overcoming board inertia
One of the biggest woes of a nonprofit leader, aside from the endless fundraising circuit, is an ineffective board, particularly when it comes to fundraising. But you cannot just recruit a bunch of warm bodies to your board and then assume that they will magically bring money in the door. If you want your board to effectively contribute to the financial engine, you have to start from the beginning. And that is to recruit a money raising board, which is the topic of today’s installment in the ongoing Financing Not Fundraising blog series.
In order to assemble an army of volunteer money raisers, advocates, ambassadors for your nonprofit you have to get strategic. You must move away from scarcity-based board recruitment where you beg people to fill vacant holes on your board, and instead create a recruitment strategy that identifies the right people with the right skills, experience and networks who will become your partners in bringing more money in the door.
And that strategy looks like this:
- Connect Your Strategic Plan to Your Board
Start by taking a look at your long-term strategic plan and ask the simple question, “What skills, experience or networks do we need on our board to make each goal of our strategic plan a reality?” And don’t think in broad terms like “fundraising,” or “marketing.” Rather think very specifically about target audiences you want to access, new networks of people you want to find, specific skills that your strategic plan requires. A childhood literacy nonprofit probably needs board members who have key connections to local school districts, possess education-related expertise, or can talk intelligently about smart program design.
- Recruit for Specific Needs
Once you’ve identified what skills, experience, and networks your board must possess, test that list against what your current board has in order to find holes. Those holes become the very specific types of people you want to recruit. If a strategic goal is to expand your program beyond your current region, but no one on your board lives or has connections outside your region, that’s a hole. Start brainstorming who might fill that hole and how to gain access to them (for some help check out LinkedIn’s cool tool).
- Find Each Member a Job
You don’t get people to help bring money in the door by asking them to just bring money in the door. You first must get them excited about what the organization is doing (the overall strategy) and then highlight their unique contribution to making that happen. Be very clear with each individual board member about what they bring to the table and how you would like to tap into those specific skills, experience, and networks to drive your strategy forward. People become invested in something when they believe they are making a real and specific difference. Help each board member figure out exactly how to do that.
- Tie Everything to Your Financial Engine
Once you’ve figured out each individual board member’s job, brainstorm how that ties to money. To create a sustainable financial engine for your nonprofit, money has to be part of every conversation. If, for example, you’ve determined that a particular board member’s legal expertise is critical to your nonprofit’s ability to launch a new program in the coming year then also work with them to figure out how that new program will become financially sustainable. Perhaps there is an earned income component to the new program that they could help you to develop. There are many ways board members can contribute to the financial bottom line, so think outside the fundraising box and get strategic about how each individual board member can contribute, not only strategically, but financially (here are 9 ideas to get you started).
- Inspire Momentum
If you assemble a group of people who contribute very specific skills, experience and networks to the organization’s overall strategy, and if you effectively work with them one-on-one to nurture the assets they bring, you will soon see momentum build. Each board member understands their unique role, is excited about how it fits into the bigger picture, and have connected that role to the financial engine of the organization. Once you start to see successes with individual board members, share that with the whole board. Let them see what individual members are doing and how it moves the organization forward. They will be inspired to embrace their own unique role.
Many nonprofit leaders start from the wrong place of cajoling, demanding, begging (or simply giving up on the idea of) board members and fundraising. If instead you start from the position of getting each individual board member to find their unique role to play, the money will follow.
If you want to learn more about getting your board to bring more money in the door, register for this month’s “Getting Your Board to Raise Money” webinar.
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland
It happened again last week. An executive director approached me after my keynote address in Washington DC and mentioned how ineffective his board of directors is. He said it as an aside, as if it were simply a given for any nonprofit. And for so many nonprofits it is — the board of directors is a loose grouping of people who don’t do a lot for the organization. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If managed strategically, your board can be an unstoppable army moving your nonprofit forward.
In working with ACE, an early literacy nonprofit, I helped them revamp their board from the ground up. We did a series of things that helped the board understand its role and get excited and engaged in the work of expanding ACE’s reach, increasing its accountability, and driving a growth strategy.
Here’s how a board of directors, like ACE’s, can be transformed:
Get Clear About Their Role. You must develop board by-laws, a committee structure, individual goals and individual roles and responsibilities. The board as a group must come up with all of these elements (with help) and together decide how they want to work and create accountability for themselves.
Find the Right People. Contrary to popular belief, a nonprofit does NOT want to recruit any warm body for their board. Instead you want to take a hard look at your organizational strategy and determine the skills, experience and networks required at the board level to make that strategy a reality. Compare those needs with the current board and determine where the holes lie. Then recruit people with those missing skills, experience and networks.
Give Everyone Specific Goals. If you are not very clear and consistent with each board member about what their specific roles and requirements are, it is little wonder that they are not performing. You need to set a give/get requirement for each board member and then meet with each member individually at least once per year to talk about how exactly they plan to meet that requirement. And use that opportunity to be creative and strategic about tapping into each individual member’s strengths. Don’t try to make each board member do the exact same thing.
Let Them Be Strategic. If your board meetings are merely a boring recitation of everything that’s happened at the organization over the past month, it is little wonder that there is no passion, energy or initiative on the board. Instead, make sure that each board meeting poses a key strategic issue for them to grapple with. Let your board use their brains and drive the strategic direction of the organization. Begin engaging the board on a much deeper level and start reaping the benefits.
Make Them Lead. At the end of the day the board should be leading the organization. Don’t get frustrated with their lack of leadership and simply take over for them. Encourage the board chair to drive the agenda, to lead the meetings, to ask more of her board members, to raise the bar.
I have seen it happen. A board of directors can be a nonprofit’s most valuable asset, bringing the organization better exposure to key decision makers, access to increased community support, and more effective, sustainable leadership. If you want to learn more about how I help nonprofits transform their board, take a look at my Board Development Consulting Service, or if you’d like to schedule a time to talk further about how I can help your board, send me an email.
Photo Credit: Ashley Dace
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