On May 30th, Jay Love and Sandy Rees spent an hour answering questions live about donor communications and donor engagement. The webinar participants asked some intriguing questions, and we’d like to share some of Jay and Sandy’s answers with you.
One participant asked about getting buy-in from board members:
Question: We want to make a decision on purchasing fundraising software, but are having trouble getting buy-in from our board. Do you have any tips?
Sandy: I think that the important thing to do is to talk about why you need it and the benefits. How it’s either going to save you time, save you money, help you deepen relationships or bring some other resource to the table.
I bet Jay, you’re in the same situation that I’m in. I have been the staff person, I have been the board member and I have been a consultant, so I have seen this from all three sides.
As a board member, I can tell you that I’m all about investing in the capacity of the organization. When our staff comes to the board table and they say, “Look, we need to buy this new software, here’s what it’s going to do for us, here’s why we need it and here’s what’s it’s going to cost.” That helps me make a good decision.
I think what could be going on for her, if you have board members who either don’t understand their role or they’re really scared and they’re just afraid to spend money because maybe they don’t want something bad happening on their watch. Then you really have got to take that into consideration and you got to show them how the decision is really going to help move that organization forward in a big way. That there’s going to be a return on investment of spending that money.
Jay: I think is just a matter of understanding. Through and through the board members are there because they care. Hopefully nobody’s got their arm twisted to be there under any sort duress.
If you take that care factor and multiply it out, it’s just a matter of presenting the case as Sandy was saying and doing that. If it’s something big though, I’m a huge believer of trying to be one-on-one with some of the board members in the weeks leading up to the board meeting or up to the online discussion or for the conference telephone call. If you can have an individual phone call or a face-to-face meeting and just discuss that particular item that they need to get buy-in on and let people ask questions on a one-on-one basis. If you can do that with what you think are the most influential people on the board before the meeting itself, that sometimes really paves the way for a successful meeting for that.
It’s also in some cases lead to something being tabled. You talk it over with a couple of key long term board members and those people have some very good questions that you’re not ready to answer or you don’t have good answers for, or it makes you pause and makes you think, “Well, maybe it’s not a good thing.” Then you may not even end up bringing it up in front of the entire board or in front of the entire executive committee, you vet it out enough to realize that maybe you’re not ready for that right now.
Sandy: I think that’s absolutely brilliant, to go ahead and talk to one board member first and get them on board sort of as a champion. If there is somebody on that board table who will speak up and say, “This is a good idea and here’s why think so.” I think they’re more board members who are likely to listen to that.
Jay: I had a situation happen that actually enticed a couple of questions together. One of the boards had the good fortune and privilege of being on, was trying to decide if they should invest more, ironically, their direct mail program. The Director of Development got myself and one other board member, we have the privilege of being the ones that have been there the longest number of terms and time period. We all went to lunch and discussed that, and asked a lot of good key questions. This person decided to do some more research and come back not to the next board meeting, but the meeting after that and had a very successful outcome at that point in time then.
You can listen to a replay of the entire Q&A session here.
Be sure to sign up for one of our next webinars here.