Giving Tuesday, the Global Day of Philanthropy is on Tuesday, November 28. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is partnering with Facebook again this year to provide a match up to $2 million to donors who give during that day.
Here are the specifics of this match:
Donations made to participating nonprofit organizations through Facebook’s charitable giving tools beginning at 8:00 am EST on November 28 will be matched — up to $50,000 per nonprofit, or $1,000 per fundraiser or donate button — until the matching funds run out. Facebook and the Gates Foundation are contributing $1 million each for the campaign, and all matched funds will be paid out to nonprofits through Network for Good’s donor-advised fund.
So, what can your organization do to prepare?
Here are some simple steps that I have been recommending to nonprofits to take advantage of this match:
1 – Determine what your Giving Tuesday monetary and non-monetary goals are. How much do you want to raise? How many new donors do you want to attract?
2 – Ensure that you have activated your Facebook “Donate” button first and foremost. Ensure that you are using Facebook’s full scope of charitable giving tools. Otherwise, you will not be eligible for the match. You also want to ensure that your pages are branded so that folks can recognize the Giving Tuesday campaign.
3 – Ensure that your website and online donation portal are up-to-speed and ready to go. Make sure that you rigorously test them. Your website and donation portal should be easy for a donor to use and navigate. Donating should not be difficult.
4 – If you have work to do on your donor lists, now is the time. Make sure that they all get uploaded into your Donor Management System, particularly your email addresses.
5 – Draft your social media and email messaging now. You will want to announce this match opportunity in advance as well as send out reminders the day before, the day of, and an acknowledgement the day after. Use key days such as “Black Friday” as messaging points. Be sure to use photos, videos, and testimonials. Consider integrating into your current calendar year-end campaign.
6 – Be sure to recruit ambassadors as social media messengers for your cause during this campaign. You may want to enlist your Board, staff, and volunteers to help spread the word about your GIving Tuesday by sharing your social media messages with their family and friends. If you are using Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, then get your folks set-up and engaged in advance of the actual day.
7 – Develop a plan to steward these Giving Tuesday donors once Giving Tuesday is complete, and you begin marching into December.
These are some simple steps that you can take to begin to plan for your Giving Tuesday campaign.
Now, I want to hear from you. What steps is organization taking to prepare for this day of giving?
You have just been offered a job as a Director of Development and now what?
Well, over the past twenty years, I have had my share of jobs and have started some fundraising offices within nonprofits as part of my consulting practice. As a result, I have gotten pretty good at figuring out what the first steps need to be when setting up your development office.
I am going to share with you some of these first steps on what to get started with immediately to make your first three months a success. These first three months are a particular time of “newness” that you can use to your advantage.
Step #1 – Get established on your working location and equipment. Ensure you set up your office area so that it will be conducive to your work style and habits and ensure that you have all of the hardware and software you need including training.
Step #2 – If you don’t have the required software, don’t skimp by using Excel. Start right out by determining what your current and future needs may be and begin to research and present options for a donor database/CRM system that will meet those needs. You cannot build a successful development program without this foundational component. It is the “brains” behind your program.
Step #3 – Begin conducting a development assessment of the past fundraising efforts of the organization.
Step #4 – To carry out this assessment and to get acclimated to the new organization, use this time to meet with
Key leadership staff
Board of Directors
Any past and/or current donors
Anyone else deemed important to the organization
Step #5 – Use the data that you obtain during this development assessment process to begin to put together a series of recommendations based on best practices that you can put into place during your tenure. Share these recommendations with key leadership and Board members to obtain approval and “buy-in.”
Step #6 – Begin to immerse yourself in the new organization’s programs and services.
Step #7 – Begin to craft a Case for Support if your organization does not already have one in place.
Step #8 – Determine the key projects that need attention in the immediate future and begin to manage them. Get a handle on your development calendar including your annual fund and grant application and reporting deadlines.
Step #9 – Begin to put into place some of the recommendations that you outlined after conducting your development assessment whether they focus on major gifts, planned giving, individual giving, direct mail, etc.
These are some easy and straightforward ways that you can get up to speed quickly and efficiently in your new role and have an immediate impact on your organization’s fund development program. Early wins=your success.
Often, I get asked, “What is the magic behind a successful fundraising campaign?”
Well, it is not all magic. There is some science. And, with over twenty years of experience, I am going to share the top tips that have made it all “seem” like magic so that you can too.
How to ensure a successful fundraising campaign
I am going to share with you step-by-step the formula that I use with all of my clients to ensure that fundraising campaigns are as successful as can be.
#1 – Ensure that you have the best fundraising team possible. Be selective in whom you choose, develop expectations and responsibilities in advance, and seek the chair of your fundraising effort first.
#2 – Once the Chair is in place, then have them assist you in the search for the rest of your fundraising team. Be sure that you only select folks who do what they say they are going to do. Test them with small tasks first. Be sure to select high-performing people to have a high-performing team. And, don’t be afraid to say “no” to someone who just can’t meet the expectations or pass the “test!” Never recruit as a group – always person to person. Ensure you have a good mix of influential and effective candidates.
#3 – Divide up your fundraising team into different divisions i.e. events, mail, personal solicitation, phone, prospect rating, etc.
#4 – Create a fundraising goal that includes the costs of the campaign in the total. It costs money to raise money so be sure that you calculate those costs into the overall campaign goal. You can estimate campaign costs at 10% of the fundraising goal i.e. materials, staff, events, donor recognition, etc.
# 6 – Develop a prospective donor list from both your current donors as well as by conducting overall research to find new ones. Once you have your prospective donor list, then you will need to rate and rank them. Get a committee together who will focus on rating prospects according to capacity, affinity, and interest.
#7 – Once you have rated your prospects, then you can tier them into an “A List,” “B List,” etc. This ranking will allow you to focus your efforts on those who have the greatest capacity and interest in your cause.
#8 – Modify the gift chart as your campaign progresses depending on the level of gifts that come in. If you have fewer major donors than expected than you need to adjust your lower tier of donors, etc.
# 9 – Employ a sequential model of fundraising. Classify prospects according to assessed giving potential and start solicitation with the Top Giving Levels and move down.
#10 – Start with your “Family/Nucleus” gifts first. Your Board, staff, and volunteers must demonstrate a commitment to the mission before you begin asking anyone else. If they are not committed, how can you expect anyone else to be committed? You should conduct all Top Giving and Family/Nucleus levels by personal solicitation.
#11 – Develop strategies to solicit the lower level donors i.e. direct mail, events, telephone, etc.
#12 – Be sure to develop a realistic month-by-month timeline to ensure that you keep the momentum of the campaign fresh and have key benchmarks to meet.
#13 – Develop ways to recognize donors of all giving levels to the campaign. Donor recognition levels can inspire donors to give more than they may usually give.
Sequential fundraising is THAT important. Once you violate the “Top Gift” solicitation sequence, your entire fundraising campaign is in jeopardy. Failure to follow this approach lowers giving standards across the Board.
If I could choose the number one reason why most campaigns fail, it would be that they did not follow this sequential model of fundraising including asking their “family” first. In fact, I have seen campaigns languish for years never reaching their goal.
An important part of any fundraising campaign is how you plan on recognizing your donors at different giving levels. While donor recognition opportunities do not motivate all donors, the fact is that some are. And, you need to be prepared to offer this valuable tool to inspire the sights of your donors who are motivated by public forms of recognition. Different things motivate different donors. So, always begin by knowing your donor.
Below I share with you a step-by-step method to creating Donor Recognition Opportunities that will inspire your donors to set their sights higher. And, public recognition inspires all donors from big to small and for all kinds of fundraising campaigns, not just capital ones.
There are several important guidelines that one should consider first before actually coming up with the recognition opportunities.
First, it is important that you have several recognition opportunities available for your donors to select.
Second, the top-level gift should be larger than the largest gift projected during the fundraising campaign.
Third, the cumulative values of the donor recognition opportunities should add up to significantly greater than the overall fundraising goal.
And, lastly, the donor recognition opportunity should be two to three times the costs of construction, furnishings, or overall costs of the opportunity.
Once you have given these guidelines consideration, here is how you can establish your donor recognition opportunities step-by-step.
Step #1 – Invite key staff and volunteers to a Donor Recognition Planning Meeting and review your building plans or fundraising campaign outline.
Step #2 – Brainstorm all of the possible named gift opportunity “places” or “things” i.e. main lobby, flag pole, endowed department, scholarships, staff positions, etc. Think expansively and creatively remembering that nothing is off limits.
Step #3 – Write each possible brainstormed building place on a sticky note and put them on the wall in random order.
Step #4 – Look at your campaign gift range chart and determine how many gifts are needed at each level to reach your goal.
Step #5 – Determine the “Curb Appeal” gifts. These gifts are those that provide value for the opportunity and are not necessarily just based on gift size. For instance, a lobby will hold more “curb appeal” than say a large industrial kitchen located in the back of a facility hardly ever seen by the general public.
Step #6 – Match the top “Curb Appeal” gift with naming opportunity that is the largest on the list, etc.
Step #7 – Be sure to present this Donor Recognition Plan to the Board to ensure that they approve of your plans. Ensure that the Board votes to approve this plan. Don’t skip over this step! You need the Board’s support.
There are also other ways that you can recognize your donors. For instance, you can recognize mid-level to lower-level givers with a group plaque, listing in the print donor honor roll, or on the organization’s website. You may also choose to run brick and pavers or wall tile program. And, inevitably, you will recognize all of your donors at a post-campaign celebratory event.
One thing that you do need to ensure is that you are consistent with how you recognize your donors. Everyone needs to be treated equally regarding what his or her gift will afford in a named gift opportunity.
And, now the organization is ready to begin asking for gifts from donors using these different named gift opportunities as a way to motivate donors to step up their giving to the campaign.
Just this week, I was working with a client, and we were discussing Board member engagement in fund development. The assumption was, ho hum, “they just won’t participate.” It was then that I came across a blog article outlining all of the wonderful ways that you can engage your Board in fundraising. You know things like, make thank you calls, write notecards, etc., etc., etc.
To be honest, we have heard these over and over again. The reality is that even though you can talk about all the different ways that Board members can participate in the process of raising philanthropic dollars, it still doesn’t cause engagement.
So, my client and I stepped back and bit and talked about how some successful organizations ARE engaging their Boards in fundraising. And, what we noticed is that with very successful organizations, it all begins with how you recruit, screen, and bring on new Board members to your organization. And, here based on that evaluation are some simple steps that you can take to revolutionize your Board engagement.
Here is what I recommend:
As a fundraiser, become a member of the Board nominating or preferably governance committee, if not already a member. And, as an executive, advocate for your fundraiser’s participation on this important committee. It all starts here.
Develop a formally written and adopted Board recruitment process and procedure.
One you have identified an appropriate Board member candidate, schedule a screening interview. (Yes, a screening interview! Why would you not screen for one of the most important jobs in your organization?)
Send the prospective candidate information in advance i.e. things like your brochure, a list of volunteer opportunities, committee listings, relevant Board policies, etc., etc.
At the interview, first, review the process and purpose of the meeting i.e. “getting-to-know” each other interview.
Then review with the candidate the organization’s values, mission, and services seeking alignment. If the candidate does not align with those core elements of your organization’s identity that is a “red flag.”
Share with the candidate the major issues facing the organization both opportunities and challenges.
Share with the candidate the different ways that the organization uses volunteers i.e. committees, policies, meeting schedule, etc., etc.
Review skills, experiences, diversity, and network needs that the organization has identified. Discuss with the candidate which of these they desire using on behalf of the organization. Seek alignment.
Review Board member responsibilities and expectation, particularly around fund development seeking commitment to them
Close the meeting but don’t make any decisions yet.
Bring all of this information back to the nominating/governance committee to discuss and make recommendations. Remember the fundraiser must sit on this committee.
Once the candidate is voted on and accepted, bring them on and into an orientation process reviewing the organization’s values, mission, services, and goals. At this time, provide training on a “Culture of Philanthropy” and further reiterate the Board expectations around engagement in development.
Have all Board members sign a Board Member Contract agreeing to uphold this commitment regarding responsibilities and expectation and develop a Board Fund Development Expectation Form that the Board member must sign and date indicating how exactly what they explicitly commit to upholding. Email me for a sample Board Fund Development Expectation Form.
Board Chair reviews Board member’s performance throughout the year to ensure performance meets expectations and outlined contract. If the Board member’s performance does not meet expectations, the Board Chair MUST “thank and release” the Board member. Yes, this MUST happen for the whole process to maintain its credence. You must “thank and attrition” poor performers.
The key to Board engagement is truly about setting and managing Board member’s expectations BEFORE they even join your Board of Directors. This way, they know right up front what is expected of them as they perform their role. What I often hear from client’s Board members, is that “I had no idea that was what I was supposed to be doing.” So, out of fear of the unknown, Board members are hesitant about ever committing to fund development because the importance has never been relayed to them, training never provided, and the expectations never set.
So, while all these great articles can espouse how to engage your Board members in making telephone calls and writing note cards, you can’t even hope for them to begin to participate in your fundraising efforts if they are unsure of what you expect from them. This engagement all starts before they officially come onboard.
Follow the above recommended “How To’s” and watch your Board member engagement in fundraising and your organization soar!
So, maybe you have been operating without a plan up until now. And, that is ok, but it is not strategic, and to meet your goals, you need to have a plan that you follow, monitor, and correct if needed.
Here are some simple instructions on how you can quickly create a development plan if you have been operating without one.
Once you have your gift chart created, it will guide your strategies. Take that gift table and think about how you are going to raise your top gifts.
Then break out all the possible fundraising strategies into key categories. Those key categories may be major donors, individual donors, Board giving, special events, corporation and businesses, private grants, government grants, and earned revenue.
Plan on how many you are going to solicit from each category and how i.e. individual donors you may send out a lapsed donor appeal, an annual renewal appeal, and perhaps a prospective donors appeal using direct mail appeal and maybe phone follow-up. Your complete mail out will be close to 1,000. You can even go a step further and calculate the average gift amount if you are able.
From the numbers that you will be soliciting and the calculated average gift amount determine what your estimated income will be. Know or have any expenses, calculate those and subtract them from your expected income, and you have a net income number.
Then the last key element of this plan is to determine when you will complete each strategy by and who is responsible for the strategy i.e. development staff, executive direct, Board of Directors, etc.
Then implement your plan. But, most importantly use this plan as a monthly monitoring tool. Share it at your Management Staff meetings and with your Development Committee or the Board of Directors. If it appears as if you are “off” on projections, make mid-course corrections and adjust your budget.
But, don’t let this sit on a shelf. Get it in action.
You may want to consider putting all of the key plan information in a spreadsheet to have it all in one place. Or you can use a Word document table. Whatever format you use, start with the gift table, develop the plan, keep this plan in a prominent place, share it and monitor it, and make mid-course corrections.
You can’t operate successfully without a plan in place to drive and focus your effort
Then you will be on your way to reaching your yearly fundraising goals.
One may think that there are only a limited number of donors to go around, but think again.
In my work, I assist small to mid-sized organizations in running their first capital campaigns. Many do not have established donor bases to tap into for an already existing pool of major donors. So, I assist. And, I am here to say that yes, you too can, even in your small nonprofit, develop a list of 25 or more possible major donors to your organization.
I am going to take you step by step on how to begin establishing that prospect list for your nonprofit organization and then share with you some next steps on how to prioritize that list.
Here are the steps you can take to develop your prospect master list:
Use informal organizational networks including organizational friends and family members i.e. Board members, staff, volunteers, etc. to identify prospects within their respective networks who have both wealth and affinity for the cause.
Ask your current donors when meeting with them if they know of anyone else who may support the cause.
Research prominent donors to other similar organizations who may be making small gifts to your organizations. It is helpful to obtain copies of their annual reports, newsletters, and even event programs to see the giving levels of the prospective donors. Annual reports may be found online or hard copy by request.
Research who has been attending your events. There are folks here who already know of your mission and may be willing to deepen their relationship with you.
Research others who live in your community who might give to you using voter, property (Grand), the local chamber of commerce, houses of worship, and other lists.
So now what do you do when you have all this information?
Here is what I recommend:
Cull through all these lists to create a Master List of prospects whom you think “make the cut” regarding any possibility of capacity, affinity, or connection.r
Let me define these for you.
Capacity – ability to give
Affinity – philanthropic to a similar cause or interest
Connection – involvement in your organization
Once you have this Master List developed then work with the fundraising/development committee, Board of Directors, or other volunteers (they should know folks in the community) to rate and rank each donor during a rating session to determine potential giving capacity, interest, and affinity.
And, from there you have a Master List of the top 20-25 prospective donors to your organization. Even the smallest of non-profit organizations should be able to come up with a Master List of at least 25 potential donors after following these steps.
As a nonprofit organization, you are here to meet a mission to your stakeholders. Maybe long ago, or not so long ago, you were founded to assist a particular group or meet a critical need. And, months go by, years go by, and you are still in existence. But, is the need still there? Are you still relevant towards meeting that need?
Sometimes, we just don’t want to answer this question. Because in answering it, you may find, that yes, indeed, you have met your mission or, in fact, are no longer relevant, or facing a crisis, or maybe even just plain exhausted and lack energy as an organization.
Is it time to dissolve perhaps? Maybe merge with a similar group? Shutting down is not the only option, but it is one.
Let’s face it, was it ever our intent to be here forever?
In admitting that you have met your mission, you have done exactly what you have set out to do. And, more and more nonprofits are choosing this route, admirably I may add.
Ultimately, though, this is a larger Board discussion.
Because the Board of Directors is directly responsible for the organization’s future: whether to grow, change, downsize, merge, evolve, or close. This is governance at its most important and highest level.
Here are some important questions to explore as a Board before you do:
Are we meeting our stated mission?
Are we helping our intended audience?
Are we still relevant to our community?
What is the situation that is precipitating this discussion? Are we tired, lack energy? Financial constraints? No longer needed?
What would be the implications if we did no longer exist?
Do we want to continue? Can the organization be saved?
Have we simply run out of steam and need to close down?
Is it time to let us fail instead of always trying to “right” the ship?
Do we have adequate human resources to keep things going and are they the right people?
After seriously reflecting on these questions, a nonprofit Board can choose to take several routes.
You can choose to change your mission statement to reflect who you are and what need you are truly meeting.
You can choose to restructure your operations, programs, and activities to lead to a better functioning organization.
You can find a similar nonprofit organization in mission and merge.
If under undue financial stress, you may consider filing for bankruptcy
Or, if you are just tired or having met your mission, you can cease to operate and dissolve.
Ultimately, the Board must recognize that a crisis situation exists, focus efforts on addressing this issue, and come to a consensus-based conclusion on which path is most appropriate to your mission, to the community you serve, and to yourselves as individual Board members.
Interestingly enough, I met with a wonderful and highly intelligent gentleman this past week. As we were eating lunch, we started talking about systems thinking. It reminded me of a mentor who once said that we needed to be reading people like Peter Senge.
I could never really make the correlation between Peter Senge’s highly complex writings and my practical work as a fundraiser. But, during this recent conversation, the dots began to connect.
You see, Peter Senge outlines the whole concept of what systems thinking is and how to frame it within your work. It made me think of my clients.
Systems thinking, at its broadest level, believes in the interrelatedness of forces and seeing them as part of a collective process. Peter Senge notes that it was Professor Jay Forrester at MIT who outlined the nature of “system dynamics” or how complex feedback processes can generate problematic patterns of behavior within organizations and large-scale human systems. Think eco-systems, physical building systems, teams working together, etc.
For many organizations, they have the basic problem of not having enough. – enough resources, time, staffing, etc. For some reason or other, they just can’t seem to rise above the realities of this problem. They go on in endless circles always seeming to address the same issue. For many, the problem may be that they have been relying on grants and foundations to meet their budget, and they never seem to have enough, or a funding source suddenly stops funding them. For others, there fundraising has plateaued or even declined over the past few years. Others face continuing turnover in fundraising staff. I see these same problems over and over again in different organizations.
Truly, what we all must realize is that a fundraising problem is never really a fundraising problem. It is some other underlying organizational problem impacting how well an organization can conduct fundraising. We cannot begin to isolate a fundraising problem as just a fundraising problem. It is much more than that.
Organizations are living, breathing entities. One thing impacts the other which in turn impacts another. Everything in an organization is interrelated. So when, one is under stress, it has a direct bearing on the strength of the other. Nothing works in isolation.
Sometimes old models are kept in place far too long. Outdated and problematic mental models keep perpetuating cycles of behavior that impact the entire system.
Some systems that an organization should be looking at beyond fundraising itself:
The board of directors and its governance model.
Staffing patterns and their compensation and their incentives.
Deeply held organizational assumptions and beliefs.
Performance expectations both implicit and explicit.
Cultures within organizations.
Changing demographics within the community that an organization serves.
Demographic changes within populations of donors.
Marketing or lack of marketing efforts along with general overall perceptions of organization.
Physical conditions of facilities.
The overall financial and economic environment.
A savvy fundraiser and fundraising consultant will understand these dynamics. One knows in most cases that if a Board of Directors is managing the efforts of staff, then fundraising will be impacted. If employees are not given the tools or resources to be able to do their job, then fundraising is affected. If expectations are unrealistic, fundraising is affected.
When clients present themselves to me with a fundraising problem, I often dig deep with questions. Because often and in most cases, the solutions that the client thinks they need are the ones not needed. The answer lies deep below the surface, and it takes someone versed in the language of systems thinking to be able to conduct an appropriate diagnosis and to outline a roadmap for making that systems change possible.
The consultant or fundraiser must be skilled at this work, for one should not make a change just because they see a leverage point. The amount of change, the type of change, and the scope of the modification proposed can either create the needed change or in some cases further exacerbate the problem.
So, for that gentleman who I was having lunch with, thank you! It behooves us all to have such strong mentors in our work from a multitude of disciples beyond fund development. Broadening our scope of resources allows us to care more holistically for the organizations that we steward.
Good governance doesn’t end at creating a Governance Committee of the board or even of establishing processes for governance such as policies and procedures, or even developing new committee structures.
Governance has only begun. It continues with a well formed and crafted agenda for all meetings both at the Board and, most especially, at the committee level.
Do you put casual thought into your agenda or do your spend time carefully constructing the flow and feel of the meeting?
I say, don’t take the agenda lightly. It can indeed work to shift a culture from management to governance just by mear fact of the topics, the order of the items, and those responsible for reporting.
Agenda’s need to be carefully crafted and constructed to produce concrete action items. Poorly devised agendas will cause meetings to go astray, tensions to rise, and governance to quickly turn to management.
How do you begin to structure your agenda? Well, think about what topics are important for this group to discuss and what is the best use of their time.
Here are some suggestions for your next meeting:
Hold reports and updates to the end of the meeting or even consider eliminating them entirely so; that meeting doesn’t get mired in the muck.
Prepare reflective materials with statistics and numbers relevant to more strategic discussions.
Think about the natural flow of the meeting and adjust items to reflect that flow.
Prepare and circulate meeting materials in advance of the meeting. The expectation is that one comes to a meeting fully ready to participate.
Put standing meeting items i.e. strategic plan report or a fund development calendar update on each and every agenda and keep them “low” on the agenda.
Or consider moving to a “consent agenda” where routine items that the board would approve with little comments are encompassed into one single agenda item i.e. things like board meeting minutes, financials, program reports, CEO reports, approvals of contracts, etc., etc., etc.
And, you need an effective chair of the Board,of the committee, or the task force who can work with staff to set the agenda, keep the group on the agenda, and ensure that the tenure of the meeting supports good governance. The role of the chair is to be a facilitator regarding the meeting and the agenda, and an enabler of governance. The chair must know and understand what good governance is to serve in that role.
Meetings are that essential to good governance. Just as reorganizing the board, or reengineering committee structures, good meetings with purposeful and thoughtful agendas can create the magic of good governance.
You can take all the other steps, but if you meeting falls apart when the gavel hits the table of what use has that all the rest been?
Good governance has only just begun!
P.S. – Are you looking for more resources on good governance? And, you want to be successful? Get started with my Non-Profit Governance E-Book that includes a collection of my best blog articles on that all important topic. Email me to request your copy. I will share with you all the best tips and resources for moving your board from managing to governing.
So, who leads the governance process? Is it the Board? Is it the staff?
I wondered to what role does the staff or Board play in shifting a culture that is not longer useful? In fact, sometimes a management culture can be downright disruptive after an organization has reached a particular place in its life cycle.
Is it completely the Board or entirely the staff who need to make these adjustments? Where does governance fall? Who is responsible for the governance process? Who is responsible for being a change agent on the Board level?
Well, I propose that it is a combination of both. In many cases, the Board itself realizes that it needs to change how it has been operating. Other times, the Board chair comes into his or her term and wants to shift the culture of the Board. So, Board driven is an option.
Other times, it is the staff itself who must start this shift. How the heck does the staff even begin to change a culture on the Board. Well, I thought about it. And, I turned to the writings of Simone Joyaux, internationally known fundraising consultant. You see, many years ago, I remember reading Simone talking about the concept enabling. And, I believe this is how it all happens.
She purports that, “Enabling is one of the most critical functions within a philanthropic organization…It is the essential role of the chief executive and development officer.” Enabling is empowering others to take action.
All organizations face changing sets of circumstances. Simone notes that “Enablers know that roles may change, depending on the particular situation or its possible implications.” As organizations move from infancy to maturing, so does their Board move from management to governance.
The staff has the biggest responsibility to enable others. But, in a great many cases, don’t see or understand that. And, trouble begins. A CEO may not know why or how a Board is treating them such and throws up their hands in frustration without realizing that they can take an active part in leading their Board to greater understanding and acting. A Chief Development Officer decides to quit after the Executive Director places undue expectations on them without realizing they have a part in leading up with their manager to understand fund development.
We all know that many a development director or CEO have quit over lack of support or because of frustration in their jobs.
So, how do we get the Board to move from management to governance? Get them out of the minutia into the strategic?
So, how does staff enable the Board to understand and support a move towards governance at a higher level?
In essence, it is the CEO’s job to be a leader and as a result, they need to be an active enabler. The CEO and management team own culture. As a result, boards tend to give the issue of culture a wide berth, expecting the CEO to raise cultural issues when needed.
Well, as a CEO here are some steps that you can take:
Helping to adjust agenda’s with the Board chair to focus on more strategic issues rather than operational.
Managing Board meetings to keep the discussion focused on bigger picture items.
Changing Board committee structures are moving from volunteer tasks to governance concerns.
Provide thoughtful training and conversation on Board governance and what it is.
Enlist the support of Board members who understand and support a change to facilitate change amongst others on the Board level.
Assist in developing performance expectations and new job descriptions focused on Board governance.
Initiate a Board self-assessment governance survey and discussion.
Evaluate the composition of the Board and make recommendations to bring on Board members who will align with a new corporate culture.
Develop shared governance language or framework to discuss culture.
CEO’s need to be strong leaders. And, the hallmark of a strong leader is the ability to enable others to take action. CEO’s need to do this with their staff and with volunteers above and below them. They can’t hold up their hands in frustration and decide that corporate culture is not theirs to influence. In fact, in many cases, they are the only ones who can make those changes.
This need becomes an especially critical as the organization moves from infancy to maturity, and beyond in its life cycle. You need to have strong leadership who can navigate these tumultuous changes and foster a shared vision of the future; changing culture in an organization whether at the Board or staff level or even both is an action of a leader.
When seeking leadership, in particular for a growing organization, be sure that you identify at what stage your organization is in, what your particular organizational needs are, and the type of leader who can help you manage and transition the organization to its future.
We often talk about banning jargon when we speak to others about our organization. And, that is so needed. But, I would like to take it one step further, and say that we are not here to “educate” our donors about what we do.
They don’t care about the specifics.
There, I said it. Truly, your donors don’t. Just think about your experiences. When I call an electrician to fix an electrical problem in my house, I don’t want him to explain all of the mechanics of electricity or what is wrong with my particular situation. Right? Tell me basically what is wrong, how you are going to fix it, and how much it is going to cost. Don’t share with me black to black, and red to red, and copper to copper, I don’t want to know. It is actually beyond me.
So, when you have a particular project, do you think that donors want to know every little nitty gritty detail? I hardly doubt so. For the fact of the matter is, they should have a relationship with your organization before you even ask them to give and if they have a relationship with your organization, then they should TRUST you and TRUST that if they invest in you, you will know what to do with their investment. In fact, they believe that you are the expert in whatever part of the sector your serving. You can’t expect your donor to know all about the legalities surrounding domestic violence victims or child custody cases; they expect you to know and to do that.
So, when you are meeting with a donor and sharing a particular project or even your organization and what it does, spare them the details. Give them the picture of why you, why now, and for what? Otherwise, if you share too much, you will lose your donor in the process.
We get so carried away in our “internal” thinking that we fail to see a contributor as a donor as a person. We talk as if they are supposed to know what we are referring to; we use language and jargon to paint portraits of projects, and we go and on and on sharing minutia with them. It is time to stop and think about your experience with your mechanic, or your plumber, or your electrician, or any other expert that you have hired. What do you need to know, what do you want to know, and what is it going to cost you.
The adage “keep it simple,” reigns true here. Donors expect YOU to be the expert, not them. So, don’t shroud them in jargon and details and minutia. Just share with them what is wrong, how you are going to fix, and how much it is going to cost. Simple.