Happy Board Freak Out Month!
Sure, there are plenty of other causes that celebrate awareness and are lifted up by gubernatorial or mayoral decree, but none as terrifying or as chaotic as the time of the year where budgets projections are as spooky as that Spirit of Halloween store which popped up at the recently closed and abandoned K-Mart building.
As we race towards the end of the year, a familiar feeling and sentiment arises from Board of Director’s meetings everywhere, and somehow, like they are all connected through some sort of telepathic link, mutter, mumble or shout as one:
“Ahhhh! Holy crap! We need to raise so much money, and there’s no more time, still so let’s all freak out and suggest ridiculous things our nonprofit can do in order to make up for 9 months of us being inactive until the very last minute to give everyone high blood pressure and extra anxiety!”
Does this tirade from leadership help with any door-opening leads for our development or fundraising leaders? Not at all.
A list of unreasonable demands does nothing of the sort but make the remaining board meetings less about visioning where the organization can go and how many additional individuals we can serve, and more about line-by-line interrogations on why that Butter-Braid or pizza fundraiser didn’t reach goal.
Here's a better list!
Top 3 ways to get your board members to DO something about fundraising.
1. Give or Get Policy Review
A lot of board members have no idea what they are doing. That’s not their fault – the onboarding process of most nonprofits when getting new members is basically to throw each of them into a meeting with a 300-page binder passed on from previous board members like some ancient text that is so filled with dust that it requires a deft paleontologist’s touch to flip through the spiral bound materials without cracking the never been read manuscripts and wish them good luck.
Or worse, leave the entire process to the board themselves…who have had no training whatsoever on any on boarding…as they had the similar trial-by-fire experience and only know that as “best practice.”
There are very few boards who take the time to roll out a robust and in depth process to explain the roles and responsibilities of members, including the expectations of what their giving entails. And as much as you probably need a big of wholistic board training and resources - let's just start with a quick an easy fundraising policy process.
So in case you need a bit of inspiration on how to build in to the board experience a philanthropic element to the role, here’s an easy way to engage.
Some organizations have what we call a “Give or Get” policy.
That means the expectations of each board member is to either write a check of a certain amount that everyone agrees upon. OR, that board member helps solicit gifts that add up to the amount determined by the organization.
This gives the board member options, sets clear expectations, and if they are not fulfilling their duty of the give or get policy, your excuse to connect and review the amount, strategies they are using to solicit, or brainstorming ways to reach their goals, is just another way to get to know them as a person, a leader and as a team member of your nonprofit.
Can they count in-kind gifts or soliciting silent auction items as part of their give or get policy?
Sure! Why not?
Can they count introductions of individuals who have the capacity to give a large amount of money and then ask you to go with when making the ask?
Can they count volunteer hours outside of the required board meetings if they don’t have the financial capacity to give?
Seems like a really good trade!
Be flexible, be creative and be communicative when it comes to how each board member has the opportunity to help collectively with the lift of fundraising. Your engagement will be a lot more robust when giving them options, and are encouraging to discuss to find ways that everyone can participate!
2. Corporate Breakfast Host
Starting any project from whole cloth is a nightmare. It’s so much easier to tweak or edit something than it is to stare at a blank piece of paper and demanded to create something new.
Need a roadmap to get more supporters? Need your board members to take the lead because you are wearing 10,000 different hats and don’t have time to plan any other event currently?
Here you go!
Why not have your board members host a really simple, and extremely effective, event at their place of business that helps spread the word about what your organization does to individuals who may have never heard of your nonprofit…from a fellow co-worker!
The set up is this:
Have your board member ask their boss (or if they ARE the boss, just have them set this up…without any hoop jumping of asking permission! HA!) to host a breakfast at their office.
Have them (not you!) purchase coffee and donuts
Have them invite their staff, other company partners, business neighbors or others who might be interested in your nonprofit to join!
Have everyone sign in with their contact information when they show up!
Have them thank everyone for showing up!
Have you talk about your nonprofit!
Have them talk about why he/she supports your nonprofit!
Have everyone there ask questions!
Have a call to action – like join a mailing list or volunteer for an event.
Send everyone a thank you note or additional information to each attendee right after the breakfast meeting.
Boom. Lots more individuals who heard your story, might have been moved to donate or learn more.
Make ALL the money getting donations (after follow ups of course!)
Hooray! Look! A nice easy way to involve your board members in getting you or your nonprofit in front of as many people as possible to see if there is personal alignment with your organization.
Oh, that’s a fun idea that you think is executable? Oh, you’re looking for more ideas like this?
Well, you can always join Do Good YOUniveristy and enjoy countless ideas, webinars on how to take your donors to the next level, or even ask questions in our weekly Live Ask-Us-Anything conversations to make sure you’re a fundraising rock star! Just sayin’.
3. Board Member Date Night
I once listened to a fantastic webinar on “How to Date Your Donors.” It was a brilliant comparison to wooing your supporters for a long term relationship rather than insisting they give immediately in a rushed attempt for transaction gifts.
I’m 99.9% sure there was an irreverent reference to a one night stand.
‘Cause I remember laughing incredibly hard at that and how ridiculous the analogy had gone off the rails, and it was, by all accounts, perfect.
However left of center the discussion on how to treat your donors went, the point was well made. You should always have the long game in mind, and that kind of shift in supporter perspective is really built well for your board members too.
More often than not, we are so preoccupied with getting board members meeting materials, and trying to position reports for easy consumption for our rock star volunteers that we forget to have basic conversations that build the type rapport with those who are have the fiduciary responsibility of the entire organization.
We might want to change that.
If you haven’t been given permission by anyone, feel free to take the suggestion of a random blogger on the interwebs here, and pick up the phone to ask your board members on a coffee date.
Ask them questions the way you would a donor. Be curious on why they joined the board in the first place. Be genuinely interested in what they envision your organization could be if money wasn’t an option.
Meet them where they in regards to what they know about your programs, services and impact in the community.
No, you don’t have to get them flowers, or pull their seat out for them before they sit down.
Just be a good human to another good human who takes time to volunteer and make your nonprofit better.
Through that conversation you’ll be able to convey your needs, your goals, and walk through how important it is to have connections to others who may share the passion you both have for your organization. That’s where the fundraising magic happens. Connections with others who are aligned.
That’s it! Three easy ways to engage your board to talk about solicitation and get them out of combative budget mode…but rather on-the-same-team-to-raise-money mode.
Just a matter of time before those board members are cutting checks, introducing you to high capacity individuals, or using their influence to help make your nonprofit more awesome.
You got this!