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Posts Tagged ‘moving a board to action’

To Make an Omelette, You Need to Break a Few Eggs

Tuesday night (February 11) in my Northeastern University fundraising class, students presented their Donor Acquisition project to our “client” nonprofit. Our client is a living, breathing charitable organization based in the Greater Boston area. The student team was helping the Development Director think about raising money for a new program.
Usually when we work with nonprofits we’re thinking about the overall organization. We tend to shy away from projects where we raise money for just one aspect of the work. Because these funds become in a sense, “restricted.” These funds are for a single purpose.
We spent part our our time together Tuesday thinking through how to introduce this to the Board.
How can we build some enthusiasm for this new effort…recognizing that we run the risk of drawing attention away from the “old standbys.”
We recommended a specially designed presentation at the meeting that will put a spark in what otherwise might feel like a “business as usual” Board meeting. Maybe a musical skit. Maybe a party with special desserts, balloons, and all the stuff. Something. Out of the ordinary.
Nonprofit leaders should consider taking a special, unusual, even extraordinary approach when trying to get the Board’s attention on something important.
So think about escaping the “same-old, same-old” at your meeting when you have something new up your sleeve.

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Strategic Thinking III: No Money, No Mission

We want our Nonprofit Boards of Directors to be thinking strategically. The work of the board needs to be in the area of direction-setting for the Nonprofit. Operations are the staff’s business. Strategy is the Board’s.

Of course, we want the strategies to be sound. To fit with the mission. To make sense within the context of the Nonprofit Strategic Plan.

Some of this thinking (and doing) is in the realm of Fundraising. And kicking that thinking up a notch to the level of Development. Development assumes there’s some relationship building going on; that it’s not just about asking for money. What’s the driving purpose behind the ask? Somewhere in there needs to be the Nonprofit Mission.

So when we are seeking gifts for the Annual Fund (and most nonprofits have done that business this past November – December) we’re letting our donors know what we’ve been delivering, and further what needs to be delivered in the coming months. And years.

Doing this smartly depends on strategic thinking. Beyond today. And always in terms of the folks the Nonprofit is serving. So when we’re going for Money for the Mission, it’s all about the people we serve. The Nonprofit itself is a tool to the end we’re seeking.

When our donors see we get that and we communicate that sense of purpose, they will dig a little deeper.

So the Nonprofit Board is thinking and acting Strategically. I don’t know how else the work gets done.

Do you?

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What Are We Doing About Homelessness?

To get at the condition of Homelessness, it helps to get to know a story. And recently, the NY Times published a story http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/#/?chapt=0 about an eleven year-old girl and how she makes her life work inside a homeless family. It leaves me with a question: What am I going to do about this? What’s my action step? When will we get our arms around this Unnatural Disaster?

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The Development Plan: Know Where You’re Going

One of the most important components of effective fundraising is to build revenue streams generated from a smart plan.

Revenue comes from three main streams: Earned income (program fees, interest earned in various accounts), Grants from government and corporations for specific services rendered, and then Donations from individuals. When we’re describing fundraising activities, we’re usually talking about the latter: Our efforts to acquire donations whether through an annual appeal or for a special project or a pledge to a special event.

When I work with a client on a Development Plan, we start with a focus on current donors, acquiring new donors, and building a program of effective special events. We can encompass the Grant effort, and also work on Earned income, but usually my effort with staff and development volunteers is focused on donated income. How do we engage donors? What are the marketing approaches we should apply in this work? Starting with these fundamental building blocks will get the effort moving in the right direction.

Further, the Development Plan takes into consideration how work on events and work on annual appeal sometimes dovetail. Because there can be potential annual appeal donors in our events; and there can be people who want to participate in our events who give to our campaign. So we should find ways to explore this. And social media may be useful tools (Facebook in particular) to help bridge these activities.

Time spent in formulating a smart Development Plan will help key stakeholders in your nonprofit get their work into sharper focus. Particularly if the plan clearly connects with your nonprofit mission.

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Strategic Board Meetings: Leaders in Focus

Nonprofit boards struggle with quorum issues, which usually is an indicator of an energy deficit issue.
Board members want to feel that their time is used productively.
Do they look forward to board meetings with eager anticipation? Or with foreboding?

You can get your board meetings on a more productive track by taking 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.

Check out The Board Chair’s Handbook from Board Source:
Check out The Board Chair’s Handbook from Board Source.

Gayle Gifford’s blog post A Meeting Menu for the Board Chair on her website Cause & Effect

Make your meetings Strategic!

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