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How to get your board to start fundraising-starting tonight!

22 July 2016

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 July 22, 2016
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board member making phonecall

Here’s part four of our interview with Andy Robinson (30 year veteran of board trainings)-in this section he talks about how to help every single board member fundraise for you. He is going to be speaking about creating more effective board at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit on September 27-29, 2016.

MT: What are you going to be teaching at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit?

Andy RobinsonAR: I’ll be leading a webinar on basic board development skills. So there will be things like how do you identify who you need to add to the board, sort of doing a gap analysis to figure out what’s lacking from your board that you’re trying to fill. We’ll talk about board job descriptions. We’ll talk about board staff relations and how to sort out what is board work and what is staff work. We will talk about how to make meetings more effective. There will be content on boards and fundraising and how to help your board members engage in fundraising more effectively.

MT: So we’ll be talking a little bit about the board fundraising, as you’ve said, and that’s obviously an area I’m very interested in. But as you said, it doesn’t necessarily have to be there. It’s just nice to have.

AR: Well, I mean, we could do a whole training on board fundraising, and I have to tell you, of all the workshops I do, it is the most popular one is how do I get my board to raise money? So that challenge is sort of never ending. But there is a larger question here, which is who do we want on our board? What do we want from our board? How do we support our board in being more effective? And fundraising is one piece of that, but certainly it’s not the only piece of that.

MT: Who should attend your session?

AR: I think the who is certainly board members, staff who work with board members, volunteers who are involved in organizations of any type. I mean, this is not just for board members. It’s for anyone who engages with boards in any way or is supporting boards. Certainly consultants and trainers are always welcome.

MT: Why should people attend your session?

AR: Why people should attend is I’ve got a real specific toolbox that you can use with a board, and I’ll be rolling out these tools and showing you how to use them. So there are things like what’s a good template for a meeting agenda? And what’s a useful matrix for thinking about recruiting board members? Specific things that you can take home, presumably, and use right away after the session.

Join us for the Nonprofit Leadership Summit!

MT: Excellent. So this is a little bit of a leading question, but I mean, have you seen better board strategy with nonprofit fundraising programs out of the doldrums?

AR: Yeah, sure.

MT: Really?

AR: Oh, yeah. There’s sort of two answers to this. I do a lot of one-offs. I get called in to do a board retreat, and I get a half a day or a full day with the board. Maybe we’re working on fundraising or something else, and those are useful. I’m glad to do them. They are seldom transformative in the sense that some outside person like me comes in and waves the magic wand and everybody is converted to fundraisers. It would be great if it worked that way. It doesn’t work that way. So where this is more effective is if there’s ongoing training, ongoing coaching, ongoing practice. Having that initial training session as a refresher, totally good idea. But you mentioned our book. Andrea Kihlstedt and I did a book called Train Your Board and Everyone Else to Raise Money. There’s 50 plus training exercises in there that laypeople, non trainers, non facilitators, can do with each other as staff, as board, as whomever. The idea here is that maybe you could do a little mini training at every board meeting, or you could take 15 minutes every quarter and do an exercise and then try and use that to improve your fundraising. So the short answer to your question is, if there are regular chances for people to work on their skill set, practice what they’ve learned, use it with donors. Yeah, it works.

We should also say that part of the job is redefining the word fundraising. The part where we ask for the money, which is the scary part of fundraising, is maybe 15% of the work. The other 85% is the stuff that happens before we ask and after we ask. So when a board member says to me, I don’t want to ask anybody for money, my response is, ‘Terrific. Let’s talk about the 25 other things you can do to help with fundraising that are not about asking for money.’ My bias here is that everyone is a fundraiser. I don’t believe that everyone is a solicitor, everyone is an asker. I do believe that everyone can help.

So a lot of what we have to do to get our boards motivated around fundraising is to redefine the word and help people to understand that asking for money is ultimately really important. But it’s not the only work in fundraising.

MT: I’m glad that you say that, because that’s actually what Gail Perry says as well in her book, Fired Up Fundraising. She has this big pie chart and maybe like, as you said 15% of that giant pie is fundraising. The rest of it is cultivation and thanking and being an ambassador. There’s so many other things we can do that lead to the gift without actually having to ask for the gift.

AR: Yeah, amen. I know of organizations where they have a policy and everybody brings their cell phone to the board meeting, and before they start to the board meeting everybody gets three names. They call the three names. These are donors, and they call them just to say thank you. Leaving a voicemail is fabulous.

(Have board members call and say this) But they say:

“Hi, I’m Andy Robinson. I’m calling tonight as a volunteer board member of blah blah blah organization, and we’re doing thank you calls, and you have been so generous. So I just want to say thank you. I trust you got the official thank you letter from the office. I just want to add my personal thanks. So we appreciate your support. Have a good evening.”

MT: Perfect.

AR: If you get every board member to take five minutes at the beginning of the meeting and make a few calls to donors and just say thank you, well, that’s fundraising too. That’s a great example of how you shift the culture of fundraising within your organization.

MT: Yeah, that happened to me a few years ago when I had given a paltry donation to a nonprofit in Texas that was helping women have abortion rights. I really believe in that cause, and what happened was a board member, who sounded very nervous, by the way, and very unsure of herself, called me and said thank you for my gift, and asked if I would like to double my gift to $40 instead of $20. I was so touched that a board member reached out to me, even though I knew the technique. I was like, yeah, I’ll give you more money. Sure. I’m putting the check in the mail right now, and I did. That happens.

AR: Thank you for giving. But I would also say it’s okay for a board member to call and not ask, and just simply say thank you. That’s okay too, because there are times when we want to be in contact with our donors that are not about asking them for money. At some point, people start feeling like ATM machines and we have to be careful to make our donors feel like people and not just wallets.

MT: Yeah. That’s something I experienced recently. This street fundraiser droned on and on to me about the cause instead of asking me about what I cared about, and how I just walked away after a little while because I was sick of not having any interaction or interchange there.

AR: This is a whole other webinar topic. But the great skill in fundraising is listening. It’s not talking.

MT: Exactly.

AR: As fundraisers, we need to be better listeners instead of always pitching. So I think the work is to get people to talk about themselves and ask them good question. Anyway, bit of a digression because I know we’re talking here about board development.

Here’s the final part of this interview-when we talk about how executive directors and boards can have a better relationship. Why your board is not motivated and what you can do about it.

Join us for the Nonprofit Leadership Summit!

Here’s part one of the interview 2 things that make your board members work harder for you,

and Part Two, Get more out of your board meeting with this ONE idea.

Here’s Part three of our interview with Andy-2 exercises to do at your next board meeting to help your nonprofit grow

Here’s part 5 of our interview series: Why your board is not motivated and what you can do about it.

If you’d like to learn more from Andy about how to build a better board, please join us at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, September 27-29, 2016. All recordings will be available for every registrant. Learn more here.

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