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Relationship Check-up: The CEO and the Board Chair

We can have a solid strategic plan, a clear concise mission, an ample donor database. But if the CEO and the Board chair don’t have and seek a strong working relationship, it undermines confidence of staff and rest of the Board and can limit the nonprofit’s capacity to succeed.
So what are some indicators that can help us know we’re good with this relationship?

    Conduct of Board Meetings

: The chair formulates the agenda, in consultation with the CEO. They discuss the agenda about a week prior to each meeting. The Board is the source of nonprofit governance. The CEO and staff execute the program and are accountable for its successful delivery.

    Communicating with Community.

There are roles that should be clarified on when the CEO speaks on behalf of the organization, and when the chair of the board does. This should become a policy, adopted by the Board and reviewed each time a new Chair is elected. So when the nonprofit takes a position on a matter that the community should hear about, we (insiders) know who will speak on a key issue.

    Assessing Performance of the Nonprofit

As a general rule, the CEO oversees performance assessment of staff. And the Board Chair or his/her designee conducts an annual performance review of the CEO. And that review is based on the job description and objectives agreed-to by the Board and CEO at the beginning of each year. This clarity of purpose helps avoid subjective assessments that are not based on pre-determined important factors.

We could discuss more. And I’m happy to have that conversation if you reach out and seek my advice and guidance in making leadership relationships work.

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The Networked Nonprofit CEO

I wrote a couple of years back, “It’s lonely at the top.” It’s a familiar quote, and I’m still seeking correct attribution.
I do know this: It’s as true today as it was when observed for the first time. Which in part is why Paul Harris started Rotary International in Chicago 100+ years ago. To develop a place for fellowship and sharing among business leaders in a community. To provide 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 some informal 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 sounding board to hear the issue and give you some feedback.
In a way, Rotary is a network, there for members to use. There are certain rules limiting self-promotion, and the famous 4-way test, including “Is it fair to all concerned?” In a set of parameters, Rotary can be a safe place to talk about anything. For the network to operate properly, it must be founded on trust. And free of cliques. So all feel welcomed.
Each CEO needs a safe place to talk about issues that might be getting in the way of clear thinking.
Board members should encourage nonprofit CEOs to join Rotary. Or, join a network of peers with leadership experience who can be helpful resources when the going gets tough.
Do you have a place to talk about challenging situations in the workplace, outside of your workplace?

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The Thank-You: Key to Effective Donor Stewardship

For most nonprofits, January is an important month. For the majority, the annual appeal for donor support was mailed in November, gifts began arriving in December, and for some, a respectable portion of donations come during January.
Each nonprofit organizes its “thank you” process at the same time the appeal hits the street. Some will get a note via card or letter, some will get an email, some will get a phone call, and in some cases, a board member will visit the donor to express thanks in person.
Some nonprofits conduct a board “thankathon” (see Kay Sprinkel Grace in High Impact Philanthropy) for special/major gifts.
The important thing is to let each donor know that s/he is appreciated. That it‘s more than the money. Confirm the relationship by letting the person know you remember something about him/her; how the gift will help those you serve in some specific way. Help make a link happen. Cement the bond.
I remember when I worked with the American Lung Association in New Hampshire, board members agreed to thank major donors to the Christmas Seal campaign. They called donors. The first year we did it, some donors thought we were calling for more money. Board members were coached to let donors know, “no, we just want to let you know how much we appreciate your recent gift of ___ to help fight lung disease. We are interested, if you care to share, in what inspires you to give. It helps us to know.” Well. Our donors were pleasantly surprised to get the personal touch and usually had something to tell us. Log this information in your database. It’ll come in handy for your next appeal.
In this way, the “thank you” helps affirm the relationship.

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Getting Started with a Legacy Gift Program

Nonprofits of all sizes, shapes, and durations should consider instituting a planned (or legacy) giving program…so donors can learn how they can make gifts through a will or trust or other method, to further the long-term purposes of a nonprofit organizations they care about.

I recommend this article published by Wiley in 2003 as a good basic document for nonprofits to read, discuss, and use to get a legacy program started.

You will find it through an online search.

HANK ROSSO’S ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE IN FUNDRAISING (ISBN:
0787962562). Copyright © (2003) by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. This material is used by
permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc

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Follow Up Lapsed Donors Early in 2017

The New Year will soon be upon us. Our Annual Campaign has been sent to all donors and some warm prospects. Their gifts have begun to come in. We will know soon if this campaign is a success. For the accomplished fundraiser, are we satisfied?
Maybe not quite yet.
Early January will be a good time for staff to scan the donor list for those who received the appeal but have not responded.
The task: Identify lapsed donors who did not respond to our December 2016 fall appeal. Particularly those with a history of being (to this point) steadfast donors.
Time to send a follow up appeal to lapsed contributors.
The outgoing package is a bit different from the initial appeal. You may want the ask to focus a bit differently. For example, consider re-stating the appeal in different terms. You may want the letter to come from a client who depends on you and your donors to deliver.
Make that follow-up ask.
It should bump up your appeal by about 10% net.

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