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The Fundraising Board: In Stages

I’ve written frequently about the importance of building relationships as a fundamental to effective fundraising.  This is the development part of the fundraising equation:  if our goal is to build a solid, active donor database consisting of lots of folks committed to our mission, the effective part starts with our Board of Directors. The core of our nonprofit organization and its mission.

OK. So groan if you must. I know that many of you have knocked your head on this door a number of times, and come up against resistance.  “I didn’t sign up for that.”  “I give you my time; it’s your job to raise the money.”  I think all of us at one time or another have been there and lived that.

So how do we get to that transformational place that Kay Sprinkel Grace, fundraiser extraordinaire, talks about in her books (High Impact Philanthropy, for one) and workshops?

It happens step-by-step.  In Stages.  Back in October, I cited a recent Guidestar piece, “Five Fundraising Mistakes We Make with our Boards.”  Heck. Only five?  here’s a link:

We start by talking about and acting on building relationships.  It takes that interpersonal connectivity around our mission, around the good we are doing for our primary customers, that builds the commitment we need to move the mission and our nonprofit forward.  Think about the emotional energy we draw from stories about success around the mission. Take time at board meetings to get the stories on the table, talk about them and share the good feelings that come; the bonding that can happen around these stories.  This is the source of energy, and we build it deliberately over time from meeting-to-meeting.  When we get this momentum around our mission, the concept of asking our friends who share our commitment to contribute to the cause feels like a natural next step.

Asking for money to advance a cause we share is a natural progression. Build the Fundraising Board: but do it in stages, over time. So suggesting that a member of the Board ask a friend for a gift doesn’t feel alien, uncomfortable, out of line. Asking becomes a logical next step.

Give it a go.

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Board Building a la Kay Sprinkel Grace

There are a couple of “go to” authorities in nonprofit leadership: One is Peter F Drucker, the legend who lived and worked well into his nineties, and whose Drucker Foundation morphed into Leader-to-Leader, a great source in developing sustainable nonprofit organizations. In a future blog post, I’ll talk about the strategic approach Leader-to-Leader recommends nonprofits take: very market and customer focused.
Today I want to share some wisdom of another thought leader in nonprofit leadership, board work, and particularly fund development: Kay Sprinkel Grace.
Ms. Grace has helped raise millions for Stanford University making practical application of her principles in building effective nonprofit organizations.
I highly recommend her The Ultimate Board Members Book (January, 2009, Emerson & Church). Here’s a link: It’s a quick read (she claims 60 minutes) and provides soup-to-nuts on how boards can orient themselves to advance the mission of their nonprofit.
In my work with nonprofit boards, I always trot out her presentation on AAA Boards which she presented to the Association of Nonprofit Professionals in Toronto in 2004. Here’s a link to that PDF: Boards achieve their highest level of performance when it’s clear who are the best Ambassadors, who are the best Advocates, and who are the Askers. Board members need to be clear on what their role is: their group responsibilities (fiduciary, legal, loyalty) as well as individual roles to fill. Achieving clarity of purpose and mission focus helps get the noprofit moving in the right direction. Consultants in board development to nonprofit organizations should always circle back to these fundamentals. And there is no better well to drink from than that of Kay Sprinkel Grace who helps us align our action with our mission.

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