PREMIUM ARTICLE SAMPLE - Help! My board won’t raise money, part 2

This article concludes a series of Premium articles  that ran in June and July 2011 issues of Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy, the core publication of Hilborn's Premium Leadership Service. The tips come from Kevin Strickland, president of the Not for Profit Group.

How do I help directors cope with their fear of rejection when asking for gifts?

Face the possibility head-on, says Strickland. Prepare your board members for the most common excuses and objections by giving them scripted responses for each.

And don't set them up for failure by expecting them to ask strangers for support over the phone. "The best use of the telephone is for gaining a face-to-face appointment, not for asking someone to give," he advises.

How do we set high fundraising expectations for new members when current board members aren't pulling their weight?

Strickland advocates early education about the role you expect board members to play. "Remember," he notes, "you cannot set expectations for someone unless you have a clear, defined, written development process." With something on paper, it's much easier to define their role clearly.

How do we motivate and inspire our current board members to participate actively in development?

Here, Strickland says, you need to be very clear about what you mean. Inspiration isn't the same thing as motivation.

Inspiration is short-lived - like signing up for an exercise program or taking on a New Year's resolution. That excitement is good, but it doesn't get the work done.

Motivation, on the other hand, gets the job done. Your board members need to understand where they are to go and how to get there. According to Strickland, it all comes back to defining the fundraising role for your directors, directing them clearly, giving them immediate feedback and recognizing their performance.

What if our board members claim they have limited spheres of influence?

Strickland believes that often your directors will know more people than they realize (or perhaps more than they feel like sharing with you). Is their claim just a smoke screen, he wonders, to avoid fundraising responsibilities in the first place? Here's how he would test that.

"Explain to the board that to ‘jump-start the development process,' you are requesting they assist in helping identify those in the community who might be interested in assisting the organization," he counsels.

First, ask them to list the characteristics of people who would want to support the organization. Then ask each director to list as many people as they can who match that profile. Tell them you want at least ten names each, including people they know. Both you and your directors may be surprised at how long that list becomes.

But if you don't generate a suitable list - if your directors really are limited in their networks, then together you have to assess the role of board members. Provided you stand ready to provide the skills training, the only remaining problem is the board's inability or unwillingness to contribute meaningfully to fund development. It's time for a candid discussion about what that means for the current membership of the board and for the well-being of the organization.

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