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Recent Posts

Board Chairs: Fire-Up Your Board with a Call to Action!

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It's wonderful to see a board chair assume rightful leadership and challenge her board members to action. Here's a brilliant example of excellent leadership from a nonprofit board chair. Call to Action!I'm on the board of our local AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) chapter here in North Carolina's Research Triangle. (If you don't know about AFP, you need to join! Our wonderful board chair, Eli Jordfald, took on a personal priority this year - to reinvent our annual "National Philanthropy Day" celebration in November. If this "reinvention" was going to happen, Eli needed every single one of us board members to commit to a part in making this successful. With only a part-time staff person, we rely on our board volunteers to make it happen. So if we didn't pull through, then we wouldn't even have an event. Eli send out an email last week with the subject line: "Call to Action." Take a look at this professional and very specific note to her board members. She was not necessarily "asking for help." Instead it was "rallying the troops." How long has it been since you issued a Call to Action to your board, your staff or your volunteers? These words alone get immediate attention.

Top Tip to Maintain your Nonprofit Board's Momentum and Motivation

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A question I am frequently asked is, "Once I get my board fired-up, then how on earth do I keep my board members motivated and enthusiastic? Whenever the board members gather together, we get excited and energized about our work. But my board members frequently get distracted with other priorities. What to do?" The first thing you must do is take responsibility for keeping your board energized. If you are the nonprofit CEO, do everything you can to keep them going. AND if you are the chair of the board, also, do everything YOU can to fan the flames of your board members' energy. The most important thing is to take responsibility and don't expect that someone else will assume this role. Do you know the saying, "If it's to be, it's up to me?" Well, here's the perfect place to implement that idea. If your board is gonna stay excited, motivated and energized, it won't happen without YOU taking the lead. You can't expect your busy board members to keep focused and energized on their own. If you leave it up to them, you just may be disappointed. This is "Volunteer Management 101" - and the number one job of managing volunteers is motivating them. Here is a real life best practice example from a board I am currently serving on. This is from the CEO of Lillian's List, a political action group on whose board I serve. Our CEO, Carol Teal, is just about the best nonprofit CEO I've ever had the pleasure of working with.

We're in the Dream Business

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Do you ever consider what we fundraising folks are really up to when we appeal to our donors? Is it hype? Is it promises that we will keep? Is it mission, vision and values? Is it changing the world? Last month at the Bridge Fundraising Conference in DC, I kept hearing a theme echoing through many of the presentations I attended. MLK“We are in the dream business.” It really means that we are selling a happy dream of the future. Of a better world. A better community. People being helped. Smiles. Comfort. Happiness. But in our appeals for help, we forget this all too often. Instead we focus on problems, what's wrong, what we will do to fix things. But the most successful approach - whether you are doing fundraising, sales, bringing together groups of people for a common purpose, teamwork - whenever leadership and inspriation are required - is to picture your dream for the future. Think Martin Luther King, one of the greatest inspirational leaders - and orators - of recent times. His "I have a dream speech" is a spectacular example of inspired dreaming. The dream is so powerful that it's like a great river sweeping everyone up in its path, surging inevitably downstream to a much happier future. When we paint a picture of our dream for happy students, healthy children, cared-for elderly, majestic symphonies, clean sparkling water - whatever we are raising money for - we also capture the power of that mighty river of energy sweeping everyone together. When I work with boards, we talk about dreaming. I tell them they should always be standing high on the hill sharing their vision of a happier world with everyone they know. When they are standing on that hill, solid in their dream, focused on the future, they are more powerful than they can imagine. When you, your board members and your volunteers take a firm stand on the mountain, that's when you have the energy and the power to change the world. That's when nothing can stop you.

The Number One Way to Get Your Board Members to Follow Through

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iStock_000006450448XSmallSo many nonprofit board members are enthusiastic and well-meaning but too often they back out of their commitments. Bet you have run into this problem! And I have been on the other side too, as a board member. In the heat of an exciting discussion, I suddenly found myself making personal commitments. Then later, in my office, I thought better of those ideas and was not so very enthusiastic about them. In nonprofit organizations, it's hard working with volunteers, who actually don't HAVE to do anything anyway. You simply can't MAKE volunteers work. That's why I always say that we are in the motivation business. You have to be able to motivate and charge up your board members and volunteers if you want them to be productive. It's a rare nonprofit volunteer who can keep herself fully pumped up with excitement and enthusaism all the time! Here's my secret weapon in motivating my volunteer committees. And it's an old standby of teamwork and leadership theory: PEER PRESSURE. Here's the most important thing to know about board members: they never, repeat, never want to look bad in front of their peers.

After You've Asked for the Gift, What Next?

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So you've popped the question to your donor. You've said "We were hoping that you would consider a gift of $XXX to make something wonderful happen."

The Moment of Truth Now, what's next? Did you know that the next person who speaks loses? You've got to allow your donor plenty of time to think it over. The donor is mulling, mulling, not saying anything. And there you sit! Nervous - and as jumpy - as a frog in a frying pan. I know, the urge to start babbling is strong, mighty strong! But KEEP YOUR COOL! The donor may take as long as a full minute to think this over. He or she is considering lots of issues: can I make this gift?' do I really want to make this contribution?; if I donate money to this cause, will they spend it wisely?; what is my cash flow?; can I sell some stock?; can I ask other family members to go in with me?; what's the timing of all this; do I really believe in this project?

Boards gone wild!

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I am teaching today in Greensboro, NC at the AFP CFRE Review Course and the AFP First Course in Fundraising. As usual, they have me talking about managing and motivating volunteers and board members. In my last class, we had such a laugh over "Boards Gone Wild." What do I mean? A Board Gone Wild is a well-meaning group of volunteers who gallop off in the wrong direction. It's the wrong direction because the plan or project they are espousing is not well-planned, not well-thought out, has unintended negative consequences, and cannot be pulled off with the current staff and human resources on hand.