Last month I wrote about what to do with an under-performing board member. The follow up question that we often hear is “Does losing a board member mean losing their donation?” That depends on why you are losing a board member. The reasons may include because the board member:
- stopped showing up to meetings but still tries to contribute via email.
- pops in from time to time and tries to be super helpful (read: has thoughts on all the work that every other person has done) and then isn’t seen for a couple of months. And then repeats the cycle.
- takes on responsibilities but then never follows through with anything.
- rarely responds to anything you send and often leaves email unopened.
- is toxic but has a lot of money.
The first question I would have is, do you want to save the relationship? How much time and energy are you spending on this person? And, what else could you be doing to replace the departing board member’s donation?
If they answer is that you still value what they offer, be prepared to put in work and be creative.
Full disclosure: over time their funding may shift as they become involved in another organization that looks good on LinkedIn. Sorry if that is too cynical but we all know those board members.
Does losing a board member mean losing their donation? There can be any number of ways to retain the relationship, but they all boil down to one point: Keep them engaged.
- Are they willing to sit down and speak with you or the board president? You could ask how they would like to be involved if they don’t have the time or the focus right now. Try to gauge whether they are looking for a once-a-year activity, once a month activity, or are just happy to be listed as a prominent donor or trustee.
- Would they be willing to serve on a committee instead of the board? For example, it could be a committee that meets infrequently. Remember, the idea is to keep them engaged.
- Survey the entire board, which is always a good idea on an annual basis. . The underperforming board member may not be the only person who is questioning the relationship with your organization. And asking advice is always a good way to deepen a connection. Include questions like:
- What do you wish you knew about the board before you joined?
- Has your board experience improved, stayed the same, or deteriorated over the past 3 years?
- Would you be willing to mentor someone new on the board? Why or why not?
- Would you encourage a friend to join the board? Why or why not?
- Offer board training. It may sound counter-intuitive to ask this person to spend more time with you, but it may be that they are bored with what they are doing. An educational opportunity might excite, and reengage, them.
- Hire a consultant to assess your board and your organization. Is the underperforming board member the problem? Could it be the board/board president, a staff member, the direction of the nonprofit, pressure from the community to do more, or some other reason your board has become an uncomfortable place to be. And getting rid of the one person may not solve your problems.
If it is time to strengthen your board, email me to talk about how MJA can help.
You are not alone. As we begin to see a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, we have to consider what we need to accomplish in this year.
The time is ticking away.
- Am I doing enough?
- Will I be able to retain my new donors?
- Will my LYBUNTS return?
- Will I go back on the road to talk to donors?
- Will other organizations be doing it if I am not?
- Should I feel relieved or guilty about the strength of my nonprofit right now?
- Do we need to hire staff to help us handle our new donor base?
- Will these donors continue to support us so that we can afford new staff?
- Is everyone feeling frantic about fundraising?
We know we have so much to do, and it feels like it all must be done today. Because it didn’t get done last week when it really should have been done.
Breathe. Or meditate. Or do whatever has calmed you down over the past year. And consider:
Where do we go from here? 5 Suggestions to stop feeling frantic about fundraising
- Assess your donors. Look at your donor retention levels for First Time Donors vs. Multi-year Donors vs. Monthly Donors. How do you match up to benchmark statistics? (email me if you want our benchmarks.)
- Assess your donor pool without events. Many nonprofit events are smaller or not happening again this year. Now is the time to use those event hours towards your relationships with individual donors. And see if you can raise more money. In other words, events are often very costly and time consuming to produce so think of the resources you can dedicate to another initiative. (Please note: Events can be great community builders and friend-raisers but rarely offer the ROI of individual donors).
- Assess your staff. Do you have the right staff for the future? Do they have the bandwidth to handle your new donors in addition to the job they already do? Is it time to invest in your organization’s human resources?
- Assess your systems. Do you have a CRM that works for your nonprofit? Do you have recent prospect research? Do you send acknowledgements out within 24-48 hours?
- Assess your strategic plan. A strategic plan in one year might not look the same in 3 years later. Especially around the pandemic. Does the work look the same for your nonprofit? Are your board, volunteer, and staff priorities different? Would your SWOT analysis remain true?
Yes, we are big into assessments. We see it as taking a breath and looking internally before you charge forward into this post-pandemic world. Of course, if you would like us to help with your assessments email me.
And, hopefully, you can stop feeling frantic about fundraising and start feeling confident about moving forward.
In this column, I have previously talked about organizational and development assessments as a tool to understand your development skills or prior to a capital campaign, but recently we have employed this type of assessment at the beginning of an executive search.
Why? We use this tool when organizations know they have to replace a key member of their staff but they are unsure of the direction. Should they look for someone with the same skills? Would they be better off altering responsibilities and hiring someone with skills that are not yet represented on the staff? What would happen if they promoted someone from within and offered training? If they hired someone from within, how would the rest of the organization be reorganized in order to succeed?
By analyzing your nonprofit before you make a new hire, you can craft the ideal list of desired skills, help candidates understand the strengths they could use to the organization’s and their own best advantage were they to get the job, and focus current staff to bring their skills and experience in a more effective manor.
Transitions can be hard on a nonprofit. Whether you are concerned about relationships that may be lost with the change, solicitations that might not occur because the nonprofit is focused on hiring a new staff member, or shifted focus of the board, an organizational and development assessment can help us help you stay on track. We help organizations like yours form the best team in the most efficient way.
Turnover remains high at nonprofits, consider how you can be remain effective as things change. Because they always do.
While it is true that you can download an Organizational and Development Assessment worksheet from our website, (click here to start your download) it is also true that the difference between a pdf and a nonprofit consultancy focusing on your organization are drastically different. When we are hired to do an Assessment – often in conjunction with a feasibility study – we work with the staff to collect a lot of the basic information. But what part does the Board play in moving the process forward?
Each organization is different, but in general the board president may be involved to provide institutional knowledge, an additional perspective and answers that an Executive Director may or may not have. Interviews for the assessment and feasibility study enable board members to contribute an insider’s point of view. Major donors among the board share their perspectives on the process of cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. Finally, the board receives a formal presentation of the assessment’s findings as well as develops and implements the new plan based upon the consultant’s recommendations.
Hiring a consultant may take some of the busy work off of the board’s plate. More importantly, the consultant enables the board to work smarter, more strategically and, inevitably, with more success. That, in conjunction with a well-analyzed organization, the board and the agency will have greater achievement in all its endeavors.