Blog Categories
Past Posts

Archive for the ‘Relationship Building’ Category

Never Say Die: The Importance of Persistent Mission Communication

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.

Post to Twitter

Share

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.

Post to Twitter

Share

Nonprofit CEO: Integrated. Not Isolated.

You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top.” Well, there’s a lot of truth to that. Which is why, in part, Paul Harris started Rotary International in Chicago way back when. To develop a place for fellowship and sharing among business leaders in a community. So there could be a place to do good work for the community together. Yes, that certainly was part of it. But on another level, lunch at Rotary is a time and place for leaders of businesses, law firms, accounting firms and nonprofit organizations to gather and do a bit of problem solving. Because really: Whom can you comfortably share a problem with? When you have an issue that needs resolution and you’d like to talk it out, it’s helpful to bring it to a group of peers who can serve as a bit of a sounding board to hear the issue and give you some feedback. Of course, it needs to be done in confidence, in a trusting way, understanding that no one will go blabbing about the issue to others. So for the nonprofit executive dealing with a thorny personnel matter that doesn’t have legal implications, but is a challenge and the CEO would like some common sense (not necessarily official HR or legalese) help in sorting an issue out, talking with peers can be very helpful. So a sounding board like Rotary, or a Chamber of Commerce committee, or another community gathering place where peers gather and can freely, comfortably talk can be very helpful in sorting out an issue. In this way, the sense of isolation an executive feels can be neutralized a bit. It can feel just a bit less lonely or isolating. This is why many savvy nonprofit board executive committee members encourage their CEO’s to join Rotary and to freely network with other nonprofit CEO’s in the community. All of this helps keep the organization on an even keel. Life isn’t perfect, but trying to keep the seas smooth is helpful to all concerned.

Post to Twitter

Share

Board Essentials: Collaborating in the Community

Board members frequently wonder “What’s my job?” And when it’s not clear what the job of the board is, members will wander into tasks that aren’t the rightful work of the board.

So it’s important for the Board to have a conversation with the CEO of the nonprofit and get clarity on what the job is. There ought to be a job description for the CEO. And there also should be a job description for the Board. And one of the jobs is communicating with key groups in the community.

Who are those groups? Who are the groups in the nonprofit’s community, in its sphere that it wants to collaborate with to deliver its mission? There are groups in the community….it may be churches, government offices, schools, health care providers, arts organizations. There are all sorts of groups doing good work in the community. The nonprofit should identify those who can provide the best benefit. The best bang for the buck. And there should be some focused effort to work with these, and have good discussion with the board on how best to proceed to make that collaboration happen.

There can be a degree of spontaneity to this. But discussing who your partners/stakeholders are and how best to approach them, and to engage your board members in reaching out in their normal course of community involvement will prove very beneficial to your nonprofit organization.

Post to Twitter

Share

Donor Stewardship in the Summertime

Each summer I write a piece about proper attention to donors. And the centerpiece of “proper” is “thank you.”

So my advice to you on this rainy New England day in mid-June is to think about proper donor acknowledgement this summer.

Start with a note. A thank you note out of the blue is always a nice touch. Unexpected, maybe on a picture postcard you have created that presents a nice image of how you are delivering your mission in your community. With a brief signed note of thanks to your donor. A personal touch, a bit out of the ordinary that will get this person’s attention.

Host an event. Depending on the mission of your nonprofit, holding a morning coffee, afternoon tea or early evening canapes with refreshing drinks reception would be well received. If you are an arts-related organization, this is very easily done and will be much appreciated. If you are an environmental or health or social service organization, finding space for this might be a bit of a challenge, but a board member might help you and co-host it at a nice spot. And having a speaker talk briefly for a few minutes on a topic of interest can add to the draw. And the event isn’t to make an appeal for another gift. It’s purely an opportunity to acknowledge donors and socialize.

House party. The latest trend is for board members to host mini parties at their homes and ask for contributions. This could be simply thank you events in a home setting, featuring light hors d’houvres and drinks of some sort and a chance for people close to the nonprofit to mix socially with donors and let them know they are appreciated.

Try this on for size. It’s an application of relationship fundraising…with a focus on the relationship.

Post to Twitter

Share