Tag Archives: boards

Is Your Board Engaged?

In our decades of work with non-profits we have worked with boards of all sizes, from large institutions to small grass roots organizations. We have worked with board presidents, members of development committees, and everything in between. This experience has taught us some valuable lessons about the crucial role of the board.

Here’s one key lesson: all organizations benefit from having an engaged  board. When your board is engaged it sets a tone and direction that is inspiring to all members of the organization.

Engaged board members attend meetings and show up prepared and on time. They serve as advocates for the institution, sharing their knowledge of its vision, mission, activities, future directions and impact. They understand the challenges facing the institution and are creative in helping find solutions and attract resources. They are team members who respect each other and are willing to check their egos at the door. The good of the institution is paramount.  As team members they are willing to roll up their sleeves and help make things happen. They are accessible and willing to partner with the executive director and staff members, volunteers, donors and funders to create solutions that help the organization deliver on its mission.

Engaged board members welcome transparency and accountability, and understand the need for honesty and policies that guard against conflicts of interest. They commit – as a collective body – to raising a meaningful percentage of the organization’s budget. Each member makes a significant gift to the organization. Significant is in relation to income, assets and connections.

Engaged committee chairs convene their committees and ensure goals and activities tie to the organization’s larger strategic direction. And those committees encourage participation by individuals from outside the board who can contribute expertise, skills and resources. Committee reports are distributed in advance of the board meeting so members can read them in advance.

Engaged board members are proactive in identifying opportunities and in alerting each other –and the staff – to potential challenges. When they have questions, they ask them. If they feel the organization is not headed in the right direction, they encourage thoughtful discussion. When they learn of developments in the field that could impact the organization, they share the information. When an outside perspective could help, they suggest consultants, workshops, or a visit from the leader of a comparable organization.

When we hear an executive director say, “my board supports me 100%,” our ears perk up. We wonder, “is that a good thing?” A board that questions, and encourages additional ways of looking at a situation can contribute to organizational health. When a board rubber-stamps the work of an executive director it may be a signal that board members are not engaged. Take a look at your board – what do you see?

What do you think? Let us know.


Replace Yourself – Sustain Your Board

It is neither good nor advisable to serve on a board forever. While you may be deeply committed to the organization or institution you serve, you need to rotate off the board at the appropriate time. At least for a little while. Term limits help a board sustain a freshness and new perspective that can be lacking when too many board members have served more than four to five years. It can be hard for an organization to change when its leadership is static and lacking in “new blood.” With too many people who have been on the board a long time new board members can also feel frustrated when their ideas are not accepted, or the board seems “stuck in its ways.”

Term Limits

Rotating off the board can be good for the organization and good for you. Take a breather. Spend more time with your family. Take a class. Join the gym. Or volunteer for another board and learn how another organization or institution approaches similar or different issues.

But, before you leave, you need to replace yourself. We know – you’re irreplaceable. Given that truth, come as close as you can. Or – here’s a heresy – find someone to serve who could be an even more committed and engaged board member than you have been.

As a board member you know the organization’s strengths and challenges, and the skill sets, relationships, and access to funding represented within the board. You can help identify someone with a different skill set, perspective or constituency that will add value to the board. Think about who you know – personally or professionally – who is committed to the values and mission of the organization. Take the time to introduce them to other board members in a social setting. Invite them to meet the CEO or executive director, and to witness the organization in action. Share with your friend or colleague why you serve on the board, and ask him or her to consider serving as well.

As a committed board member you are almost morally committed to ensure the organization can move forward with strong board leadership. Do not leave it to the CEO or board chair to replace you. Be proactive and identify potential new board members who can help take the organization to the next level of its growth. Express your commitment by identifying new leadership. While ultimately it is the responsibility of the development committee to recommend new board members to the full board for consideration, you can ensure a strong pool of potential candidates. You’ve been effective – now bring someone else in to help build on your success.

Let us know what you think!


Volunteer-led Fundraising – It Starts with the Board

In part one of this series we discussed the difference between staff-led fundraising and volunteer-led fundraising. To generalize, staff-led fundraising is led by staff.  Volunteer-led fundraising is led by volunteers. Now we take on the question “How do you develop a volunteer-led fundraising program?”

Here’s our answer – over time!

It’s not something that happens overnight. It begins with the board and the process of creating an awareness of their fundraising related roles and responsibilities.

If you are a staff person, here’s one way to start engaging your board. Meet individually with each member to share an overview of the organization’s fundraising priorities and how these tie to its mission and vision as well as to daily operations and budgeting. Share where the money comes from. How much comes from foundation grants? From government grants? Get specific. For example, share how many $5,000 gifts the organization hopes to receive this year. How many $50,000 grants? How could changes to state or federal budgets impact expected funding? Let each board member gain an understanding of revenue sources.

During these one-on-one meetings ask each board member how they feel they can contribute. There are many roles a board member can play. They can work on the special events committee, meet with elected representatives, host friend-raisers at their home or office, help redesign the marketing material, create a social media presence, proofread proposals, speak with the leadership of their faith organization to explore the possibility of a gift, write an op-ed piece, secure pro-bono legal services, and of course, write a check and ask others to do the same.

Your job is to ask for suggestions and ideas. And to listen.

After completing these individual meetings update the organization’s formal fundraising plan with information and ideas you have gained. If you don’t have a plan, create one. If you don’t know how to create one, drop us a line and we can send you guidelines. Once your plan is up to date, share the plan with the full board. Let board members talk about what they are planning to do. Let them make their commitments to each other. After the meeting make more adjustments to the plan to reflect discussion of the full board. And then partner with your board chair – or chair of the development committee – to work with board members as they fulfill their commitments.

Once board members begin to get engaged, staff can partner with them to begin the process of engaging volunteers from outside the organization. We’ll cover that in part three.

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

Tips For Fundraising Success: Engaging Your President, Board and Others

Robert Poole

Robert Poole

Engaging your president and board are key to ensuring your institution’s fundraising success. Engaging faculty, staff and students is also important. Engagement is a clear indicator of commitment, and commitment is a number one prerequisite for fundraising success. We have admired Robert S. Poole, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Meharry Medical College for his success in leading a strong fundraising team. A seasoned and successful advancement professional, Poole recently led Meharry through an historic $125 million campaign. In 2010 the College reach the $100 million endowment milestone. These successes are a result of strong philanthropic giving and prudent financial management, and one of the many reasons we admire Mr. Poole. We turned to Robert for specific information about how he engages the College’s board and president Dr. Wayne J. Riley . Our hope is that his tips and experience can help impact fundraising at your college, university, non-profit.

Saad & Shaw: How do you engage your president as a fundraiser?

Robert Poole: Here are five things we focus on at Meharry:

  • Developing and reviewing new funding opportunities with him based on the College’s strategic plan and in conjunction with the deans and other campus executive leaders.
  • Helping to maintain clarity regarding fundraising priorities.
  • Updating him on top prospects.
  • Conducting prospect briefing sessions before cultivation/solicitation visits.
  • Keeping him abreast of fundraising trends, best practices, and tracking and reporting on progress at peer institutions.

Saad & Shaw: How do you prepare and support your board in the area of fundraising?

Robert Poole: We communicate with the board’s advancement committee and its chairman regarding fundraising and marketing priorities and objectives. We provide prospect briefings for board members that participate in cultivation and solicitation calls as appropriate. We also involve board members in planning major fundraising initiatives both as policy makers and potential donors.

Saad & Shaw: How do you integrate the president into your fund development program?

Robert Poole: As lead spokesman and vital leader/partner in every development discipline the president is highly visible and engaged throughout the advancement program.  He’s involved in media (including op-ed features, video features, editorial board meetings, radio and TV interviews, health policy position statements, etc.), external affairs and government relations, donor prospect calls and campaign strategy, and alumni relations.

Saad & Shaw: How do you involve staff, faculty and students in your fundraising initiatives?

Robert Poole: We encourage them to share their perspectives on the institutional needs and opportunities that they would like to see addressed through philanthropy.   We provide education on how the fundraising process works and, where appropriate, involve them in fundraising cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.  For example, we’ve had great success in utilizing students during donor recognition and other events, students’ personal letters of thanks to scholarship donors have helped raise a lot of money as have their testimonies in solicitation appeals.  We work with faculty and other academic leaders to develop concepts that may ultimately become fundraising proposals or projects.  Additionally, faculty and deans have been very effective participants in donor visits.

Learn more – Read the full story.

Salute to Bob Zimmerman!

Bob ZimmermanJoin us in celebrating the life and work of Robert “Bob” Zimmerman.

The end of 2010 brought sad news of the passing of Bob Zimmerman, a nationally known fundraising trainer and consultant who worked in the field of fundraising for over 35 years. A fundraising specialist, author and the President of Zimmerman Lehman, Bob was loved by many who appreciated his expertise, insight, and keen sense of humor.

We always enjoyed Bob’s appearance as a member of the Development Executive Roundtable’s (DER) world-famous “Show Me the Money Players” – a group of fundraising professionals who would entertain fellow professionals at the San Francisco DER Holiday Party with skits based on the trials, tribulations, and misconceptions associated with fundraising. Mel was fortunate enough to be included as one of the “players” one year, and in 2005 we both joined him on a panel for a NetImpact Conference at Stanford University. Regardless the venue, Bob could engage and energize.

Here’s how Leyna Bernstein, pays tribute to Bob. “Bob Zimmerman embodied all the best qualities of our profession. He was enormously generous with his time, was passionate about his work and the importance of our sector, and he cared deeply about helping others. He was a tireless advocate for the board’s role in fundraising, and had a knack for getting even the most reticent volunteers to believe they could raise money. Bob made friends wherever he went, and he has left many, many of us mourning his loss.”

Bob taught workshops for staffs members and boards in the United States and Europe. He taught boards to overcome their fear of fundraising and create successful campaigns. His dry wit, combined with a down-to-earth approach, was accessible to everyone, regardless of his or her level of sophistication in fundraising.

A graduate of Antioch College, Bob earned his M.A. from the University of Michigan. He served on the Board Golden Gate Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and was the Co-chair of the ever-popular “Ask the Experts” panel at AFP’s 2009 and 2010 “Fundraising Day” in San Francisco. He taught on subjects that include major donor solicitation, grantseeking, hiring top-notch executive staff, and overcoming the fear of fundraising.

A well known writer Bob was the author Boards That Love Fundraising: A How-To Guide For Your Board, and Major Donors: The Key To Successful Fundraising, and Board Members Rule: How to Be a Strategic Advocate for Your Nonprofit and was a regular contributor to ZimNotes, a fundraising e-newsletter.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to work with Bob you can certainly learn from him through his many writings. And don’t forget the Zimmerman Lehman website as another source of information.

Bob’s loves included his wife and business partner Ann, son Gabe, Opera, baseball, dogs, cats and poker. He was loved by many and will be missed by many more. Join us in saluting Robert Zimmerman – a husband, father, community leader, and friend.

Team Building and Fundraising

Fundraising is all about teamwork!Teamwork is essential to fundraising. You can raise more as a member of a team than you can as an individual. With a team you have backup, support, increased connections and more people working toward a common goal. Some team members assist with marketing and communications, others invite businesses to sponsor your special event, and still others will craft your year-end appeal. The grant writer is busy writing, and learning who-knows-who on a grant selection committee in order to coordinate pre-decision conversations. Campaign co-chairs are mixing and mingling about town, advancing the “buzz” and encouraging the who’s-who to get involved and give. Everyone is sharing contact information and updates with your data management person. All gifts and pledges are recorded and donors promptly thanked.

Good will fills your team meetings….Or does it?

Why do some groups just click, while others are overcome by challenges?  To find out we talked with Dr. Lewis Rambo an internationally recognized leader and teacher in organizational development, team building, and executive coaching.

Saad & Shaw: What makes a successful team?

Dr. Rambo: I’d rather comment on what makes an effective team rather than a successful team.  Too often we think of team success simply in terms of winning and losing … as in sports.  An effective team is a group of talented, motivated people who are energetically and harmoniously focused, like a laser beam, on achieving mutually shared goals or objectives.

Saad & Shaw: What should people be aware of when working in a team?

Rambo: A team is not just a group of people working on something.  To be a truly effective team member you need to:

  • Know what is to be accomplished by the team.  All team members should have a clear understanding of the team’s goals and of what the organization expects of their team.
  • Help determine how the goal should be accomplished.  Input from everyone on the team is needed at this stage.  Your contribution and opinions are very important to the team’s final product.
  • Share mutual respect for your team members.   You have to be willing to trust the skill and expertise of other team members and to become interdependent, perhaps, giving up some of your independence.
  • Share in group decision-making.  Being a team member is a serious responsibility. Some people like to sit on the sidelines and remain silent, so they can say, if things fail, “I told you so!”  Good team members do not do that.  They are committed at the outset… and willing to expose their thoughts and feelings, for all to view.  It takes real courage to be a fully involved, collaborative, team player.
  • Share the glory with others.  You can’t claim credit for all the ideas that actually work, and then distance yourself from the team’s failures.  Being an effective team player takes effort. Most importantly it yields results!

Saad & Shaw: What about team accountability and the role of a team leader?

Dr. Rambo: Good questions! The team leader has to take full responsibility for guiding and motivating a group of people who probably have very different styles, patterns of behavior, ideas, abilities and, attitudes. Every team leader will face unique challenges, problems, and opportunities. While no perfect formula for effective leadership exists, most successful teams have leaders who:

  1. Communicate Clearly. Clear communication is the cornerstone of good teamwork:
  • Organize before you communicate.  If you are instructing a team member, run through the steps in your mind before you speak.
  • Monitor your tone.  A leader must often give corrective feedback. When speaking to a team member, be aware of the impact your words can have. Although you may feel you are simply pointing out the need for correcting a mistake, you may be crushing morale and encouraging resentment.  Suggestion:  Plan out exactly what you want to say.  Offhand comments can be easily misunderstood. Before giving a team member any negative feedback, ask yourself: “How would I feel if someone said that to me?”
  • Send clear messages.  Don’t let distracting behavior or body language dilute or confuse your message, especially important when listening to team members.  If you are reading a document, looking around the room, or fiddling with a pen when others are talking, they will know you are not paying attention.

2.    Establish and Enforce Standards

  • Communicate standards and expectations so they are concrete and measurable.  Objectives and goals should not be fuzzy or unclear.
  • Create a scoreboard.  Let team members know how they are measuring up against expectations goals and/or targets. Post team achievements and successes where everyone can see.

3.    Help Them See The Big Picture

  • Communicate the vision, mission and objectives to team members regularly.  Teams sometimes get so focused on day-to-day activities they forget the bigger picture.  It is the leader’s responsibility to help members remember their work is directly tied to the organization’s mission. 
  • Show the team its contribution.  For example: circulate reports showing funds raised to date, number of solicitations, number of new donors and other data.

4.    Develop Your Team Members. Your team members have their own hopes, ideas, and ambitions.  Try to connect their aspirations to the team’s goals and build powerful alliances. Help team members find mentors.  Have new members “buddy up” with established members until they learn the ropes.  Having a fellow team member who “really understands what is going on” as an advisor can be a powerful tool in a new member’s development and participation.

As the team’s leader, be accountable yourself: set an example, and work hard to communicate with your team members. That’s how  you will begin to master the art of team leadership.

Learn more about Dr. Rambo at www.lmrambo.com.

© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010

What You Can Learn From a Fundraising Feasibility Study

Too often organizations are focused on how quickly they can begin fundraising. “We need the money now!” is a common cry. Our response is simply it’s not how quickly you begin raising money, it’s how quickly you reach your fundraising goal.

If you start your fund-raising without finding out how local stakeholders and potential donors will respond to the specifics of your campaign, you will probably raise some money, but the real question is “will you raise all the money you need? Fundraising campaigns that launch without the market research that a fundraising feasibility study provides can later find themselves in the midst of what is known as ‘campaign stall’ – they have raised a percentage of their goal, but they can’t raise the remaining funds.

Conducting a fundraising feasibility study or survey is one way to avoid such stall. This is because the results of the study will let you know important information such as:

  1. How do those interviewed really feel about your proposed fundraising campaign? Do they understand what you are raising money for and how those funds will help you deliver on your mission?
  2. Do your current and prospective donors believe the organization or institution is headed in the right direction?
  3. How do they rate your CEO, board members, and staff?
  4. Do people believe your organization fulfills an important role in the community? Do they know your mission, vision, and major programs?
  5. Are they willing to give to your proposed fundraising campaign? Why or why not? If yes, at what level? If no, would they consider making a gift at a later date?
  6. Are there others they know who would want to financially support your organization?
  7. Who can provide volunteer fundraising leadership? Who amongst those interviewed would be willing to give their time to help you raise the money you need? Who else can they recommend to provide such leadership?
  8. Who can provide in-kind resources to help offset costs associated with fundraising and annual operations? Can a local company provide your printing? Can a realtor help you secure donated office space?
  9. Most importantly, do those interviewed believe you can reach your fundraising goal, and how much time do they think it will take for you to do so?

That last point is the most important. If the people you intend to ask to financially support your organization are not willing to do so, it is important for you to know their objections, to take the time to address them (if you choose to do so), and as needed to find other individuals and institutions who feel more favorably towards your organization, its leadership, mission and goals.

The information gained from feasibility interviews can help you modify your proposed fundraising strategies and activities. It can also help you address the concerns of those interviewed and to take advantage of opportunities you may not have otherwise known of.

© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010.

Giving Begets Getting

Give first, then ask others...

Let’s start at the end: You can’t ask someone else to give until you have made your gift first.

Now, for how I got there. When considering how to secure funds for a non-profit organization or institution many people first think about “rich” people who could give such as Oprah, Bill Gates, or Bill Cosby. Still others think about securing government funds, ideally an “earmark” or special appropriation for a large project. Others recommend to start by hiring a grant writer to secure foundation grants.

Yes, these are all way for securing funds. However, they don’t start at the beginning, which is with you. If you are associated with a non-profit organization or institution as a board member, volunteer, employee, student, participant, patient, or client the giving has to start with youwhether it’s money, time — whatever.

Amazing, but true. If you – the people most closely involved with an organization or institution – don’t give, why should anyone else? If we don’t believe in ourselves, why should anyone else?

Here’s four reasons this is true:

  1. Your giving demonstrates your commitment. When you make a financial gift to an organization you are involved with you are communicating the value the organization has to you. You are signaling to others that a specific church, college, food bank, museum, hospital, youth program or advocacy group is important enough for you to give of your hard-earned money. That is really the bottom line. You are letting your money talk.
  2. Funders want to know the level of support that exists for an organization or institution. Funders such as foundations, corporations, and government agencies want to know the number of donors who give each year and the total value of their collective gifts. That’s people, not institutions. They also want to know that all board members give, and they often want to know how much they give, as well as the total amount of money they raise from others. If an organization’s own board members don’t give it, why should someone else?
  3. The size of your gift is also important. While very few of us are millionaires, we all know when we are making a gift that is significant given our current circumstances and obligations. When you make a gift that represents a meaningful contribution you can then ask others to do the same.
  4. Giving feels good. It just does. It feels good to give to things you believe in. And when you make a gift you know you are part of the solution. It makes it easier—and truer — to ask others to give because you have made your gift first.

That’s it for now! Until our next post, remember to have a FUNdraising Good Time! – Mel and Pearl

What’s a Board Member To Do?

Having worked with hundreds of board members in all kinds of organizations we really understand the challenges that board members face in their fundraising efforts.

Maricar Boyle

So we sought the guidance of Maricar Boyle, MPA and Assistant Director of Corporate and Private Foundation Relations at Children’s Hospital and Research Center Foundation.

Boyle is a fundraising professional who has also served as a volunteer board member and board chair. She knows about fundraising from both sides and offers her words of wisdom.

Saad & Shaw: Based on your experience as both a board member and as a fundraising professional, what advice can you offer our readers about how to strengthen the partnership between fundraising staff and board members?

Maricar Boyle: It is important to understand that board members and staff are mutually responsible for the success of the organization. One way to strengthen the partnership between staff and board members is to learn about the specific roles that each individual plays within the organization, especially when it comes to the fundraising process.

The fundraising roles that board members fulfill vary from board to board. Roles can include responsibility for identifying potential donors, or serving as a spokesperson for the organization, or being present when it’s time to ask for a gift to the organization. When it comes to this last point – asking for a gift – it is always important to know in advance who will ask for a gift and who will close the meeting.  Highly successful fundraising campaigns have always been borne out of a combined effort between board members and staff (and a good strategic plan!).

Saad & Shaw: What is your experience with board members as fundraisers? What makes a board member willing to fundraise?

Maricar Boyle: Having served on three non-profit boards to date, the organizations I served and continue to serve were very clear about board member expectations from the very beginning. There was no ambiguity, especially if you were expected to personally contribute and help in fundraising. That was important to me. My willingness to raise funds as a volunteer really stemmed out of my belief in the mission of the organization and the desire to see it succeed.

Saad & Shaw: What advice would you give  board members at this particular point in time?

Maricar Boyle: Be an active participant in ensuring that the organization you serve continues to advance its mission. Ask questions. Volunteer to be on committees — especially on the Fund Development Committee. Ask to be trained by staff in the art and beauty of asking for money for a cause you truly believe in — it will be incredibly rewarding.

© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010.

Be a better board member in 2010

Do you remember your New Year’s Resolutions? Do you recall the one about being a better board member? We want to encourage you to stick with your resolution. We want to encourage you to strengthen your commitment to the organizations and institutionsyou believe in.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of criticizing staff, pointing the finger at others, and blaming the economy. But here is why we believe in FUNdraising – it has to be fun. If you are focused on what’s not working, take a moment to focus on how you can be part of the solution. And think about what you find to be fun.

Here are three suggestions for you to consider as you contemplate how to be a better board member in 2010.

  1. What do you like to do? Go to basketball games? The movies? Cook? Figure out a way to invite people you know to join you in doing something you love. AND, ask them to give $25 at the same time to your organization. If you ask 10 people to come to your house for dinner and ask them to bring a $25 check for the food bank, you will have raised $250 doing something you love – cooking and entertaining.
  2. Think about a friend who shares your belief in the organization you serve. Ask them if they would be willing to serve with you on a specific committee. Your friend or colleague doesn’t have to join the board. She can simply become a member of the governance committee, giving of her legal skills. Or he can join the annual gala committee with you and work on promoting and selling tickets.
  3. Look at your finances and figure out what size gift you can give in 2010. Divide that by 12. Can you give that amount each month? Can you give more? If so, do so. Consider automating your monthly contribution. Have a preset amount automatically deducted from your checking account or charged to your credit card each month. That way you don’t have to think about. And, it is easier to give $25 each month than it is to give $250 at one time. Once you get in the swing, consider increasing the amount. And think about how much you can ask your friends to give. Tell them what you are doing and ask them to do the same. Automating your giving can take the “pain” out of writing a check.

And remember – you are giving to something you believe in. It’s got to be good! That’s it. Not too difficult. But you will be making a difference.

As always, remember to have a FUNdraising Good Time! – Mel and Pearl