In many nonprofits, there is not a clear divide between board and staff responsibilities. Then you add in long-term volunteers, founders, and advisory boards and things get even muddier. Who should have the final say on a decision? And, should you have that in writing?
Do you know how to go about strengthening your board and staff?
It’s easy to offer simple recommendations like whether the board should be fundraising (they should be fundraising, starting with themselves), but you also have to have strategies for:
- Encouraging your board to respect your staff and their opinions
- Reminding the staff that coaching strategies may change board and volunteer behavior faster than constant reminders
- Board learning opportunities throughout the year (e.g. understanding a P & L– spend 15 minutes explaining how to read the statement –and how it represents the organizational priorities – for those who don’t work with them every day)
- Creating change with buy in from staff and the board
- Knowing a board president’s strengths and weaknesses. And understanding that is not always the same as the last person to hold that role.
- No one person can be in charge of everything (whether that is staff, a Board President or a Volunteer). Nonprofits are a group effort, intentionally, so spend time determining how to utilize your resources.
- Running the board like an organization, and not a family business
- The size of your board – too large or too small will affect whether you are engaging your board members or leaving them to drift off (among other things)
- Helping board members or staff see their role in creating the solution to the problems you are facing and that they may be causing
- Overworking your leadership (volunteer and staff) may help you achieve more in the short term. But, in the long term, staff will leave and volunteers will burn out.
- Moving forward with a decision when consensus was hard to find
- Innovating change. Nonprofits can no longer rely on the status quo for support, membership or involvement
- Engaging everyone in fundraising and development when not everyone is willing to ask others for money
This is not an all-encompassing list, and it is not intended to overwhelm you. Instead, it is designed to create a new dialogue around the staff table or at a board meeting about what you want to see change. In other words, help you in strengthening your board and staff. You may want to initiate a strategic plan or a board retreat to help you focus in on your priorities. But don’t let another year go by without growing as individuals and as an organization.
If you think your nonprofit would benefit from our facilitating this process, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today.
If you would like to work on improving your board without counsel, you can purchase one of our books by clicking here
Originally published in 2017
The new school year is another time of year I use as a check in point. Summer is over – did I binge watch too much? Yes, but I am catching up on This Is Us, so I have a good excuse. Did I spend too much time with friends? There is no such thing. Did I do all of the busy work I hoped to achieve in slow months? No, but I did have time to assess and look forward. So, here is what I thought about most recently:
Things I like about my job as a nonprofit consultant. I get to:
- Help nonprofits achieve their vision and mission
- Teach people to (proverbially) fish. You are not hiring me (and Mersky, Jaffe & Associates) to do your fundraising. You are hiring me to teach you, your staff, and board to participate
- Let board and staff members see that giving can be an amazing feeling for a donor
- Show how asking for money does not have to be a horrible, scary, gut-wrenching process.
Things I do not like about my job as a nonprofit consultant:
- Certain people (you know who you are) give me dirty looks when I suggest they fundraise or donate.
- Individuals who would be so great at fundraising won’t get past their fear.
- Board members who assume others should do all the fundraising
- When organizations don’t achieve their goals because of their fears.
Things I want to do this year:
- Train more people to raise more money.
- Help individuals and organization’s change their mindset on fundraising.
- Explain ways that board members can raise money without having to ask their friends (although I am not opposed to helping those who do want to ask their friends.)
- Consider new ways to encourage accountability of fundraising in a campaign. Maybe working with new interim deadlines to utilize the science behind urgency as a motivator.
If you would like to help me accomplish my goal, of teaching you to fish, email me today.
If you have other ideas of things I should accomplish this year, connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.
If you just want to say hi, I would welcome that too.
I hope your fall is filled with many achievements.
If you are considering how many solicitors you need, you probably don’t have enough. You are probably relying on the Executive Director, a development staff member or two, and/or a few key board members. And, maybe that has worked for the past few years – Executive Directors can be incredibly effective fundraisers. But you may be only one resignation away from a dramatic decline. It is time to increase your solicitor pool.
In the same way you don’t want to be over-reliant on a few major donors, you don’t want to put all of your solicitations in too few hands.
How do you expand your solicitor pool?
- Look at your staff. Who would you trust to represent you in a meeting? Not sure if Jennifer is ready? Bring her along as a second solicitor during a few meetings with longtime donors. Make it clear, ahead of time, the role she will play and where she can strategically add to the conversation. Please don’t have her sitting and observing the whole time – that will not test her skills, it make everyone feel uncomfortable, and leave the donor(s) wondering why Jennifer was there at all.
- Ask your board members if they will help. Ask them one-on-one, not in a group setting. Don’t assume they will say no. And encourage people to get involved at any level that will be helpful to you.
- Some people might be willing to solicit, if trained.
- Others might be willing to help you set up appointments (often time consuming for the solicitor) and join in if someone else will make the ask. Overtime, that might change, but for the moment you will have someone helping you with the initial, time-consuming piece of an ask.
- Another few might be willing to ask at a small group event. Encourage your board to get involved with fundraising any way they choose.
- Invite committee members to participate. Obviously, the first place to start is the development committee. But, someone who understands the finances might be willing to help with a fact driven ask. And a person who is focused on funding for a particular program might be willing to ask individuals to support it. *
- Talk to your donors. Longtime supporters might be willing to ask others to join them with their own gift – especially if they already know them. Those cocktail party conversations might provide more connections and donations than you expected.
*Only encourage funding for a program that is an organizational priority. Creating a program because you received funding is a slippery slope that often leaves you in debt. Get in touch if you want to learn more about how I learned this the hard way.
Want to read more about increasing your donor base?
Imagine if an article about your nonprofit started getting forwarded on Facebook. By a lot of people. Suddenly, you receive 1,000 new donations from 1,000 new donors. Seems like it would be a good problem, wouldn’t it? But, it would still be a problem. In all likelihood, you could not accept, acknowledge, and begin stewardship on 1,000 new donors with your current structure. In fact, many organizations can’t handle 50 new donors at a time. Or 10 if they come at a busy time of year.
That is because most nonprofits don’t have a solid organizational structure for stewardship and development.
Whether you have a one-person development shop or fifty people working the task, there have to be formal processes in place to make sure you keep your donors happy. And retain those donors next year, and for many years into the future.
What should you consider when assessing your current structure? Do you have:
- Goals for your fundraising efforts?
- Are they realistic?
- Is there data to back up your goals (vs. wishful thinking)?
- Prospect and donor research?
- An updated case for giving?
- An understanding of the steps you take after someone gives you a gift? Including:
- How many acknowledgements go out and from whom?
- Who enters the gift into the system and how is it tagged so you can gather data at a later time?
- Do you do something different if it is an oral pledge vs a written pledge vs a check or online donation?
- Written gift acceptance policies?
- Board involvement in fundraising (and expectations for involvement)?
- 100% board giving to your annual fund (money, not just time and talent)
- An effective development committee?
- A stewardship plan?
- Processes to update the different thank you letters on at least an annual basis?
- A planned giving gift acceptance policy?
This is not an all-inclusive list for what to do with 1000 new donors.
In fact, it’s just an overview of considerations to create long-term financial stability and growth. But, just as it will take additional funds to secure your nonprofit’s future, it will take additional work – from everyone – to be able to accept those funds with confidence.
If you are planning to go viral with a story to help you find 1,000 new donors, or you want to have the kind of donors who will help your nonprofit succeed for the long-term, email me to today to talk about MJA’s Organization and Development Assessment. A full assessment will help you in untold ways. To learn more about what we can do for you, click here.