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board development

3 Questions to Get Your Nonprofit Board Engaged

Today for something a little different, I’ve taken to YouTube for my blog post. My hope is that as the Social Velocity YouTube channel becomes a library of videos on various nonprofit topics and challenges, you can use the videos to spark discussion among your board, staff and donors.

So today’s topic is about getting your board unstuck and moving forward for you. The transcript of the video is also below.

If you want to learn more about getting your board engaged, download the 10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Board book, or the How to Build a Fundraising Board On-Demand Webinar.


I know how hard nonprofit leaders struggle to get their board of directors active, engaged, involved, motivated, moving forward with their nonprofit organization. So today I want to give you three questions that can get your board engaged and invested in the work of your organization.

Before I start, though, I want to say that you get a board motivated and engaged by splitting it into its parts. You cannot get a board engaged and invested by talking to the board as a whole. So I encourage every nonprofit leader to set aside a time every year to meet one-on-one with each individual board member. And in those one-on-one conversations I encourage you to ask 3 questions of those board members that can really get them engaged and motivated.

The first question to ask them is, “What about our nonprofit’s mission and work really motivates you?” This helps you tap into each individual board member’s passion, what brought them to the board in the first place, why they are volunteering their time, and really helps them think again, remember, and be thoughtful about why they are engaged with the nonprofit and what they want to see the nonprofit to accomplish.

The second question to ask each individual board member, one-on-one, is, “What specific assets do you bring to the table as a board member?” This gets the board member and you to start a conversation about what unique skills, experience, or networks that individual board member brings to the table. So then you can start to think about, well how can we tap into this person’s unique assets?

The third question you want to ask each individual board member is, “What do you want to accomplish as a board member this year?” This puts the burden on that individual board member to be thoughtful about what they want their contribution to be as a board member. So they might start thinking about wanting to be involved in an upcoming strategic planning process, they may have some ideas about how to better market the organization, they might be thoughtful about some key decision makers that they could open doors to. There’s a whole host of things that it might start to get them thinking about how they can be specifically involved in the organization.

So, again, I think the key to engaging a board of directors is to start working with them one-on-one and asking them some really thoughtful questions that result in a really meaningful conversation that can really engage your board. Good luck!

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How to Overcome Board Fundraising Excuses

stop signNote: I’m out of the office this week, so here is a blog post from the Social Velocity archives. A version of this post appeared on the blog in January of 2012.

It’s a point of debate in the nonprofit sector whether all board members of a nonprofit should be required to help raise money. Bill Ryan (co-author of the book Governance as Leadership) argued that the fundraising requirement of many nonprofit boards is “a giant, fast-growing myth that ends up choking good governance to death.” And I often hear from nonprofit leaders and board members that requiring every single board member to participate in money-generating activities just isn’t realistic.

I strongly disagree. I’m a firm believer that every single board member should participate in the financial engine of the nonprofit they serve (in fact I recently argued that boards should raise 10% of a nonprofit’s budget).

But, that doesn’t mean that every board member must ask donors for money. Rather, a nonprofit must take a strategic approach to employing at least some of every board member’s time toward bringing money in the door. And there are many things board members can do, beyond making an ask, to raise money (here and here are some ideas to get you started).

But first, nonprofits have to move beyond their many excuses for why every board member can’t help raise money.

Here are the some of the most common excuses and why they don’t fly:

“We want client representation on our board, but our clients don’t have money.”
Even though a client may not have access to large pools of money, they can still absolutely help bring money in the door. Because they have been helped by the organization, they can provide an amazing testimonial to potential donors about the impact of the organization. Why not take that client board member on some meetings with prospects? Their presence and their story might be enough to turn a prospect into a donor.

“We need a specific skill set (legal, marketing, policy expertise) and those board members may not have a network that can give.”
A board member who doesn’t count potential major donors among their friends still has networks to draw from. Everyone has co-workers, clients, vendors, neighbors, family, and/or social media followers. When you start to ask your board to systematically think through who they know, you would be surprised about how vast your organization’s potential network is. Just because a board member doesn’t know the list of 50 donors every other nonprofit in town is going after, doesn’t mean they don’t know people.

“Some board members aren’t good at fundraising.”
Actually the vast majority of people aren’t good at fundraising because it isn’t widely understood. But so what? Provide your board some fundraising training and have them practice on each other. Then pair greener board members with more seasoned ones to help them learn. Or ask another friendly nonprofit to have some of their effective board members come talk about their experiences raising money.

“Some board members are uncomfortable with asking for money.”
Yep. Actually most people are uncomfortable asking for money. Money is a taboo subject in our society. But instead of viewing money as a dirty thing, start viewing it as a critical component of the work your nonprofit does. Reframe money as a great, necessary opportunity to help your organization do more and better. Bring everyone’s discomfort with money out into the open and turn it something positive. Get the board excited about raising more money so that more can be accomplished.

“We want board members with program expertise to focus on mission, not money.”
I suppose in an ideal world it would be great if you could have mission without money, but that is just not the reality. Your organization does not have endless resources. Money is limited and therefore your programs and activities must be limited by an understanding of that resource. A board member cannot adequately discuss or plan for programs without intimate knowledge of and experience with the money that makes those programs run. You simply cannot separate the two. And the sooner you get those “program experts” contributing to the financial bottomline of the organization, the sooner you will have stronger, more sustainable programs.

Money is what makes a nonprofit and it’s work viable. It makes no sense to say that some board members should help bring it in and others should be excused. We have got to stop separating money, and the activities associated with it, from other aspects of a nonprofit organization. It makes no sense.

If you need help developing a groundbreaking board, check out the Board Engagement consulting services I provide.

Photo Credit:

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New Consulting Video

One of my resolutions this new year is to add more video to the Social Velocity site. I love watching video, and I’d love to see more nonprofits using the medium, so I thought I should probably follow suit. A few months ago I created a Social Velocity YouTube channel and will continue to add video to it over the course of the year. I also plan to do some video blogging this year, which I’m pretty excited about.

But today I want to introduce my new consulting video. Here I discuss how I consult with nonprofit clients. If you are reading this in an email, you can see the video by clicking here. Take a look!

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Helping Nonprofits Navigate Change

Over the past few weeks I’ve started using video more often on the blog. My plan is to do even more of that. So today I’m excited to share the below video with you (click here to see the video if you are reading this in an email.) It explains how I help nonprofit organizations, of all shapes and sizes, navigate dramatic change in their organizations so that they can raise more money, engage their board, achieve their mission, and ultimately create more social change.

I have launched a Social Velocity channel on YouTube, and I plan to add additional videos and even video blog posts in the coming months. I encourage you to check it out and subscribe to the channel if you are interested.

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A Contest to Help Your Nonprofit Grow Stronger

As summer winds down, I’m starting to plan the fall lineup of Social Velocity webinars, but I need your help. I started offering monthly webinars a little over a year ago and have been amazed by their popularity. Several of the webinars sold out and had to be repeated. And all of our past webinars are recorded and available 24-7 as on demand webinars (you can see the whole list here).

And here’s where you come in. I need your help determining the content for the next round of webinars. What problems or issues do you struggle with? What would you love to learn more about? What challenges you in the worlds of raising money, strategic planning, board development, business planning, donor management, social innovation, philanthropy? What do you need direction on? I’d love to hear your ideas.

And just to show you how much I appreciate your input, I’ll award a free registration to anyone who submits an idea that turns into a Social Velocity webinar.

So send your webinar ideas to with the subject line, “Webinar Idea.” And if we turn your idea into a webinar, you will attend for free. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

And in the meantime, be sure to check out the Getting Your Board to Raise Money webinar:

Financing Not Fundraising: Getting Your Board to Raise Money
On Demand

Here’s what some previous attendees had to say about this webinar:

“The webinar was very concrete and actionable – gave specific suggestions regarding engaging board members. This was very useful. Well done.”

“This really opened my eyes to new possibilities – thank you so much!”

This webinar will give you tactical steps for how to:

  • Set up a structure for effective board involvement in fundraising
  • Get every board member raising money
  • Create a compelling fundraising message for board to deliver
  • Develop a system for moving prospects to donors
  • Give every board member a job
  • Overcome board fear and inertia

Download Now

Photo Credit: urbanshoregirl


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Send Me Your Questions

I’m launching a new series on the blog today. I receive so many great comments and questions from readers on the blog. So I want to start a new regular series that answers  readers’ burning questions.

Once a month (or maybe more often depending on the response) I will pick a reader’s question to answer. It can be about anything related to nonprofits, social innovation, boards, financing, fundraising, social innovation, philanthropy, you name it. Each month I’ll pick the most interesting question and write a blog post response to it.

If you have a burning question that you would like me to write about, send me an email at, send me a Tweet at @nedgington, or post it on the Social Velocity Facebook page.

And as an incentive, the person whose question is selected for the first month’s post in the series will receive a free copy of my e-book, “10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Nonprofit Board

So start sending me your questions. I can’t wait to read them!

Photo Credit: e-magic

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