Frustrated with board members saying that they’ll help – only to see nothing happen? Tired of fundraising being an afterthought at board meetings? Waiting for the day when others will be as excited about fundraising as you once were?

Kirsten Bullock, CFRE, MBA recently joined us for a webinar in which she explored what you’ll need to know to build a collaborative approach to engaging your board in fundraising within your organization – regardless of what your official role is.

In case you missed it, you can watch the full replay here:

Full Transcript:

Steven: Kirsten, my watch says 1:00, do you want to go ahead and get started?

Kirsten: Sure, sounds great.

Steven: All right, great. Good afternoon everyone, if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s webinar, From Resistant to Resourceful: A Collaborative Approach to Engaging Your Board in Fundraising. My name is Steven Shattuck, I’m the VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang. I’ll be moderating today’s little discussion.

Before we begin, just a few housekeeping things. I wanted to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation and I’ll be making that recording as well as the slides available to everyone a little later on this afternoon, so look for an email from my probably around 3:00 or 4:00 Eastern time a little later on, you’ll be able to watch the webinar, share it with coworkers and just kind of relive the presentation if you wanted to review the content. So look for that a little bit later on.

I also want everyone to know that we do have a chat box here on the webinar screen. As our guest is presenting, feel free to send any questions or comments our way. We’ll both see those and we’ll be able to answer some questions formally during a Q&A session towards the end of the presentation. We like to save maybe 10 or 15 minutes towards the end. Don’t be shy about sending any questions or comments. We’ll try to get to just as many as we can.

Just in case you’re new to these webinars, if this is your first one, welcome. We do do these webinars once a week here at Bloomerang. In addition to that, Bloomerang, the actual company, we make donor database software, so if you’re interested in donor management, maybe switching providers or creating a new provider for yourself, do check us out. You can go to our website to learn more about Bloomerang, in addition to all the great content that we put out like these webinars. I want to introduce today’s guest. She is Kirsten Bullock, CFRE, MBA. Hey there Kirsten, how’s it going?

Kirsten: Hi, good. How are you going today?

Steven: Good. Thanks for being here again. Kirsten did an awesome webinar for us last year, so I just had to have her back. For those of you who don’t know her, she’s an author, she’s a trainer, she’s a consultant, she works with leaders of nonprofit organizations, she helps boards become more engaged and help them raise the money that they need to further their mission. She actually earned her designation as a CFRE in 2002 and she’s been working since 1995 with health care organizations, social service providers, national and local ministries, and international membership association.

She’s also on the board of AFP in Greater Louisville, and she’s an AFP master trainer. She’s also the author of some books, one of them is “Simple Steps to Growing Your Donors.” And she’s a contributing author to the Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits. So it’s just awesome to have Kirsten, this is going to be great content. I’m really excited about all this. I don’t want to take anything more away from her, so why don’t you go ahead and get us started, Kirsten?

Kirsten: Okay, will do. Thanks so much for you kind introduction. I’m really excited to be here, lots of information to share. But before I get into too much detail, I want to go back in time to the first time I got to work with a board. It was I guess right about 1998, 1999. I had just started as the sixth development director in six years for a health care organization. They had been going through quite a few different people. So I started, I was pretty young at the time, didn’t know a whole bunch about boards, didn’t know a whole bunch about being a development director. It was my first time in that role, so it was really trial by fire in a lot of ways. But working with a board is one of the parts that I really loved, that I really enjoyed because people there were passionate about the organization, they were excited about what was going on, but sometimes when I came to fundraising all of a sudden their heels would skid in and things would screech to a halt, at least that’s what it felt like.

Over an 18 month period we were able to work with them, listen to what they were saying, really help engage them in ways that felt comfortable for them, and it’s been really exciting over the last several years to be able to use that same approach with a lot of different organizations. So that’s a lot of what has informed my presentation today. It’s not just things I’ve read in a book. These are really things that I’ve implemented, used with clients, used with employers to help engage boards in the fundraising process.

What we’re going to cover today, we’re going to talk really quickly about what a collaborative approach is, about team members and roles, and then really dive into the knowledge base, five different key pieces of knowledge that we need in order to be successful with this, and then a seven step process that I’ve put together that helps incorporate that knowledge base. A lot of information to share on that.

The collaborative approach, basically its people working together, right? Everybody jumping in, doing what they can and really working together. This collaborative piece is really important when working with boards because a lot of times we see it as a battle of the wits. We’re getting people to do something that maybe they’re not interested in, but if we really sit down and listen to what their fears are, what their resistance is, a lot of times we can break through that. So looking at is as a collaborative process with everybody doing a piece of the pie, a piece of the puzzle so it all comes together and works effectively.

There are a lot of reasons for this. One, it’s more fun when there are more people involved certainly. Another is that I really do believe we’re better together. If we have seven different approaches, seven different ideas at the table, we’re going to be able to come up with a strategy that’s a lot stronger than anything that any single one of us could come up with. So by having that group processes, group dynamics, different strengths, different ideas, we’re going to come up with something that’s really powerful and helpful for us. I think this is really the first step, to really see everything as a collaborative process, any of this as trying to manipulate somebody into doing something that they’re not comfortable with. It’s really figuring out the best role for each person to play.

Speaking of different roles that people play, there are basically three different groups, and then two individual people who are mostly part of the process. We’ve got board members. The board members’ role is to be advocates out in the community, to probably raise money in some way or to at least be involved in that process. They’re the link between the organization and people out in the community. And of course there’s also the fiscal oversight, the governance role among other things they have to do. But they also have a life that’s outside of the organization. They’ve got a full time job, they’ve got a lot of things going on, so we need to make the most of the time that we have available from them.

Staff members, that’s our development staff, that’s also program staff, it’s also people in other areas, and a lot of times program staff will help provide stories because we need those stories to be able to raise money. They will help interface with volunteers. So there are a lot of things that they’re involved with in the fundraising process as well as things outside. It’s also marketing people, if that’s in a different department. They have a piece of the fundraising puzzle.

Donors of course are partners in the mission of the organization because without the money we can’t do what we do. If we don’t have money for payroll we can’t have program staff providing programs. If we don’t have money for what we do, for reaching out into the community, then we just need involve our partners in that. So seeing them as partners in the process.

And then at the middle, the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Development Officer, whatever title that person has in your organization, they’re at the center of the piece. We will be talking really soon about having volunteers as part of the fundraising process because the board and probably also, hopefully, a committee of volunteers who may or may not be on the board, so you can expand that beyond your board. But definitely volunteers and board members are usually key to getting that volunteer involvement.

I just wanted to cover that quickly before we really jump into the meat of what we’re going to talk about. Here are the five different bases of knowledge that I found that are essential in getting things moving as it relates to fundraising. Understanding the whole change management process, because anytime we introduce something new there’s going to be a resistance to it, just because it’s new, just because it’s a change. If we can understand some of the psychology behind how people respond to change we can be effective at implementing that change in our organization.

Also understanding communication styles. You’ve probably had the instance, I know I have, where you meet somebody and things just don’t click. There’s something between the two of you that’s not easy, so there’s extra work that needs to be done. A lot of the times that’s because of differing communication styles. I had a development director that I was working with as the assistant development director, and he would always go into sharing stories and these long, I’m adjusting my cord because it was getting static-y. I think that’s better.

He would go on these long, sharing long stories and all these ideas, and I was getting frustrated because I just wanted to get things done. It turns out I was a high D and he was a high I. If you’re familiar with the DISC profile, and I’ll talk about that a little more in a little bit, there was some conflict that was there. Once we recognized those different communication styles we were able to work together a lot more effectively. If we can understand better the communication styles of our board members and those volunteers who are helping with fundraising, we can be a lot more essential. We can be a lot more effective at integrating them into the fundraising process.

Learning theory is the third one, because we each go through a process when we learn a new thing. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not so easy, but by understand the process and again the psychology of what we do when learning something new, we can help coach, because for a lot of our fundraising volunteers, they don’t know much about fundraising. For us who are in it, we’re comfortable with it, we know it. It’s not scary to ask for a gift from somebody, but if we can remember how we responded when we were first learning, I think we can have a better appreciation for what our board members are going through. Providing a lot more support through the process.

Leadership and team-building is also essential. I don’t know if you’re familiar with The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, but that whole process of being a leader, building a strong team, really important in this process. Then of course knowledge about fundraising, because if we’re getting people involved in raising of course we need to have that. But that’s just one of those five key areas.

Let’s see. And then there are seven steps that you can see here, creating a compelling vision, having a simple fundraising plan that you can share with the board, developing the messaging so that the board members can feel comfortable sharing that message out, having a pitch kit or materials that the board can refer to when they’re going out to ask so they feel prepared, they feel like they know what they’re talking about. Getting the board engaged with figuring out how they’re going to be involved in fundraising, having their partnership in that planning process, it ensures their buy-in, really important. Providing the training for our board so they can feel comfortable asking, so they know some of the answers that they might get, and how to respond to those. And of course, really essential, checking in on an on-going basis so board members don’t check out, which often happens if we’re not following up and walking alongside them through that process.

I will say, too, this is a really difficult topic to cover because there are so many different obstacles that can come up when we’re trying to engage boards in fundraising. But by taking into account these five different knowledge bases we can address probably 90, 95% of them, 5 to 10% where this may or may not help. That’s why it’s so hard. Whenever we have people involved, that makes it really difficult.

So a couple key things about change management. First, having buy-in from people is absolutely essential. If we don’t have somebody’s buy-in up front it can be really difficult to get people engaged. The second part of it is to understand that there’s going to be resistance. Anytime we try to change something there’s going to be resistance. A good illustration of what happens through the change process and has given me permission to use this illustration. If you’re interested in learning more about what they do, it’s, a great resource.

Basically when we go through change it’s almost like going through the stages of grief because we’re letting go of something. We’re having to lose something that’s comfortable. Even if it’s not the best thing, it’s what we’re used to. It’s our comfort zone. The comfort zone is a beautiful thing, but nothing good ever happens there. The great stuff happens outside our comfort zone, but in the case of change we need to let go of something to be able to embrace something new. That loss can be really uncomfortable.

Stage two is doubt. It’s a little bit of resentment, some skepticism, resistance to the change. If we continue going through the process it eases a little bit and it goes from resistance to just kind of discomfort. But once we reach that we enter a danger zone. Two things happen during this danger zone. Either we move through it because we have a strong enough vision that everybody’s bought into that we can move through it, or we zoom straight back up to stage one again and have to start the process all over again. The really difficult thing about change is once you’ve gone up, once you’ve hit the danger zone and had to move up to stage one again, each time you come around to that danger zone again it’s going to be really easy to just shoot back up to stage one and not make it through it. It’s like each time you hit the wall it gets stronger somehow, some psychology behind that, I’m sure. It’s really important to recognize that just when we’re thinking that we might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we need to be really careful to not sit back and assume that things are going to go well. This is the time where we really need to be working with our board members, helping them see, remember the big vision, the end goal that we have in mind so that they’ll shoot through that danger zone instead of hitting the wall and having to start back over again.

Taking this into account, anytime we’re trying to do any change in our organizations and especially getting our board members engaged in fundraising, this is something to remember. Of course after the danger zone, enters a phase of discovery. People can see, understand, they start to integrate the change and start moving forward, but that danger zone is that place where we can really go off the rail.

The second knowledge base that we’re going to talk about is communication styles. I mentioned that already. I mentioned the DISC profile. So two main things to remember here, appreciate other people’s strengths, because with each communication style there are strengths and also weaknesses. There’s no good, best communication style. They’re all just different ways that we communicate with each other. The second part of that is helping others save face. We never put somebody else in a situation where they’re going to feel like a failure, by understanding people’s communication styles we can usually better match them to a role in fundraising that’s going to feel comfortable for them.

A quick overview of just communication styles. There’s an axis that goes from active to thoughtful and another one that goes from skeptical to trusting. Within the dominant area folks are very driven, very want to get things done, laying out the tasks and doing them. They’re active in getting a lot of things done, but also skeptical and questioning their, in that area. For influencers, type Is, they tend to tell a lot of stories, they love people, and they see people first and then the tasks are kind of secondary, whereas with high Ds the task is the main thing, and then people are a tool to do the task. An influencer is very active and also very trusting of their environment. S is very steady. Some people have equated this to the Labrador retriever kind of thing, very friendly, want to maintain status quo at all costs, and sometimes that can get in the way of change because they’re much more thoughtful. They want to spend some time thinking about things and getting used to things before changing. Typically because the Ss and Cs are more thoughtful they’ll take a little bit longer to move forward when change starts to happen.

Then high Cs, very detail oriented. I worked with a group of people once who were all, it was a professional association and it was an accounting related field, so very detail oriented. If I was adding up five numbers and for some reason I had the Excel formula wrong and it gave the wrong number they would definitely pick up on that, so very detail oriented, conscientious. And again, just like the high Ds, somewhat skeptical and questioning, but very thoughtful and take a while to think things through. Hopefully you were able to see yourself in one of these communication styles.

Presentation platform, it’s pretty simple. Third area, understanding learning theory. Now, I don’t know how old you were when you learned to ride a bike, but I was kind of late bloomer when it came to that. It took me forever to get rid of my training wheels. I must have been 10 or 11 at least before I learned. There were a lot of skinned knees and elbows and falling off the bike and frustration, but I went ahead and learned it because it was something to know. There are two pieces in this learning theory. One is that as adults it’s really hard to learn something new. We don’t want to look like we don’t know what we’re doing in front of people. So on our boards we have the professionals who are very proficient in their field, they’re good at what they do. They have their comfort level with that, with the things they know how to do. But as adults if we are going through the process of learning something new, that’s scary because we feel like we’re not going to do it very well. And of course we’re not going to do it very well the first time because it takes time to learn it. So if we can understand with our board members that they’re having to learn something new here, and having that patience with them and making sure that we’re with them through the process.

So there are basically four different steps of learning. We go through, when we’re starting to learn something new we start with unconscious incompetence. That means we don’t know what we don’t know. Let’s say we’ve just had a board meeting and we shared about how important it is for everybody to get involved in fundraising, and all the board members are really excited, they’re saying, “Sure, I’ll do this. No problem. This sounds great.” But what they’re at, the stage they’re at at that point is unconscious incompetence. They don’t know what they don’t know.

But then what happens is they go home and start thinking about it and they hit, again, another wall, and they realize, “Oh my goodness, I don’t know this.” They enter the conscious incompetence phase where they realize they have seen what they don’t know, and that can scare them. So what they’re going to do, human nature is we avoid things we’re not comfortable with or we tend to put things off. So pretty much it’s the next board meeting, nothing’s happened, you’re frustrated, they’re kind of embarrassed, but what happened was they hit that wall when they realized they didn’t know what they were doing.

Again, this is a stage where we need to walk with our donors through, or walk with our volunteers through so that they can get through that, recognize what they don’t know, and start learning it, and know that it’s okay if they’re not perfect right off. Sometimes done is imperfect, although perfect is good if we can get there. It’s just not a realistic bar 100% of the time. So helping our board members understand that or other volunteers in fundraising.

Once they get through the conscious incompetence phase they reach conscious competence. That’s where they’re getting pretty good at it. They still have to think about it, it still takes conscious effort to do it well.

Then finally, the fourth phase, unconscious competence, where it just comes as second nature. When our board members get to this point, really great idea to help begin using them as mentors for some of the newer board members, so then you’re not having to do quite as much of the hands on work. You would have people already who’ve been through the process who can help those folks who are newer there.

Fourth is leadership and team building. Again I’ll mention it again, Kouzes and Posner with The Leadership Challenge, great resource. It focuses on five different stages of being a leader, five different things to remember, but the two main things with this, best for the organization. On the surface that seems pretty easy to do, but sometimes we get into meetings and somebody has a different idea and a different way to do things, and we think that our way is the best way, so we might assume that they must not want what’s best for the organization because they don’t want to do it my way. So just remembering, everyone wants and needs will help overcome some of these feelings that you might get and that they might get. So making sure that everybody’s on the same page and focusing on those win-win outcomes. How can we do things that will definitely show that we’re better together?

And the five things that the Leadership Challenge looks at is modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process. Just because something works doesn’t mean there’s not a better way to do it. Sometimes we think if it’s not broken, why should we fix it? But sometimes there are better ways to do things. That’s what challenging the process is all about. Sometimes what may feel like a threat from a board member might just be the first step in creating a better way to do things.


Enable others to act. This is all about providing the resources, the tools, things that people need to do, but we want them to do better, but also releasing it and letting them take action in a way that’s comfortable for them. So providing sources but also the freedom for people to implement as they see fit.

The fifth one, encouraging the heart is one of the hardest things that I’ve seen in nonprofits, I was at an AFP meeting a while ago, and some of the most senior leaders who were celebrating 25 or more years of profession were getting up and they were sharing tips for people who were new in the field. My heart almost broke when one of them said, “You know, one of the things that you need to get used to is that you’re not going to get credit for anything that you do and you’re not going to ever have a chance to celebrate it because there are just more things to be done.” I think we really need to be intentional about finding ways to celebrate, finding ways to do a group hug or to celebrate when things have gone really well, to take maybe once a year, having an event where we celebrate all the great things that have happened in that year, because in the nonprofit world we get so busy and there are so many things that need to be done and there are so many people who need our help that it’s easy to get really hung up in continuing to press forward all the time. If we don’t take some time to rejuvenate we’re going to end up burned out. Frankly I think burn out is one of the major elephants in the room in the nonprofit world right now. We’ve got so many people who are working 50, 60 hours a week, they’re making less than what they’d make in the corporate world. Anyway, that’s not this conversation, but encouraging the heart is one of the ways that we can address that burnout and help to avoid it.

So the impact of, there’s a question that came on about the impact of board retreats related to resistance. There’s definitely a place for board retreats. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on what the goal of the retreat is certainly, and how it’s implemented. A lot of the seven steps that I’m going to share, some of them can be done just tacked onto a board meeting. Of course it’s always a good idea to get together as a group for an extended period of time, but it’s not always necessary and sometimes it’s not always possible to do. But I’ll talk more about a couple of the trainings and workshops. Some of those are really good to do as part of a board retreat.

So leadership, and finally of course fundraising knowledge. For you, yes you need fundraising knowledge, but also sharing the right information with your leadership so that they can make good decisions about fundraising, because a lot of times there’s a lot that goes into fundraising. There are a lot of different factors that come into play when it comes to effectiveness of different approaches. There’s the messaging, there’s the timing, there’s just all sorts of things that go into play, and its new to the process to think it’s really simple, and this is how it works in my business, so this is how it would work for you. But sometimes that doesn’t directly correlate. So if we’re not giving them good information about fundraising, they can’t make good fundraising decisions, it’s impossible. So it’s up to us to provide that for them.

The other thing to remember too, and this is related to burnout in a lot of ways, but ideal does not always equal what happens. So a lot of times we go to workshops, we go to trainings, we get all these ideas about how things would work in a perfect fundraising world, but then we go back to our organization and we think, oh my goodness, none of that can work here because we’re just so different. Ideal is good because it gives us something to strive for, as long as we recognize that if our organization isn’t there, we don’t need to throw up our hands and give up completely. We can start with where we’re at and then put together baby steps to grow into the future, with that fundraising knowledge. Hopefully you have that already.

Seven steps, and I already did a recap at the beginning, so I’m not going to go through them now. Let’s start with creating a compelling vision. This was one of the things that came into play with the change management and getting through that brick wall, that barrier that we were talking about, that danger zone. If we want to get through that, one of the most essential ways to do that is by having a compelling vision. For a lot of organizations, this would be the first board retreat, some time to come together, figure out what the vision is, what the strategic plan is to get there. But this vision is really essential, and developing it as a group rather than one person saying, “This is what our vision is,” because if one person comes up with it nobody else really has ownership of it. It’s that other person’s vision. But if the board has been a part of it, the board with any other key fundraising volunteers who are going to be working with you, if they’ve been part of developing it, part of creating that, they’re going to have a lot more ownership of it, they’re going to feel like it’s their vision as well as the other person’s vision, and it’s something they’ve been a part of creating. So they’re going to be more committed to making that happen and coming to fruition if they’ve been part of that initial visioning process.

Now this isn’t something, just like the strategic plan, it’s not something that needs to happen every year. In fact a vision could be 20 years out, it could be 50 years out, or 5 years out depending on where your organization is at and what your goals are for the future, but really important to do that together as a group. Again, this is a great first step, first place, to do one of those board retreats. Or just add on an hour to a board meeting and spend some intensive, committed time talking about it.

The second is more internal. This is your fundraising plan, and having it in a format that can easily be shared with the board, because when the board starts to talk about what kind of fundraising things they’re going to do, you want to make sure that they’re looking at things that will add to the fundraising plan. It’s not taking over things that staff is doing, it’s not taking over those routine kind of things that need to get done. The role of the board is to go beyond that, build relationships, be that connector between the organization and the community. In order to help keep their thinking at that level we need to first share a basic fundraising plan with them that shares everything that’s already happening so that they can feel a comfort level that all of that’s getting done, then help them focus on those higher level type goals and strategies and things that only the board can do.

I like to do this as a facilitated session where, provide information, the specific types of information that I usually provide: information on return on investment of different fundraising strategies, really essential, information on how effective different ask types are. How effective an in-person ask is versus a phone call versus the organization sending a letter in the mail. For every organization it’s going to be different, but typically in a one-on-one ask situation there’s a one in two change that that person will say yes, which means there’s also a chance that person will say no. When I first shared that with a board I thought that they would feel intimidated because there was a pretty good chance they were going to get a no, but what I heard back from people is that that didn’t intimidate them at all, it actually freed them up so that they knew that they weren’t expected to be perfect. They knew all of a sudden that if they got a no it wasn’t the end of the world, it was just, that’s normal. So adding that normalcy that a no is okay.

If you, let’s see, if they send something out on one of their letterheads to one of their friends, I’m trying to remember the specific numbers, but I think there’s a 20% chance that a gift will come in. If they call somebody on the phone it’s somewhere in between that 20% and 50%. So making sure that people know the effectiveness of different strategies so they can plan better ways to spend their time.

Develop the messaging and case statement, really essential to have this really identified because it’s what provides the information for board members to share as they’re talking with other people, so having all of this information in one section. And basically the overview of a statement, I’m sure you know this already, but covering what the needs are in the community, talking about how the organization is addressing those needs, what kind of impact the organization is having, why your organization is the best one suited to address this need, and how much it’s going to cost. Just as important as all of that is to integrate story into it, ideally a story of one person who’s had an interaction with your organization that’s been impactful.

For each of the organizations that I’ve worked with, I’ve had typically one key story that I’ll share as part of my presentations, and I’ll get really good at that one story. If we can teach our board members how to talk about one story, that’s definitely a huge first step in getting them engaged in fundraising because when people make a decision to give, of course it’s typically based on an emotional decision, but then people usually also look for facts to back it up, so providing both of that, with a real focus on the story. Having a case statement will make this a lot easier to get our board members involved. And it’s also the resource for the pitch kit that I’ll talk about now.

The pitch kit basically provides, and it’s just a name I made up, I probably heard it somewhere, but putting all of the information that the board member needs to be successful in one place. You can provide it to them, answers to all questions, provide sample scripts, donation forms, all targeted towards helping them be successful in fundraising. This accomplished two things. One, it of course gives them the information that they need, but two, it also takes away one of the excuses, because a lot of times one of the first things that will come up if we ask our board members to be involved in fundraising is, “I don’t know what to say.” It starts with I don’t know what to say followed up with I don’t know what to do. So we need to make sure to address those, and this is how we can provide the information they need to be successful in asking for money.

Next is having a board fundraising planning session. As I mentioned earlier it’s really important to have the buy-in and support of the board. It builds buy-in, builds engagement, it makes sure that they feel part of the process. If they feel like they’ve been part of the process of building it, they’re a lot more likely to actually engage and do the activities that we’re talking about. Again, sharing information about return on investment, response rates, all that fun kind of stuff.

I want to make sure that I leave lots of time for questions. If you have questions that come up, feel free to go ahead and use your question box to submit those, and I’ll be answering those as we go.

The personal board member fundraising plan, I usually do that as part of the fundraising planning session, so we identify ways that the board members are going to be involved, and then we allow them to get engaged in some way in the process. On the [inaudible 00:41:45] of this available at, a sample personal board member fundraising plan. So basically what it is is just a sheet that provides different options, different ways that people can be involved in fundraising and lets them opt in for those ways that they’ll feel comfortable with. This accomplishes a couple things. One, it makes sure that they see all the different ways they can be involved in fundraising, provides some variety. Two, it changes the effectiveness of your follow-up with them.

Instead of calling them and saying, “Why aren’t you getting involved in fundraising, the conversation is more along the lines of, “Hey, let’s talk about, on your personal board member fundraising plan you mentioned that these were the things that you’d like to do. How’s that going for you? How can I help you get to the next stage?” It really simplifies the follow-up process and changes it from something that sounds a little like hounding and [inaudible 00:42:59] and being a little bit of a nag. It changes it from that into, “Hey, how can I be a resource to help you accomplish your goals that you’ve laid out in this personal board member fundraising plan?” It really helps move that process forward.

Also of course, providing some training in asking, demystifying it. Sometimes people can be scared of things they don’t understand, so the main thing that I try to get across with boards, and I hope you do this with your board as well, is that it’s not about money. I believe that each of us as we were growing up, each human in the United States, or around the world, had a desire when they were growing up to have a positive impact on the world, to make the world a better place, to do good things. But a lot of people get side tracked by work, by career, by family, by all these other good things that are out in the world. So they lose track of that desire that they had.

As professionals asking for money or when we have volunteers who are out asking for money, it’s really about helping people reconnect with that desire to change the world and seeing if our organization is a good fit for them to help them accomplish what it is that they want to do, the impact on the world. So if we can help people understand that it’s not about the money, it’s really about offering an opportunity, seeing if it’s a good fit, and helping people reconnect with that desire to change and improve the world. It also provides practice, of course. I’m checking the time.

The exercise that I usually do, instead of having the typical role play, you know, where you have two people up front and they’re doing all the work, I usually break it into teams and have one team be the asker, team be the potential donor, and then only have one person playing each role at a time, but rotating it so different people are sitting in the chair. It’s engaging everybody, they never quite know when they’re going to be the next person to sit in the chair and play the role, but it engages everybody a lot more than the typical role play.

The seventh step, checking in so board members don’t check out. This is probably the most important and most overlooked aspect of engaging our boards. If we’re not checking in on an ongoing basis it sends the message that it’s really not all that important. And I know what you’re thinking, I don’t have time. There are all these other things competing for my attention, I don’t have time. I say make the time. Look at your calendar, figure out what you’re spending time on. Identify one or two things that can wait, maybe a couple things that aren’t quite as important, because if we can get our board members engaged in fundraising, if we can help them through that initial resistance, through that initial process, they’re going to have so much positive impact on our organizations and on the bottom line. So we have to make time for this, it’s really essential.

I know it’s easy to push it off, but make time every week to check in with a couple board members. Maybe not everybody every time, but over the course of a month, check in with everybody at least once offline, at least for the first couple three months to make sure that you’re getting through that resistance. And the fun thing that happens, when board members start coming back to the board with stories of their success, with interactions with donors that were exciting, and where the donor was saying thank you to the asker for coming, thanking them for asking them for money. It happens. So when board members come back and share those stories, it creates some enthusiasm and it creates some excitement. So we move through that process and it really is truly like a snowball once we get it going.

We’ve covered a lot of information today about the five different pieces of the knowledge base that we’re looking at, the seven steps, and I hope that’s given you some information to help start moving forward, going to work for you, but I’m sure pieces and some information that will work for you. While you’re thinking about it right now and while I start to scan the questions, go ahead and jot down two things that you want to do in the next 30 days, just two things. Look back over your notes or think through the different points that I made and try to identify two things you’re going to do, specific things so that when you get off the phone, when you get off this webinar, you’ll be able to start implementing those right away.

Let’s jump into questions. Let’s see, the relationship of type of ask to the amount. That really depends on, each organization is going to be slightly different, but anytime an organization is asking for a major gift, that really should be in person. The definition of major gift, though, is going to change for each organization. I know one agency here locally, their entry level major gift is $150. I know another one, their entry level major gift is $10,000. For every organization it’s going to be different. Hospitals and universities, typically their entry major gift is a lot higher than social service organizations, but typically for small organizations, about $500 is a good threshold. For larger, It might bump up to $1000 or $2500.

Let’s see. Is checking in a board chair responsibility? Great question. Sometimes if you have a board chair who can do that, that’s great. Sometimes you can recruit somebody who’s going to be the chair of the fundraising committee, and that would be a good person to have do it. Sometimes it’s the development person starting out or the executive director. It depends a lot on the organization, who’s driving this, how mature the program is, how engaged the board chair is. Sometimes at the beginning of a process, they might not be. So the right person really depends on your organization, and you always want it to be somebody who’s going to be supportive, encouraging, and be able to do that well, so somebody with pretty high communication skills.

A source for the stats on asking. That was from a, I’m going to see if I can look that up while I look at the next question. I’m pretty sure that it was from Grassroots Fundraising Journal. I think it was, I’m trying to remember what time frame it was. I think it was about February, March of 2013. But if you go to the Fundraising Journal it has a place where you can search for past articles, and I’m sure they’ll have that there.

How involved do you feel program people ought to be with board funding efforts? Usually there’s not a whole bunch of interaction between program staff and board just because it’s a whole different level of, the board’s typically looking at governance, being an advocate. Program staff are typically running the program, much more internally focused. I would say really the two main people who are engaged with the board are specifically the executive director and the Chief Development Officer. With governance issues you don’t want a whole bunch of overlap, or you don’t want to muddy the waters by having too much direct program-board interaction.

How do you manage issues that may arise from sharing donor specific information with board members? For example the privacy of donor information contrast to the usefulness of board members knowing actual gift giving by individuals to determine better ask amounts and tactics. Typically with organizations who are doing a lot of major gifts, this is information that’s shared in confidence. The board members will sign a confidentiality agreement or something to that effect, but they’re working on behalf of their organization, they’re part of the organization. So there really isn’t a privacy issue there, but you do want to make it really clear that the information is only to be used to help the organization and that it’s help in confidence. Typically, at least for capital campaigns, if you’re sharing that information, it’s only shared internally and it’s collected at the end of the meeting and shredded. So it’s not things that people take with them. It’s just used during the course of the meeting. So you wouldn’t be emailing it out, you wouldn’t be putting it in any format that would be easy to share.

Any recommended sources to acquire a template for a fundraising plan? There’s nothing that comes to mind right away, but one of, a resource that I often use is, I think it’s called They’ve got lots of great template samples, assortments, and let me see if I can, the Tony Poderis site is I think He’s got a lot of great resources, too. Then of course if you want to go to my website, there’s a free seven day fundraising planning thing that you can sign up for and some other resources that are there.

So, Connie, are startup nonprofits different from established programs? Oh, absolutely, because in an established program, you’re focusing about 50/50 on retention and also on acquiring new donors. You have some ongoing existing ability that’s already in place because you have a core of donors already. When you’re in startup phase, really the first phase of starting up a nonprofit is about finding a few people, a few organizations, a few places that will provide funding, and then building a more diverse funding base after that, but using the first three to five years of startup money to fund the beginning startup of the fundraising program.

One of the biggest things that I see with startup groups is that they don’t invest in fundraising. They don’t use that startup fund to start building a solid base, they spend 100% of it on programs, which means it’s not going to be sustainable into the future. So definitely make sure to allocate a portion of your funds for your startup nonprofit to fundraising and long term sustainability for your organization.

How do you engage board members of organizations themselves? I would say if they’re not, somebody can’t ask for money if they’re not giving money themselves. They just have no credibility. Really what we need to do is make sure that 100% of our board members are giving, and having that as one of the criteria for board engagement. If you already have board members recruited under a different policy, it’s going to be really difficult to enforce that, but what you can do is to have it as a requirement for incoming board members. So making sure to add it to the job description, and that you don’t just provide it in writing to them and say, “Well I provided it to them, why didn’t they read it?”

Sit down with them or have somebody sit down with them, whether it’s the executive director, the board president, the chair of the fundraising committee, the chair of the nominating committee, the Chief Development Officer, if that’s something that that person is involved in, whatever the system, have somebody sit down with them, walk through what the requirements are, and make sure that they understand it. You’re giving it to them in writing, but you’re also verbally going through it as part of a meeting. You can do it with three or four people at the same time or one-on-one, but just make sure that you’ve gone through that and everybody knows what they’re signing up for. Having your board members make a financial contribution themselves is, of course, a whole different topic. I could have a whole training just on that.

I’m noticing that I have about two minutes left. So Maggie, thank you for this question because it’s a great one to end with. Would you communicate stories at every board meeting? Absolutely, because what we want to do is make sure that our board is staying focused on the mission, so having some sort of moment for mission at every board meeting, it’ll give our board members something to share as they go out in the community. If we’re sharing stories, if we’re sharing updated facts, updated information, new programs, whatever it is, having some thing at the beginning of every single board meeting that’s focused on that mission will help everybody stay focused on what’s really important about the work you’re doing. It’s really hard for boards because they feel so disconnected from the front line work that’s going on. Sometimes it feels like they’re just bureaucrats sitting in a meeting making decisions. So if we can help them stay focused on that end result, on that child who’s getting food, on that college student who’s able to stay in college and has a future, there are all sorts of great things that happen from sharing that information. Yes, absolutely. A moment for mission to start off every single board meeting. Great.

Steven: Great, Kirsten. That was really fabulous, and thanks to everyone for asking questions. I know we didn’t get to quite all of them there in the chat room, but is it fair to say that you’d be willing to answer questions via email?

Kirsten: Oh, absolutely, yes.

Steven: Why don’t you tell folks a little more about how, in general, they can get in touch with you, check out your website.

Kirsten: Okay, yeah. My website is Lots of resources there. I do, every week, a weekly round up on my blog of different nonprofit headlines and news and tips and things that are going out, so you can follow my blog on my website. Definitely feel free to email My phone number is 502-509-5004. I would love to hear from you, love to see if I can help.

Steven: Great. Well thanks so much for being here and spending an hour sharing all your knowledge. I definitely heard a lot of new things I haven’t heard about when you talk about boards. I really enjoyed it. Hopefully everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did. Just so everyone knows, we do these webinars once a week. We’ve got a lot of other great resources on our website, so check out the resources page on We’ve got a really cool webinar coming up one week from today. We’re going to talk about grant writing. That will be an interesting conversation. If that looks interesting to you please do register, it’s totally free. It will be totally educational. We’ve got some other programs listed there on our webinar page on through the end of the year, so you may see a topic that interests you. Feel free to register there. We’d love to see you again.

Thanks again to everyone for joining us, just so everyone knows, I will be sending out the recording as well as the slides in just a few hours, just as soon as it gets done uploading to YouTube. So look for an email from me a little later on, and we’ll end it there. Have a great rest of your day and we will talk to you again soon.

Major gift fundraising

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.