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:
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 bloomerang.co 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 changecycle.com has given me permission to use this illustration. If you’re interested in learning more about what they do, it’s changecycle.com, 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.