I regularly deliver customized fundraising sessions for boards of directors. The staff usually gets me involved because the board is “not doing what they are supposed to” and the staff is frustrated.
I have worked with so many boards this year I think there must be an epidemic of boards that are “not doing their job.”
Ironically, I find the men and women who are described as unengaged or unfocused board members to be exactly the opposite.
My work with them shows them clearly what I see their role to be related to fundraising and fund development. The light bulbs start going off within the first 30 minutes we are together. And there usually is no turning back after that.
The skeptical staff is amazed and a bit confused at why their ineffective board is suddenly engaged and talking together to figure out how to better hold themselves accountable and much more excited to participate in the work of raising funds for the organization.
What’s different? I believe it’s that I enter the picture fully expecting the board to show up as engaged members of the organization. I provide them with activity metrics and very specific examples about how to do the work of fund development. They learn about the variety of ways to support development efforts and are allowed to participate in the exact way they want to.
An action plan is created with dates and times and names of who is holding whom accountable. Sometimes the action plan includes removing ineffective board members.
The challenge occurs after I leave their midst. Does the staff go back to “making the board wrong” for not all doing the same things? Or does the staff immediately get into action to support the newly engaged board by providing them with information, tools, data and opportunities to participate that are very specific and timely?
Whichever path gets chosen is directly related to the amount of individual dollars raised for the organization.
Steps to keep engaged board members:
- Make sure it is a “peer to peer” accountability effort. Not staff to board. Have a partner or two on the board who deliver activity updates and hold each other accountable based on information they’ve received from staff.
- Show the correlation between highly cultivated donors and higher giving by taking a little time to analyze small segments of your donor data with the board. Show them why a personal phone call to donors makes a difference.
- Provide clear metrics on board involvement. Keep track of and report out on the number of thank you phone calls, number of guests invited in, etc.
- Keep the board engaged in your mission. Share with them stories of what is working well. Share stories about times when things didn’t work out. At every meeting.
Don’t judge them. Accept them as unique and supportive people who want to make a difference. And then provide them with the tools and opportunities to do just that.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa