One of the most frequent complaints I hear is, “our board members don’t fundraise”. Hiding behind the mantra, “I give my time” many sincerely believe that volunteering time equals giving of money. So, too, in a desire to get people on the board, nominating committees are often quick to ask anyone who may say “yes”, or has a “big name” (and no intention of showing up) or is willing to host a function or stuff envelopes . While these functions are important, they are not the characteristics that make for boards of excellence.
The net result of having a board composed of people who give of their time but are reticent to ask for or give money, is that over time, fundraising becomes less and less of a board priority and euphemistically the lights grow dim since the electric company wants to be paid in cash, not time. While the need to create a broad-based board is critical, the most effective boards, and conversely the strongest organizations, are those that require (not beg) board members to “give AND get”. This is the holy grail of success.
There is no question that building a board solely of people who “give and get” is viewed as politically incorrect and elitist. Experience teaches, however, that often cries of “political correctness” and “elitism”, while powerful, are also cloaks that disguise our discomfort with ideas that make us uncomfortable.
Strong organizations, however, base their success on affirming that board service isn’t a right, but a privilege. Board membership is not for everyone. Strong boards inherently understand that when quality membership standards are put in place, high-caliber volunteers, with impact capacity, step forward to serve.
The one common denominator of organizations that excel in this challenging and competitive environment is that their boards are composed of people who give and ask for money. The secret to creating such a board, and turning board members into active fundraisers, is grounded in three basic principles:
1) Setting Expectations
In our desire to fill our boards with committed and good-hearted people, organizations hesitate to articulate clear and unambiguous governance expectations. They fear that if an organization either tells a potential nominee what will be expected, or actually requires it, these people will respond with an emphatic “no thank you”. Minimizing board responsibilities, however, is not a strategy that leads to strong boards. Developing a well crafted, strategic approach to board recruitment that emphasizes fund development and board involvement is the first step to creating a board of committed and active fundraisers.
2) Overcoming Reticence
From an early age we are taught that politics, religion and money should never be discussed in polite conversation. As a result, most people don’t like talking about money, let alone asking for it. If your board sees fundraising as a version of hell, you shouldn’t be surprised when their investment in this area is lacking. To change the dynamic, successful organizations provide quality training opportunities to help volunteers learn the art of asking for money. They also take one other critical action. They place only people on the board who are comfortable asking for money, willing to become comfortable asking for money, will actively open doors to those who can give money and will give money themselves.
While this may mean rotating some very nice people off the board, for an organization to grow it needs its board to be full partners in its fundraising efforts. Having non donors and non fundraisers on the board only weakens the organization’s ability to make the desired impact. Committees, task forces or projects are perfect places for those who believe in the organization and want to volunteer only time.
It is truly amazing the number of boards I encounter that don’t have (or have, but don’t use) written board member job descriptions, member contracts, or are even in compliance with their organizational by-laws. Unless we take the work of boards seriously, why should board members take it seriously?
Great organizations recognize the importance of clear expectations, metrics and holding ourselves and others accountable. By clearly articulating to board members what is expected, how they will be evaluated, and the ramifications of not fulfilling their obligations, board members will have definitive proof that their time is valuable.
Throughout my career, I have yet to meet a board member who did not want to have a rewarding volunteer experience. Creating a culture whereby volunteers understand the expectations, are provided growth opportunities and are held accountable, provide the foundation for a strong board experience and a powerful organizational impact. It is these boards that make a difference and excites and drives volunteer engagement and increased fundraising.
I am the Founder and CEO of Dynamic Change Solutions, your strategic consulting partner. We can help you enhance your board experience and turn your board into a board of fundraisers.
We help our clients improve their organizations while facing change head on so that they emerge stronger, efficient, effective, and more successful.
Feel free to contact me at 404 606 6755 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our firm on the web at www.dynamicchangesolutions.com.