for nonprofit volunteer leadership should be as rigorous as the process for seeking an executive director. There should be a job description, an interview and screening system, and a trial period; perhaps service on a Board committee first.
This is why more nonprofit Boards are designating a Governance Committee with the task of doing the nominating work, and bringing vetted candidates to the Board for consideration.
Thoughtful cultivation of volunteer leaders is a hallmark of an effective nonprofit organization.

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What’s the Mortar that Keeps an Effective Board Together?

Why is it that so many nonprofit boards struggle and fail?
There are so many challenges to nonprofit sustainability. Raising money. Raising a staff in stages. Setting strategic direction. Building and retaining a working Board of Directors.
Today I focus on this last key piece. Building, cultivating and firming up the Board. Not easy. But there are steps from start-up to high performance.
FIRST gather a few (maybe five) people with some sense of what makes a nonprofit work, who love the mission that you’re envisioning, and will give you some time to make this work.
SECOND ask around for sample Board job descriptions. Collect a few. Bring them to one of the first meetings and talk it through. Seek common ground on what it takes to succeed.
THIRD Agree on frequency of meetings. Monthly for first 6 months? Alternate months thereafter?
FOURTH Agree on necessity of committees. Finance. Development. Governance. And recruit a few volunteers to join the committee who want to help but aren’t yet ready for Board prime time.
FIFTH Organize meeting agendas so important stuff needing Board action (vote) come forward. Easy on staff reports. Those can be required reading prior to each meeting.
Get members’ agreement to come to meetings prepared to discuss and decide. As the Board grows, members will develop a sense of what’s involved and where they can best contribute.
Building from ground up gradually over time will help get your nonprofit right where you want it to be.
At least you’ll give this key piece of the puzzle of effectiveness a strong chance of success.

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Welcoming Comments, Discussion with Nonprofit Donors

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) is a frequent social media/marketing commentator teaching at NYU. I’ve followed him on Twitter for several years. I am particularly drawn to his observations on the changing state of communication in the USA and the world. Here is a recent blog post from Jay: http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/25/trying-to-keep-a-celebrity-class-of-commenters-happy/?_r=0.
I find it interesting that the NY Times is looking for ways to boost comment opportunities for readers on their stories. In part, the paper/website attracts a sophisticated level of readership. The comments frequently are as interesting (sometimes more) than the writer of the original piece.
What does this topic have to do with us in the nonprofit realm?
Social media give us many new vehicles for discourse with our customers: Primary (those benefiting from the work we do) and Supporting (those who make our work possible through donations and volunteering). To the extent possible, we should encourage this communication. Stimulate it when we can. Because enhanced communication helps firm up the relationship. And this is a good thing.
Granted, we do have haters out there who are disappointed in us and what we’re delivering and what it costs us to make our goals come to fruition.
Sometimes the criticism is justified, and can help us reflect. And maybe even change the way we go about our business. Imagine that!
Communication improves our ability to imagine. And as we move along in our work, it serves to improve the quality of what we’re delivering. Chew on that a bit. Please.
All thanks to some words of wisdom from Jay Rosen. A guy I admire from afar.

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Social Gathering to Network with your Target Audience

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hosts First Friday events. These gatherings starting late afternoon and going ’til 9:00 PM seem designed to draw younger audience to come have a cocktail, listen to music and congregate with folks from a similar age group. They are drawing nice crowds.

The idea is to identify MFA as a nice setting to gather after work on Friday night and socialize.

The hope is that young up-and-comers will see MFA as a “with it” spot to meet others with some similar interests…the basis of an on-going relationship.

Good idea for a nonprofit seeing to attract younger generations who might take an on-going interest in the mission of your nonprofit.

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Strategic Thinking V: Following Up After the “Ask”

So as I was saying last year about this time, when I wrote my first four posts about “Strategic Thinking,” we need to act in a way that reflects the broader direction we want to go in our fundraising approach. And of course, the fundraising approach we take should dovetail with our nonprofit Mission. So it all works together in a seamless way.

Here we are in February. Most of us have conducted our Annual Appeal. We have our results, we’ve organized follow up activities to lapsed donors who gave in 2013 but we didn’t hear from in 2014.

Most all of our “major” donors (in our case, those who give $1,000 or more each year) have executed their pledge. A few have not, and we’ll be back to those we know might need prompting to write that check.

Now we’ll determine what kind of “thank you” event we’d like to host for our most loyal donors. Cocktails and hors d’hoeuvres? Desserts and coffee? A social gathering at a nice place…maybe an art gallery in our city will accommodate us for a modest fee so we can be surrounded by some beautiful objects. In the Merrimack Valley, maybe at the Western Ave Studios in Lowell. We want the right ambiance so our supporters get the clear message that we do appreciate them.

This is an act of donor stewardship.

It’s part of the Relationship Fundraising approach we want to embed in our nonprofit. The culture we want to establish. So the communication doesn’t end with receipt of the gift. Or our thank you note. We take it a step further.

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