People are joining boards today for many reasons both personally & professionally, however board volunteers today are staying with their organizations for shorter periods of time- why? Some factors concerning the effectiveness and synergy of a nonprofit board include; time, connection to others, and feeling appreciated. Most boards meet monthly for an hour usually at lunch (some only meet quarterly) and this really is not an ideal amount of time to develop the relationships needed to build a proactive and excited group of volunteers. With such a limited amount of time together how can organizations cultivate their governing bodies into cohesive fundraising and governance machines? Some answers can be found in the way you welcome a new board member to your team and the type of atmosphere you create in the board room.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” ~ Jim Rohn
The first board meeting for every new member is critical in setting the tone for the rest of their time with the organization. A first impression happens only once; leave one that will be positive and memorable so board member enthusiasm builds from day one. Meetings need to be dynamic and stimulating to encourage an environment where personal connections can be made. Here are some ideas to proactively engage board members in a meeting setting:
- Take a social media “FIVE.” Have all your board members “like” your organization on Facebook and promote something on their social media sites about the organization (ie. upcoming event, fund drive, or positive news). (new idea- just came up with it)
- When you bring a new board member into the organization send out a press release and make their involvement news worthy. Show excitement about their arrival!
- List hobbies when passing out member contact information to your board, it helps create a connection and establishes some common ground. (my favorite)
- Start board meetings sharing celebrations of what’s going on in member’s personal, professional, or volunteer lives.
- Assign board mentors to new members for the first 3-6 months. Mentors can help new members feel comfortable in understanding their new role.
- Insist on holding board meetings at your facility or place where populations are being served. An administrative office or executive conference room are nice, but reminding board members of your work helps keep them focused and mission driven. (my second favorite)
- Collaborative team building! Board retreats should be productive, but always have a fun element involved to keep spirits and energy up.
- Encourage board members to attend conferences and workshops to learn more about your NPO’s particular field, similar service organizations, and the direct services you provide. (Bring these brochures and flyers to board meetings to show off)
I think when you have short falls in fundraising, inconsistent branding, and lack of awareness for your organization’s services you have to look at your board first. Getting board members operating on all cylinders is crucial when implementing change into your organization’s leadership culture. Creating a board culture that fosters connection can create an environment where contribution can equal success.
Just as staff need professional development and opportunities to learn and have fellowship– so do boards!
I enjoy searching for new ways to get and then keep a Board of Directors engaged, interested, and active. Nonprofit organizations have to compete with the distractions of everyday life that keep our most influential stakeholders busy at every turn. Great board members are always supporting and promoting an organization’s mission wherever they go, so provide them with the right tools to make this simple, fun and easy.
Here are 10 suggestions to actively engage your board, create excitement, and get them working for you:
- Provide board members with logo wear to promote your cause at their workplace and in the community (this is a great conversation starter)
- Provide stewardship gifts that show off your organization, an event or the populations you serve (i.e.: picture frame with engraving or art work)
- Encourage them to have meetings at your facility so they can share their charitable focus with others. (my personal favorite)
- Distribute a one minute video of your organization for them to include on their business website or personal social media.
- Place board members photos on your website with links to their business
- 140 characters! Promote great work on twitter, always include a link back to a board member’s website. (People like brands who are socially conscious, support them as much as they are supporting you).
- Create a board member of the month award that is determined by volunteer engagement (not donations). Time is a board member’s most important resource, value it and show your appreciation.
- Create friendly competition amongst committees, purchase and old pawn shop trophy to award a winner every meeting to the committee most active that month. Not every board member is active 365 days a year and there are some months when people really step-up, make sure they get recognized.
- Get a nice group photo of your board taken. We all keep our old school, athletic teams, and social organization group photos- why not our board? You get to know someone better and interact with them easier if you see their face more often.
- Make an exiting board president feel appreciated for their contributions. A thank you video placed on your website is a great way to make a thank you more impactful.
These are just some ways to help kick-start board engagement and almost all of them can be implemented by staff before a board even knows what hit them. Recognition is still the best way to show appreciation for commitment to an organization. Rewarding board members does not have to cost much, remember you are trying to be a good steward of donor dollars, it just has to show how you genuinely value their contribution.
“Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” ~ Jim Rohn
To create change, movement has to happen somewhere, but most agree that place it at the top. Boards have such important roles in our organizations pertaining to raising awareness, funding, and overall governance. Board members value their time and want to get as much from their volunteer service as possible, so putting the right policies in place can ensure they have a great board member experience- AND that you have an engaged Board!
We are entering into a time of great change concerning nonprofit leadership, but are CEOs/EDs and boards preparing for the executive exodus that is sure to come over the next couple of years. Both retention of administrative staff and succession of leadership, I believe, are two sides of the same coin. I think the debate starts with two questions:
- If a succession plan were in place and professional development made available would retention be so high in the nonprofit sector?
- Keeping in mind the priorities of different generational groups- How can nonprofits prepare for the next wave of leadership coming in (or moving up) to run them?
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now” - Alan Lakein
At its very best, succession planning can provide organizations with a blueprint for sustainability that will help them develop and grow far into the future. A large number of Baby Boomer nonprofit executives are reaching retirement age, guaranteeing that “change” will impact our community organizations whether boards or stakeholders are ready or not. Managing succession proactively will do more than calm donors, volunteers, and operational staff; it will allow a nonprofit to seamlessly continue serving populations in need.
Daring to Lead 2006, a publication of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Meyer Foundation, surveyed 1,900 nonprofit leaders and found that 75% planned on leaving their positions within the next five years.
The ideal practice is for a board, in partnership with the ED, to see succession planning as an essential governance responsibility related to its duty to provide for staff leadership. By cooperatively sharing the planning responsibilities an organization can map out how an executive transition can take place more efficiently and effectively. Some key components in preparing for nonprofit leadership succession include:
- Identify the critical leadership and management functions of the ED
- Board leadership takes responsibility for setting up a mutually agreeable departure date
- Address professional barriers associated with the departing ED, including, community acknowledgement of organizational change, donor concerns and insecurities, unfinished business/projects in the current job.
- Create a succession planning committee to provide oversight and to craft strategies/work plans for the board to review, ratify, and implement.
- Agree upon which functions should be covered by an interim director, limitations of their authority, and which functions a secondary manager should cover (resource development, internal operations, or programs/services).
Professional development is consistently mentioned as the area where many nonprofit personnel feel their organizations do not adequately provide or encourage. Retention in the nonprofit field is high already and many at the administrative level would rather change positions to take over a new organization rather than wait for leadership to step down at their current one. This trend leaves many nonprofits in an emergency state when an ED/CEO decides to call it quits. Often placing a board member into an interim role they do not want and existing management staff unprepared to take over. In a down economy professional development opportunities are usually some of the first line items cut from a budget. So how can nonprofits prepare current employees to become future leaders while at the same time plan for transitioning power within the organization, here are some ideas:
- Develop a cross-training plan for the identified back-ups that ensures they develop their abilities to carry on the ED’s key functions
- Encourage managers/directors/program staff to take advantage of professional development opportunities
- Include management team members in board meetings and make organizational decisions transparent
- Create a system of broadening relationships with grant makers and key donors to include key management staff
The generational groups following the Baby Boomers are very public in stating a preference for less hierarchy in an organization and for leadership structures to be more collaborative. They also say they will demand a better work/life balance, due in part to high levels of personal sacrifice and burnout they see in current executives. Organizations preparing for succession need to be aware that Generation X’ers and Millennials expect the latest electronic technologies to be available as a means to efficiency and productivity. If transitioning organizations cannot become flexible enough to change with this generational dynamic, younger leaders will bypass them for ones that will acknowledge their needs.
Although succession planning may be a difficult subject for an ED, staff, and board to face, experience suggests that it can turn an executive’s exit from a difficult challenge into an occasion for organizational growth and viability.
For some great information about nonprofit succession planning visit the Foundation Center at Foundationcenter.org
This article first appeared as a guest post on the #fundchat blog (http://www.fundchat.org). #Fundchat is a weekly conversation on Twitter where experts share, advise, and even consult on topics related to nonprofit fundraising and marketing. Follow the hashtag (#fundchat!) during 12 – 1 pm EDT to see the conversation in action.
I have worked in nonprofit and education my entire career and I have noticed that fundraising professionals are spending a limited amount of time with organizations, between 18 months to 2.5 years, and how this occupational trend has started to get some real attention. It may have something to do with the amount of choices available, just look at any nonprofit job site and you will find an abundance of fundraising positions in high demand with good pay and benefits, but I really don’t see this as being the reason for the short stay. So why are development personnel leaving so frequently and often unhappy with the organization and their work performance? Here are five reasons I have found in my research for why fundraisers are so dissatisfied with their leadership and responsibilities:
- Organizational leadership (Board & ED/CEO) does not really understand fundraising strategy
- Leadership does not participate in the development process (uncomfortable asking for money)
- Goals are unreasonable and expectations are usually given concerning “immediate needs”
- Responsibilities are delegated to a few, but only one is accountable for meeting outcomes
- Leadership shows unwillingness to new ideas or any deviation of an old fundraising model
Now let’s detail some ways in which nonprofit leadership can help create an environment where success and “happiness” are felt throughout the organization based on experimentation from former Harvard professor Shawn Achor and his 10 years of research studying happiness through positive psychology. Here are five ways leaders can positively influence their teams to be successful and more importantly be happy in their work:
- Recruit Positive People: Too much emphasis is placed on number of years worked in a profession and scholastic intelligence than on three more important factors for predicting success; belief that your behavior matters, management of your stress and the attitude/view of your circumstances, and your social support network (law of associations).
- Be Positive Yourself: This will create a ripple effort amongst your team members and flow throughout the company.
- Recognizing Others: Just by raising the frequency of your recognition and encouragement you can make a profound impact on the happiness and success of your team. By starting every morning with a positive email to someone in your organization or team will create a noticeable difference in attitudes even during stressful situations.
- Prioritizing Happiness: Usually means the amount of time spent with family and friends, our support system, and interacting with people face to face. When we become stressed we divest our time from these groups and become more isolated which feeds into our stress. When things get tough as leaders we need to encourage more face to face, know when to get the team together for a time out, and find ways to interject happiness into the work day.
- Praise the Process: Praise should not be just given based solely on an outcome, but in fundraising this is usually the case. Leaders must praise the process leading up to an outcome (especially if they know a tremendous amount of work and effort is being done). By praising the process leaders are validating a job well done and not an outcome that may not be avoidable.
“Every time we have a success we merely change or move the goal post of what success looks like and our brain never reaches the happiness we were looking for.” – Shawn Achor
I think fundraisers see the problem with the quote above in how it relates to our world. Fundraising by its nature places much of its praise on successful outcomes and almost never on the process, yet so much work goes into writing grants, major gift solicitations, and special events. Mr. Achor is saying that organizations can have greater success and reach operational goals if they simply validate and praise their employees throughout the process and maintain a positive outlook themselves.
The “happiness movement” is nothing new, over the last few of years many successful corporations have been giving out their secrets for maintaining a happy work environment. Companies like Google, Apple, Patagonia and most recently Zappos have all shared how they prioritize their employees happiness and how this has made for successful customer service experiences and reaching revenue goals. The next logical step for nonprofit organizations and higher education is to adopt this philosophy to retain and develop successful and happy fundraising professionals.
Sounds like a good idea to me, what do you think?
Book Recommendations: CEO & Founder of Good Think Inc. Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
There are several things to take into consideration when planning for a capital campaign. Constructing a new facility is a difficult task for any organization, it goes without saying that major donors and Board members should be in full support. However, it is outside the organization where the success of a capital campaign will be determined. Planning for success requires interviewing key community stakeholders, I recommend a targeted group between of 40-60 people, depending on size and scope of the project. This interview process will provide the information needed to decide whether or not an organization is ready. Being financially strong does not always insure a successful campaign, other factors come into play when physically growing an organization.
All capital campaigns requires an organization to leverage its strengths and overcome some challenges. The most common obstacles for a capital campaign include; donor education and giving potential, organizational leadership, internal readiness, economic climate and timing, and community support. A feasibility planning study will detail any challenges and positives of an organization through the remarks of the targeted interviews. If there is a “no go” determination of a capital project, the planning study should make recommendations to the organization on how to improve their “case for support” and identify the areas where improvement is needed.
A well researched feasibility planning study seeks to determine the organization’s readiness to conduct the capital campaign and the communities receptiveness for such an effort. Primary goals of a feasibility planning study should include:
- To evaluate the public’s perception of the need for such a project
- To establish an achievable goal for the project based on the responses to the study, the community’s perceived need, and the economic climate of the community
- To establish a baseline of the community’s image of the organization and it’s leadership
- To gather as much information as possible concerning the communities identification of its leadership (Executive & Board leadership)
- To determine the campaign’s chances for success
- To determines the public’s awareness of the project
- To determine what corporations, businesses, and philanthropic individuals necessary to support the campaign
Two important conclusions of a feasibility study are identifying the outstanding community leaders from outside the Board of Directors to be included on the capital campaign steering committee and which leading philanthropist in the area will the organization be successful in securing a leadership gift from. No matter what target amount is determined through the study if these two pieces are missing there is little chance an organization will reach its campaign goal.
A comprehensive marketing and public relations plan should be put into place using the results of the feasibility planning study that reflect specific goals and objectives of the organization. Organizational leadership will determine the methods used to measure success at the outset and be included in the campaign action plan. Educating the public and working with community groups is essential in the beginning of any campaign to rally support for addressing “the need” of a new facility and expanded services.
When it is all said and done the kind of fundraising an organization takes on is not the most important key to success- people are. People deeply committed to the organization and who will work enthusiastically on its behalf and whole heartedly believe in its impact on their community.