Do your board members run the other way when you mention fundraising? Gail Perry recently joined us for a webinar in which she showed us how to lower your board members’ fear, make it fun for them, and put them to work. You can watch the full replay here:
Steven Shattuck: Thanks for being here for today’s webinar, “How to
Motivate Your Board Members to Help in Fundraising.” My
name is Steven Shattuck. I’m the VP of Marketing here at
Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion. Today
our guest is Gail Perry. Very happy to have you here, Gail.
Thanks for being with us.
Gail Perry: Thank you. Thank you.
Steven Shattuck: And for those of you who don’t know Gail-which I
doubt any of you don’t know Gail-she is an international
fundraising consultant. She’s a trend spotter, a speaker, a
trainer and a thought leader. She has worked with literally
thousands of board members, nonprofit leaders and
fundraising staff to boost them with the fundraising skills
and inspiration to change the world.
Gail is a past president of the Triangle Chapter of the Association
of Fundraising Professionals. They actually recently
awarded her Outstanding Fundraising Executive of the Year.
She launched her own fundraising career at Duke University
and she also directed the fundraising program at the Kenan-
Flagler School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill. She holds an
MBA and BA with honors in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and
is also a CFRE.
So, Gail, this is really quite an honor to have you here. So, thanks
again for joining us.
Gail Perry: Oh, come on. I’m a fan of y’all. It’s an honor to be here.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah. This will be fun. So, what we’re going to do
is for the next half hour or so, Gail is going to run
through her presentation. Afterwards, we’re going to spend
some time in an interactive Q&A session. So, feel free to
send any questions through the chat box right there on your
webinar screen. I’ll see those and Gail will see those and
we’ll try to answer just as many as we can a little later
on this afternoon.
Just so everyone knows, we are recording this presentation. So, if
you have to leave early or maybe you want to review this
content with someone else in your office or just yourself
later on, look for an email from me later this afternoon.
I’ll be sending you the recording and you’ll also receive
the slides from Gail a little later on as well.
So, I’m not going to waste any more time. Gail, why don’t you take it
Gail Perry: Sure. Thanks so much. You can see a little bit about me on
the slide right here. Of all of my career feats, the most
important thing I want you to know is my Twitter handle
because I’m very active on Twitter. If you are, we can hang
out and play together, have some fun.
Also, I was wondering if everybody-we’ve got 66 people right now-how
about typing into the chat box your organization and where
you’re located? I would love to know just who all is here.
It’s so much fun to see who’s here from around the country
and the world sometimes too because I know Bloomerang has
an international-oh, I love Big Brothers Big Sisters. Oh, I
love symphonies, theater and arts organizations. Oh, wow,
autism. Cool, YMCA.
Startup Westminster Graduate School, Hearts and Homes, literacy-of
course, there are not very many nonprofits-Girls on the
Run, hey, how are you all doing? Jewish Federation of
Delaware-I’ve done a bunch of training for the Jewish
organizations. Charlottesville Public Housing-I’m going to
be up there for a wedding this summer. Sustainable
nutrition, School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts-fun,
Jeff. You’ve got the fun so far. Healthcare foundation
WestCare in Las Vegas-Welcome, William. Catholic radio
station in Boston-fun.
Well, terrific. I really thank you for sharing this. I hope you can
probably see my pencil. I can create some real trouble here
with this pencil. I’m just learning how to use it. So, let
me tell you a little bit more about my story. I was a
fundraising consultant and I was so frustrated with these
boards I was working with. They’d say they would and then
they wouldn’t. I’m sure you have run into that situation.
What I did was that I hired an organizational development shrink-he
was a bonafide shrink-to be my business coach to teach me a
different way to work with boards. He taught me the team
building leadership skills, a total psychological approach
based on motivational theory and group process. So, these
ideas I’m going to share with you are not traditional Board
Development 101. I think that’s why I’m so popular, because
they’re realistic, they’re practical and they’re kind to
both staff and board members.
Now, another question I want to ask you all-I hope there are some
board members joining me today. If you are a board member,
would you just type in the chat? I’d love to know how many
board members we have and I want to say thank you because I
think there’s a special place in Heaven for nonprofit board
I want you to know that I am going to be poking fun at the
institution of nonprofit boards and I don’t mean it
personally. I want you to have some fun with me because I
think that board members are having a tough time because of
the way their treated by the staff. So, this is going to be
a pro-board member point of view. So, thank you so much. I
see a few board members fessing up here that they’re
By the way, I do board retreats and workshops around the country
among other things. This is the Southern Appalachian
Highlands Trust in Flat Rock, North Carolina. They were
nervous to death about a board retreat about fundraising.
They didn’t know what to think and now look at them at the
end. They’re just fired up and ready to go. So, this is the
work of transformation that I want to teach you how you can
do for your board if you don’t want to bring me in or bring
another facilitator in.
I want to start with a story. This is an amazing story that has many
teaching aspects about it. I have a friend in Raleigh named
CC. She was the chair of the board of the Raleigh Little
Theater. When I was writing my book, I interviewed her as
board chair, “How do you feel about fundraising? Are you
involved? What’s working? What’s not?” And she said, “Ugh,
Fundraising! I told them that I’d be board chair and I’d do
anything but fundraising.”
And she’s like hyperventilating and throwing up and I said, “Okay,
okay. Back up, back up.” And I said, “Well, CC, let ask you
another question. What if you were the ambassador from the
Raleigh Little Theater over to Progress Energy?” our big
utility company here in town. I said, “You didn’t have to
ask for money, but you were in charge of the relationship.
You were like the account manager.”
She said, “Oh, I would have so much fun.” She said, “I could give
them free tickets. I could bring them to cast parties. I
could take them backstage.” And she was smiling and
laughing. And then she said, “I wouldn’t mind going along
on the solicitation if I had done all that.” And I thought,
“Lord have mercy, lady, you just told me you would never
touch fundraising with a ten-foot pole and here you are
volunteering and offering to go.”
So, what are the learning from this? The learnings are that if we
don’t make fundraising about money and instead we make
fundraising about developing the relationship and having
fun with the relationship, then board members will jump
right in and have a blast and help us in lots of ways. I’m
going to be bringing this theme up over and over and over
from different angles.
I call upon the great Albert Einstein to share with us that, “No
problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness
that created it.” We can have a lot of fun with our
nonprofit boards in applying this thought to them. But I
want to say that our situation with nonprofit board members
and their reluctance and nervousness about fundraising was
created from a certain level of consciousness and if you
shift the way you’re thinking, you can solve the problem.
So, let’s have some fun. Is this your board? I think that board
meetings are sometimes like all these Egyptian statues,
frozen in time and calcified and everybody is so self-
conscious. By the way, I show these slides to all of my
board retreats and people love them. They laugh. One time I
was doing a presentation and some lady in the audience
raised her hand and she said, “I know the person second
from the left.” So, she must have a real stone-faced board
You know, is your board bored? Are you having boring meetings?
Because if you have boring meetings, you’re going to have a
bored board. If you have a bored board, I don’t think a
bored board is going to get excited about doing anything,
much less fundraising. So, it’s important as staff and
nonprofit board leaders that we focus on giving our board
members a terrific experience. We can change our
consciousness, just like Einstein said, approach the whole
idea of the board members from a different angle and we’ll
get amazingly different results.
So, listen, this is what happens when you raise the fundraising word
to board members, right? They think it’s the “F” word and
it’s like the deer in headlights, “Ahh! What are we going
to do?” Lots of times I show this and people really die
laughing because it’s true. Board members don’t understand
fundraising. So, they’re making up all these whole myths
about fundraising and let’s just talk about some of the
myths. Before I was in fundraising myself, I thought these
exact same things.
So, this is what somebody who’s not familiar where most of us on the
call are professionals, we’re well-trained, we do this all
the time, but we’re dealing with volunteers who have a
completely different perspective when we mention the “F”
word. First of all, they think it’s begging. They think
that this is the tin cup syndrome, “Please help me. I have
nothing.” You know, the beggar on the street. And then they
envision themselves begging. Lots of people laugh when I
show them this slide. They envision themselves, “Oh, I have
to go raise sponsorships and this is what it’s going to be
like for me.”
They think fundraising is making cold calls. They think fundraising
is asking strangers for money. We know in fundraising, well-
trained professionals, it’s not about the ask because it’s
about the relationship. It’s not about strangers. I never
believe in making cold calls, right? And I would certainly
never send my volunteers out to make cold calls. And it’s
never about money, right? I’ll talk about that in just a
second, too. Board members are thinking that fundraising
is rejection. Again, I’ve got these wonderful, good-hearted
people who want to help my cause. Why would I send them out
to have such a difficult and sad experience? Not good.
And as I thought about what board members are really thinking when we
approach them with the “F” word or with fundraising, I did
come to realize that there is a dark side to fundraising
and people don’t talk about this a lot either. But the dark
side is when it’s all about money, when it’s not about the
kids or the project or the wonderful thing we’re doing in
the world. I love this picture because I don’t know which
face is worse. You mention fundraising and you get these
looks on people’s faces. It doesn’t have to be that way. I
think it’s our job. I’m going to show you some ways to make
it not about money. This is going to bring a relief to a
lot of people.
Also, board members are not well-educated about fundraising. All of
these things that I’m bringing to you are training
opportunities. Board members are smart people. They like
learning new stuff. So, I would suggest staff members, you
come up there and you trot in front of your board meeting
and you show this PowerPoint and you do, “Blah, blah,
blah,” and there are few questions and the board members
are thinking, “Oh, well that’s interesting. I’m glad she’s
doing such a great job.”
But board members would actually love to know more about how
fundraising works. And this is a great place to start, the
cost per dollar raised of various fundraising strategies. I
would suggest to you that if your board members understand
your fundraising program and the strategies you employ,
they’re going to be more helpful and they’re not going to
bother you with questions that are off-topic. We can spend
a lot of time just talking about this slide, but I wanted
to be sure to include it in here so that you can have it
and you can use this as a basis of discussion for your own
And here are a couple of other slides that are very useful. I use
them all the time when I’m training boards or working with
boards. Board members don’t understand the whole
fundraising adventure. But I would warrant that many board
members do have some sales background and if they look at
this fundraising cycle I’m showing on the screen, they
recognize that this is the classic sales cycle. Yes, I was
trained by Xerox in the ’90s in professional selling skills
and I use it every day in my fundraising.
So, the takeaway from this particular slide that lays the fundraising
cycle out in terms of sales cycle is that you’re beginning
to show board members that fundraising is not all about the
ask. You see? You’re beginning to show them that there are
other activities-this is really key-there are other
activities they can do that can be very supportive in
fundraising and will directly impact the bottom line so
that when you ask, your prospect is ready to be asked and
your prospect loves you.
So, when I’m working with board members, I take solicitation-take a
deep breath and listen to this-I take solicitation off the
plate and I say, “You do not have to ask for money if you
do not want to.” But every board member does have a job to
help. You can make “thank you” phone calls, you can host
tours, you can welcome guests at an event-every board
member has a job and let’s all pitch in. When you approach
board members like that, they’re gung ho.
Then like my friend CC at the beginning, if they’re involved in the
relationship development, then it is not awkward to go
along on the solicitation. But I would say it is awkward-
you’re involved in cultivating this major donor but you
want to bring a board member in at the last minute to help
with the ask. Well, the board member doesn’t know this
person. It’s awkward. So, again, use a different
consciousness. Approach this from a different mindset. Make
it fun for your board members and lighten up and give them
other jobs that don’t involve soliciting and then they will
Oh gosh, there’s something wrong with this slide. Goodness. What has
happened to this? I use this slide all the time. Ooh . . .
I’m having fun with the-this area. This is not supposed to
be in here, this black quarter here. But this pie chart,
even though it’s a little bit messed up here-I’m going to
get the list of participants and I’m going to email you my
original PowerPoint and I’ll fix this slide-but this slide
represents one of my great “aha’s” when I wrote my book.
What I did was that I took the fundraising cycle here and I broke it
into a pie chart that showed how much time and energy we
spend in each part of the fundraising cycle. I would
suggest that the ask right here is one little tiny part.
Let’s see if I can draw this pie chart. How’s that? Here’s
the pie chart. The ask is one little tiny moment and we
spend a lot of time cultivating. We spend a bit of time
identifying and we do a lot of thanking.
Of course, you know the definition of sustainable fundraising.
Sustainable fundraising is when you do such a great job
thanking here that the thanking prepares the donor for the
next ask. You can short circuit the fundraising cycle with
your donors. So, your core group of supporters that you
really want to stick your board members on to love a lot is
nothing but thanking and acknowledging and stewarding. We
can talk some more about that as we go forward.
So, I apologize for this slide. You can see that I made the attempt
to do, “We identify, we involve, we ask and we think.” But
this mysterious black quarter has crept into my chart. But
now board members-I’m making a list of all of the things
that board members do not understand about fundraising.
My point is that they will help you more in fundraising if they
understand more about how it works. I would suggest to you-
oh, good, Richard says-oh, hey, Richard, how are you doing?
He and I are Twitter buddies. “You can ask too much but you
can never thank enough.” Yes, yes, yes. Again, I’m from the
South. I’ve raised millions of dollars. But I’m from the
soft sell school of fundraising where we have low pressure
but we have very high intention-very high intention, right?
But along the list of things board members don’t understand about
fundraising, they don’t understand whether they’re losing
or gaining donors. They don’t understand this whole issue
of retention, which, of course, Bloomerang is all about and
I’m so excited that Bloomerang is beating the drum of
retention. This is one of my favorite slides from their
series of infographics that you need to really grab. I
would take their infographics about retention and I would
show them to your board and I would have a discussion.
Now, this is important for me to share. If you want to do some
fundraising training with your board, do not make a
presentation. You put this up there on the PowerPoint or
put this as a handout and you say, “What are your
impressions of this slide? What does this mean to us?” And
you force them to talk about it.
I think one of our huge challenges is-and I do an enormous amount of
training and I study adult learning like crazy-studies show
that adults can only handle a maximum of ten minutes being
talked to before they lose interest. So, if you want your
board members to really understand fundraising, you’ve got
to get them to talk about it, which is fun. It’s fun for
them and it’s easier on you. I could spend a lot of time
talking about how to do these presentations, but I want to
Board members also don’t understand who’s doing what in the
fundraising office and they don’t know what their role is
in fundraising. So, this is a long list of things that you
can begin to stage educational conversations with your
board about. I’m willing to be they would really enjoy it.
They want to know this stuff. They want to feel educated
Lastly, they don’t know what their real job is as board members. I’ll
tell you, everybody I know-well, not everybody-but I’ve
worked with a lot of organization, “Oh, we have these
expectations and everybody signs them but then nobody does
them.” And I go on a board, give me these expectations and
I go, “These expectations are weird. Sure I support the
mission. Sure I can come to meetings. But what else do you
want me to do?”
So, one of the things I love to do when I’m working on a board
retreat is that I like to have the board members talk about
what their job needs to be. What is their job? And then I
ask them, “What are the top three issues this board needs
to deal with in the coming year?” And they’re all over
that. They’re all over that and they’re ready to dive in.
Now, moving on, I’ve just finished this long, long list of things
that board members would love to know more about in
fundraising. I’ve poked some holes in the myths that
they’re making up about fundraising and these, again, are
educational opportunities. But here-I’ve said it before,
I’m going to say it again-you want different results,
change yourself. Change yourself. Make it fun and lighten
So, here are my strategies for opening up your board members and
motivating them. The first thing I like to do is that I
like to ask board members why they care. This, again, is a
lovely picture. This is that Appalachian Highlands Land
Trust that I showed you the picture at the beginning. The
lady on the left is a very formidable and famous
environmentalist, well-connected city leader. She’s chair
of the board and the young man is an heir to a very
prominent family in North Carolina who has a foundation.
Yay. We love all of them. But when I stage board members in
a mingle exercise, going around and telling each other why
they care, it is a very, very powerful conversation.
When I send you my follow-up email because I’ve got everybody’s list,
I’m going to send you a couple of articles on my blog about
how to setup this mingle exercise. It’s easy, low-pressure
practice talking about why they care. The board members
love this. What it really is is that it dips them in their
passion for the cause. I never talk about fundraising ever,
ever without doing this particular exercise. It only takes
ten minutes. You get them out of their seats. They’re
talking to each other about why they care. It’s a team
building exercise. It’s fun for the board members. It
builds energy in the room.
Guess what else they’re doing? They’re practicing their first
elevator speech. Yay! The number one thing we need to train
board members on is how to talk about us, you know, how to
talk about our organization. I had a board member come to
me once and she said, “Gail, when I have a chance to talk
about our organization, what do I say?” And I said, “Talk
about why you think it’s important. Tell your own personal
story.” She said, “Oh, okay, I can do that.”
So, studies show that board members want fundraising training that is
practical and that is hands on. They do not want to be
presented to. They do not want to sit passively while you
present the PowerPoint. So, when I do a board retreat, it
is hands on, practicing, engaging, working with them
because that’s the only way you’re going to get adult
learners and adult decision makers to embrace these
powerful concepts. This is the only way you can get them to
get over their myths. But I can’t overemphasize to you how
powerful this conversation is to ask people why they care
and to ask them to share with your board members over and
over and over.
I want to show you. I don’t know if Laurie Taylor is joining us
today. She’s a brilliant fundraiser in North Carolina. But
she tried-I sent her and email and I said, “Laurie,” we did
this board retreat, “Did it land? Did anything work?” And
she said, “Oh, I’m putting some of your ideas into action.”
No, I know. She had read my book and I asked her what she
pulled out of my book that was useful. So, she was all over
this concept about asking them to talk about why they care.
I’m not going to read this whole thing, but she said she asked her
trustees, “What legacy do you want to leave from serving on
this board?” And she said, “You would have thought I opened
the floodgates and the board members poured out their
hearts. One man cried.” She said it was the best meeting
that she’d had in three years because she had started in
So, I’ll tell you, it’s very powerful stuff. I want you pay attention
to the last lines of this email. I’m quoting directly. She
said, “Gail, I can’t change them, but I can change me.” So,
what is our learning from that? It’s like Einstein, shift
your consciousness or shift your direction. It’s just like
your children or your spouse or your work people,
colleagues-if you shift the way you are approaching them,
you get different results.
So, I would say to you, my friends and colleagues listening, that you
have more power than you think over your ability to
motivate and lead this wonderful group of people called
board members. They are very willing to respond to new
energy and new ideas if you approach it right.
Whenever I do this exercise with these board members and the elevator
speech and when I’m doing a lot of training, there are four
parts to the elevator speech and we go through those. Board
members love, love, love it because what I’m doing is I’m
showing them how to open the door without being pushy.
Of course, anybody would want to know, “How do I open the door
without being pushy?” I tell them that they get to sneeze
on everybody that they know. The sneezing is a concept from
Seth Godin called “Unleashing the Ideavirus,” that ideas
are like viruses and they’re contagious. So, board members
become sneezers, right? Yay! They laugh.
Most medical foundations don’t like it when I use this metaphor. But
it’s very powerful because I’m saying to board members that
you sneeze on everybody and the ones that are interested
are going to let you know they’re interested. That’s an
easy way to deal with my role as a board member being an
advocate in the community for my organization.
You know, good old Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was every
achieved without enthusiasm.” So, part of this whole
elevator speech training is this model for them of the kind
of energy they need to have. You know, once they start
talking about the cause, they need to know how to engage
somebody in a conversation and they need to know when to
shut up. So, part of my training is to show them that they
can take the elevator speech and they can turn it into a
conversation by saying, “What are your impressions?”
They love this stuff. They eat it up. They get a kick out of this
knowing that they’re not supposed to talk a lot about their
organization. They’re supposed to stop talking and let the
other person talk. That’s a kinder, gentler approach.
I have a blog post called “The Fundraiser’s Kiss of Death,” that you
could get a big kick out of. By the way, my website is
GailPerry.com and its’ also FiredUpFundraising.com. Both of
them go to the same place. There’s a little search bar at
the top and at the bottom and you can type in some of these
key phrases I’m sharing with you and you can pull up an
article that’s really easy to read. A lot of people send my
articles to their board members saying, “What do you think
about this idea? What are your impressions of this idea?”
It’s a great way to start a conversation.
All right. I’ve spend a lot of time talking about this elevator
speech and teaching your board members how to talk about
your organization. That is a fundamental part of training
them and motivating them because when they start talking
about why they care, they are talking themselves into being
So, part two of this deep, motivational training-part one is letting
them get in touch with their passion and teaching them how
to spread their passion-part two is related to data. Part
one is emotion. Part two is data. So, my question is, “What
are we really raising money for and where does the money
My slides-I think when we uploaded them, the headlines are a little
bit off but I hope you can read my slides okay. So, what I
do is that I bring the executive director and the
development director up in front of the room. I sort of
play Oprah. We sit down. We relax. I say, “All right, let’s
talk about where all this money goes. What is our
organization’s budget?” And the board members are sitting
there thinking, “What is our organizational budget? Do I
know?” And one person will say, “Oh, it’s like $1.2
million.” And the board member will say, “Oh, yeah.” And
the board members start taking notes.
And then I’ll say, “Well, how much do we have to raise every year out
of this $1.2 million?” “Oh, we have to raise $600,000.”
You’ve presented them this data before, but they didn’t get
it before because you had them in overload with too many
numbers at once. So, this is a really, really, really
powerful tool for spoon-feeding any group of adult learners
key data in a way that will land with them and that they
will embrace and not forget.
So, I’m asking very simplistic questions one-by-one and the responses
dribble out and board members are sitting on the edge of
their seats. And then I say to the development director,
“Of the $600,000 you need to raise every year, how much do
you have to bust your butt to raise?” And the development
director will say, “Oh, we have to bust our butt to raise
about $400,000.” And board members really want to know how
much you have to bust your butt to raise.
And so then we talk about where does it go? I’ll say, “Why do you
need so much staff?” Say you’re a Big Brothers Big Sisters
organization. “Why do you need staff? You’re running
volunteer mentors for the kids who need mentors.” Because
it turns out that the staff has to manage all of these
volunteers. You’ve got to recruit the volunteers. “Oh, why
do we have to pay them? Oh, we need insurance. Oh, okay.”
So, we’re breaking the budget down into, “Why do we need to
make all these expenditures.” And the board members
suddenly get it that it’s where the money is going.
So, these are some great questions you can ask your board members. I
think I’ve got another one right here, “Why does it cost so
much program-by-program?” This is my favorite slide here of
all of these slides. For example, I was working with the
Big Brothers Big Sisters. And it turns out that it costs
$1,000 per kid to be mentored a year, to be managed and
mentored. They were turning away 100 families a year who
were begging for mentors for their kids and the
organization couldn’t help them. So, the families were
leaving in tears because they were so worried about these
kids of theirs and there was no help.
So, the Big Brothers Big Sisters board was afraid about having to
tackle $100,000 more for these 100 kids. But you know
something? They could tackle five kids at a time. They
decided to go to the Rotary Club and say, “Rotary, do you
all want to tackle five kids?” and to the local churches
and synagogues, “Do y’all want to tackle five kids?” their
community tennis club, “Do you want to underwrite a kid
Remember way back when I talked about not making it about money and
making it about the project. This kind of discussion can
help you figure out how to make it into a project and not
about the money itself. I’d like to spend a little bit more
time explaining it.
But I think you sort of get the gist. Use the panel discussion format
and ask questions one-by-one and then your goal, of course,
is to get your board members to ask questions too and get
them really engaged in the discussion about, “How much does
it really cost? Why do we need to spend the money? If we
had another $500,000, what would we do with it?” That’s a
very important question for everybody to know. It keeps the
staff from feeling like they’re whining. It puts it in a
more business-like standpoint.
Now, I want to go back to an earlier theme about giving your board
members a terrific experience. It is up to us to make sure
that they enjoy their experience on the board and they get
personally a lot out of it. That means that it’s not
business as usual. I think you need to liven up your board
meetings. I’m not going to talk about these points, but
I’ll just share them with you. I have a blog post called
“Twelve Ways to Liven Up Your Board Meetings.”
Look at ways to change it around to make it as interesting as
possible. Give them social time. Studies show that board
members want to meet the other board members, right? They
want to meet them. Give them something specific to do.
When I’m on a board, I don’t want this blah expectations stuff. I
want to know, “What do I need to do to be a good board
member? Tell me what you need me to do this month between
now and the next board meeting. Give me one thing and I
will do it. But don’t give me 15 and don’t be vague. I need
to be managed and I need to be well-staffed. I’m really
busy. If you’re clear I can deliver for you. If you’re not
clear, don’t make me think about it.”
By the way, with these action items, I absolutely think talking about
the psychological approach that puts the peer pressure on
the board is a huge factor in motivating people because
nobody wants to look bad in front of their colleagues. If I
know that I have to make a report in front of my
colleagues, you better believe I’m going to be busting my
butt to get the work done and to have the report ready. I
want to look good. This is just human nature, right? So,
again, clarify their job about what you want them to do.
So, here are just a couple of ideas that I want to share with you
that, again, lighten the fundraising load and make it more
fun for your board members. I’m throwing a lot of different
concepts to you and I’m not explaining them thoroughly, but
I hope you can get the gist of what I’m talking about. You
can always buy my book from Amazon at a discount. I have it
all written up in there. Also, most of my book is written
up in short snippy articles on my blog. So, you can really
search on my blog.
But I believe in focusing board members on friend-making. Take
soliciting off the plate. I tell them I’d rather have die-
hard friends to my cause than donors because die-hard
friends will stick with me in and out. They will do
anything they can do and they will give me money if they
can. So, let’s concentrate on friend-making. So, maybe we
should redefine fundraising into friend-making.
The more and more studies, the retention studies, all of the bloggers
and all of the latest research shows that if you slather
love and attention on your donors, your donor base, your
donor file, they will stick with you. So, maybe you need to
be treating your donors like friends, maybe like family.
Board members who are nervous about asking for money can
spend their wonderful time and energy there.
So, here are just a couple of my favorite jobs for board members to
do. I love parties. My Christmas party in Raleigh is
famous. I’m having three parties this month at my house,
goodness gracious, for different causes, for different
reasons. None of them are fundraisers, but they’re all
cultivation sort of events. They all have sort of a
So, board members can host small coffees or small socials to
introduce their friends to the cause. One time I was a
board member of the Carolina Ballet and I had a porch
party. I invited people to come meet the new director from
a porch party. It was a wonderful little event that opened
some key doors for us. Board members can host tours. I’m a
huge fan of a tour if you do it well.
Lastly, and this is one of my favorite data points in the entire
lexicon of fundraising research right here and I would
actually start my whole conversation about board members
with this slide and I would say, “What are your impressions
of this slide?” because if board members are really
systematically thanking your donors, your donors will give
more money. Here’s the data from Penelope Burk. Just for
the recording, I’ll put this down in words. These research
projects have happened over and over in multiple-sized
What they do is that they pull a group of donors to get thank you
phone calls from board members within 24 hours of receiving
the gift. So, it’s a very, very fast turnaround. And then
test five months later and they solicit both groups of
donors, including the ones that didn’t get the thank you
call, they got all the same communications-regular paper
thank you, newsletters, everything-but the ones that get
the phone call in study after study, they’re giving 39
percent more money than the other donors.
So, my friends, this is living proof that board members can directly
impact the bottom line without having to ask for money.
Yay! I’m going to say it again. Board members can directly
impact the bottom line without having to ask for money.
So, just a final thought. I’m a huge fan of the “The Matrix.” I watch
it all the time on the TV reruns. Every time Morpheus says
this line, I go, “Oh my god.” This line says, “There’s a
difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
So, we know the path to take but I would suggest that
taking the path and walking it is a whole other game. So,
that is my motivational push to you-my call to action to
you is to try to walk the path.
So, here I am with some fellow board members at my favorite board,
Lillian’s List, and we are fired up ready to go. You can
create this. This is a volunteer board. You can create this
Just to wrap up, these are some articles on my blog that you can get
a kick out of and that your board members like. “Show me
the Money: How to Move from Friendraising to Fundraising,”
“Top Ten Things to Understand About How Fundraising Really
Works Today” is an important article to share with your
board. The elevator speech exercise for your board, there’s
a write-up about the mingle exercise. “How to Be a Personal
Advocate for the Cause,” that’s all about sneezing and
spreading the word. So, a lot of this is already written up
and you can get more information about it.
So, thank you, Christy. I’m glad you loved “Donor-Centered
Fundraising.” I do too. That’s Penelope Burk’s great book.
Christy says, “Aren’t board members often being asked to
support multiple causes and organizations?”
I would say you don’t want anybody on your board who’s not going to
make your organization one of their top three philanthropic
priorities. I would ask people when they join, tell them
that that’s one of our expectations that we’re among your
top three philanthropic priorities. You don’t want your
board members spread too thin, do you, in terms of what
My three parties this month are all for different things and I have
different roles, but I’m a little bit worried about over-
different groups of people are going to be invited too. But
I worry sometimes about representing too many causes at
Other questions? Steven? I can play around with my yellow . . . Woo!
Steven Shattuck: I know. You should have done more with that. I’m a
Gail Perry: Look, there’s a question mark for questions. I’m not right-
handed. So, this is very difficult to do with my right
Steven Shattuck: I’m sorry about your pie chart. I don’t know what
happened there, but you recovered quite well.
Gail Perry: Yeah. Capital campaigns-Cathy, let me speak about capital
Steven Shattuck: That’s a good one.
Gail Perry: One, Andrea Kihlstedt wrote the book on capital campaigns. When
I started out in the ’90s, I clutched that campaign in my
heart. She and I have a blog site called Capital Campaign
Magic. We are doing coaching on capital campaigns virtually
and we’re also writing a lot about capital campaigns and
we’re doing free webinars about capital campaigns.
Capital campaigns are complex, sophisticated and I think board
members have a particular role. The first place you start
with your board in terms of motivating them for the capital
campaign is to get them to understand the strategy, the
unique strategy that capital campaigns employ that will
raise millions of dollars. We could go on and on, but
that’s a long and deep topic.
Okay. A hundred percent personal donations required by board members?
Absolutely. I think that you need to have a fellow board
member say, “Let’s put our money where our mouth is. We all
have to be giving.” I’ve got an article I resurrected on
Twitter yesterday about the “Seven Steps to Solicit Your
Board.” This was my strategy when I was a staff fundraiser
that really worked for me.
Casey, “If you can’t get board members fired up, how do you guide
them to take a step down without potentially damaging a
Ooh… First of all, I would buy Simone Joyaux’s book called “Firing
Lousy Board Members.” Read that. But let me tell you what a
friend of mine did who was the executive director of a big
nonprofit here in Raleigh. They really didn’t demand it a
lot of their board members and it was a high-performing
group of people. He would go see a board member who was non-
performing and he would say to the board member, “Is there
another way you would like to serve our organization since
you haven’t been able to do such and such and such?” And he
said almost invariably the board member was relieved and
they were feeling guilty and they jumped at the chance to
shift to a different role.
It’s dicey. I would say it’s dicey and you need to protect yourself
politically. Getting rid of a board member, you have to be
very careful about that. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on
I can’t see this whole question. There’s a long question here from
Steven Shattuck: Yeah. It looks like she’s saying, “As a supporter of
a high school group, it’s hard to keep donors on when their
kids are in the band?” That makes sense. “Often the
requested donation is not given by many families. We need
to raise money for uniforms.” So, she needs to work with
donors and quickly. What’s a good strategy for meeting with
companies for the first time?
Gail Perry: Well, first of all, if I’m meeting with companies for the
first time, I try not to make a cold call. I would start
with the prospect list of contacts that we have that are
acquaintances of the school or school members. So, you need
to first make a prospect list of companies that employs
existing relationships because you don’t want to make cold
calls because cold calls are not particularly successful,
right? So, use a particular relationship.
And how much does it cost per kid? “Oh my gosh, we’ve got these ten
kids that can’t afford their uniforms and it’s $100 each
and who wants to sponsor a kid in the band?” Kids in the
band are just so exciting and it’s like a lovely cause. I
think people would jump at the chance, but you have to
present it in a way that’s very powerful and exciting and
use emotion and don’t, don’t, don’t make cold calls.
So, I’m sure that you’ve got some relationships. Maybe there are some
vendors at the school. Who are the people who serve food? I
would even go to the local Walmart and Target because those
managers have discretion over smaller grants and they’re
more accessible and they like this sort of thing. So, those
would be my places to start.
Steven Shattuck: Great. We’ve got a question here from Samantha,
Gail. Samantha’s wondering, “In regards to personal
donations from the board, do you recommend setting a
specific minimum account or just a give-what-you-can
Gail Perry: Well, I like to say that every board member should make a
proud personal gift every year. I think the proud personal
gift is an honest and caring way to call upon the board
members to reach to their highest calling. Having said
that, when I solicit board members, I like to put a number
in front of them that they’re being asked for x-amount of
money. Also, I have varied the amount of money I was asking
from board members before based on their ability.
So, you can take one approach, which is that you keep secret the
amount of money that you’re soliciting from board members
and you do it individually based on their capacity or you
can have the board members all agree that we need to all be
responsible for $1,000 or something like that and if we
can’t get it, we need to bring it in. That’s the give/get.
Now, there was a big discussion on #fundchat. If anybody’s on
Twitter, “#fundchat” yesterday, you can search for it. A
bunch of us were talking about boards and about soliciting
boards. There was a lot of discussion about give/get
But I will say that the higher-performing boards that I have worked
with do have a give/get. Usually it goes for more
prestigious and larger organizations that it’s a clear
expectation that if I’m going on the board of the Museum of
Modern Art in New York City, it’s going to cost me X or Y.
The smaller organizations are not at that place. It may not
So, it’s got to be something that your board members themselves agree
upon if you’re going to do give/get. I’m careful about that
because I don’t want to be heavy-handed. I’m Southern.
Heavy-handed doesn’t work as far as I’m concerned.
Steven Shattuck: Gail, what’s your opinion on having term limits for
Gail Perry: Please go to my blog and pull out “Why Your Board Needs
Term Limits,” that article because if you do not have term
limits, the energy on your board is not going to be
refreshed. You’re not going to have any new ideas. You’re
going to be in terrible danger of calcifying your
strategies and your mission and not changing with times.
And you’re going to be in terrible danger of your board
becoming a social club, a martyr club, like, “Oh, we work
so hard. We’re such martyrs,” or a, “We own this
organization,” club, none of which puts the organization’s
mission first. It’s all about us.
So, term limits are-and I’ll tell you, I’ve worked with a big time
board up in the New York City area and this guy who was a
huge investment banker on the board, do you know what he
said to me? Get this, this is amazing, he said, “If we’re
ever going to get serious about fundraising, we have to
have term limits.” Boom. So, I can’t be strong enough. It’s
also part of every single list of good board practices that
you will ever find is term limits.
I know it’s hard. “Oh, we can’t find any new board members.” Well,
maybe you need to try harder or something is going on. Look
at yourself about that.
Thank you. You found the article. Great, great, great.
Steven Shattuck: I did.
Gail Perry: I was poking fun.
Steven Shattuck: That’s a great one. Gail, we’ve got a question from
Anne, a really good question, “When horses are your main
tool of intervention, how do you convince the owners that
supporting the hay and grain and vet costs is equivalent to
maintaining other overhead that another nonprofit would
have, maybe like the building or equipment?”
Gail Perry: Yeah. Well, maybe you need to talk about adopting a horse.
How much does it cost to maintain one horse? That might be
more fun than paying for the hay. So, maybe you need to
look at what’s most sellable, what’s the sexiest? “Oh,
gosh, I’m riding a horse named Blaze. Isn’t he beautiful? I
get a picture of him every time I make a gift. I can go out
there or feed him or her apples.” Hay and grain and vets
don’t sound as much fun to me as underwriting a horse. So,
maybe you need to package your costs differently would be
There was another question in here about thank you letters that I
think I saw.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah. Cynthia was wondering, “Do you have a
recommendation for writing the best thank you letter after
Gail Perry: I do.
Steven Shattuck: I knew you would.
Gail Perry: Well, you know, listen. I’ve got several articles on my
blog about thank you letters. But I think you need to wear
your heart on your sleeve with that dang thank you later.
Penelope Burk has got in her book-let me quote Penelope
Burk’s thank you letter, four lines, “Dear Mrs. Carbunkle,
you must have heard the shouts of joy in the hall when we
received your gift of (blank) underwriting the Children’s
Music Program. We are so thrilled. We’re going to put your
money to good use, blah, blah, blah and here’s the person’s
name and phone number who directs the program. We can’t
wait to give you a follow-up report about this project and
we want you to come down and visit.” Something along those
So, your thank you letter needs to be casual in tone. It needs to be
warm. It needs to be personal. You need to ditch the lofty
crap, institutional crap and just be as warm and fuzzy and
lovey-dovey as you can possibly be. Some organizations
cannot bring themselves to do that because, “Oh, we have to
be formal. This is a very important nonprofit.”
But if you can make it personal, the donor’s heart will go “throb,
throb, throb,” and they’re going to love you more and
they’ll probably give you more money. So, that’s my quick
and dirty recommendation on thank you letters.
Steven Shattuck: Love it. Well, we’re about out of time. We probably
have time for maybe one or two more questions. I would
encourage everyone listening along to send anything if
you’ve been sitting on your hands or wondering something.
Gail Perry: I want to mention-George wanted to know about resources
for smaller nonprofits.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah.
Gail Perry: A lot of my articles are very applicable to both large and
small nonprofits because I’m dealing-you can see that I’m
very practical and I’m very humanistic like, “You do this.
This is not hard.” So, any-sized organization can get a lot
out of it.
I also want to tell you that I do have a webinar series that I do
from Fired Up Fundraising, my blog, and I bring the very,
very best fundraising gurus in the world in to do a couple
of free webinars a month. It’s a broad-based training
program to educate you and your staff on fundraising.
We’re doing basics and we’re also doing the latest twist on the
basics so that if you’re going to implement a basic, you
might as well implement the latest version of the basic,
like the best way to do the thank you letter, the best way
to do the Internet/Web, the best way to do your major gift
prospects and program so that you can be more efficient and
effective. I’m all about being efficient and effective.
Effective means we raise our money and efficient means we
save time doing it. Yay!
Steven Shattuck: Yeah. If you aren’t following Gail on Twitter or
reading her blog, you’ve got to do that. It’s definitely
one of the best in the sector.
Gail Perry: Well, I’ve just got to have some fun, you know? I just try
to be supportive and have some fun. It comes out every
Friday morning. “Avoid nonprofit jargon,” thank you,
Richard, very much. Yes.
Steven Shattuck: Boo jargon. No jargon.
Gail Perry: No jargon. Boo! I have a blog called “Words and Phrases
Fundraisers Love to Hate,” talking about jargon.
Steven Shattuck: One here from Jenny, “Do you have any resources
specifically for nonprofit theater companies?”
Gail Perry: Listen, I have an arts background. You’ve got people who
love, love, love, love, love theater. Those are your people
that you need to cultivate. Like, I was a ballet dancer. I
love, love, love ballet. Also, my very first job was with
the North Carolina Arts Council. I’d do anything in the
world for anything in the arts. So, you need to find those
passionate theater people and you need to let them
experience, give them special experiences. Invite them to
cast parties. Give them backstage tours during
intermission. Give them some free acting classes.
A lot of people in the arts think, “Oh, we can’t raise money because
we’re not hungry children.” Listen, the people that are
passionate about the arts, like I was an aspiring ballerina
and they give me a tour backstage-when the Carolina Ballet
did “The Nutcracker,” my girls and I got a backstage tour
during intermission and there they were. They was the
beautiful ballerinas. They’re warming up. They’re like
ethereal, alien and beautiful creature beings and I’m
going, “Ahh!” And I’ll never forget that experience.
So, you’ve got people who are that passionate about theater that you
can give that experience to as well. So, I don’t want
anybody to say, “Oh, we can’t raise money because our cause
is not sexy,” because to your supporters, it is sexy.
Steven Shattuck: Emma here was wondering, “Should the amount required
of the board member contributions be related to the size of
the budget or the number of members or both?” What should
they do there?
Gail Perry: Neither.
Steven Shattuck: Neither.
Gail Perry: The amount of the required board member contribution needs
to be based on a) their capability and b) whatever they
agree that they should be doing. Remember there are two
ways to do it. One way is to have your board members decide
how much their expectation is going to be of each other.
The other way to do it is for you privately to solicit your
board members based on their capacity.
So, I would not relate it to the budget. Some people say, “Oh, the
board needs to be giving 10 percent of the budget, 20
percent of the budget.” It depends on who you have on the
board. You may not have the money in the seats and you
don’t want to make people feel bad. It’s up to you to go
enlist those people to join the board who can make those
kinds of gifts.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah. I was talking to Jay yesterday and he told the
story of an organization that had Bill Gates on the board
and someone asked him for a donation and Bill said, “How
much did everyone else give?” And the fundraiser said,
“About $75.” And Bill said, “Okay, sign me up for $75.” So,
they only got $75 out of Bill Gates based on what everyone
else was doing.
Gail Perry: I think that I would have made the case for exporting his
interest in funding a project. You’ve got to push Bill
Steven Shattuck: Yeah.
Gail Perry: I’d say to Bill Gates, “Listen, everyone else is paying
$75. What do you think would be appropriate for you?” “No,
really, now Bill.”
Steven Shattuck: “Come on, Bill.”
Gail Perry: “No, really.”
Steven Shattuck: Well, cool. Well, we’re about of time. I want to
give you the final word. This was just a lot of fun. I hope
everyone enjoyed it as much as I did. Gail, just one last
time, where can folks find you online? How can people get a
hold of you?
Gail Perry: Yeah. You can send me an email at GP@GailPerry.com like
we’ve got on the screen or you can go to my website,
FiredUpFundraising.com or GailPerry.com. I guess I need to
put that on that little list. You can Google me, “Gail
Perry fundraising” and I’m afraid you’re going to get a lot
of hits because I’ve been blogging for so long.
Steven Shattuck: Oh, yeah. You’ll find her.
Gail Perry: But I love to hear from people. I respond to almost all emails
unless they’re really offbeat or weird if people ask me a
question or something. So, I love to hear from people. I am
going to be sending you a follow-up email with the
PowerPoint and a couple of links.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah.
Gail Perry: Okay?
Steven Shattuck: Great. You’ll get the slides from Gail and I’ll be
sending out a recording here in the next couple of hours so
you can relive this presentation with your board members if
you’d like or anyone else in your organization.
Just so you know, we do these webinars once a week. They’re totally
free and totally educational. We’ve got some really cool
ones coming up in the next couple of weeks. Anne Peyton is
going to join us and she’s going to talk about how to
develop a stewardship program. And then Kivi Leroux Miller
is going to join us to talk about videos and infographics.
So, that will be a really great presentation.
Gail Perry: Listen, don’t miss Kivi. She’s one of the leaders in the
field and she’s amazing.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah. That one is going to be really great. So,
check that out. Click on our webinar page.
Gail Perry: I want to sit in on that.
Steven Shattuck: Yeah. You should sit in on that, Gail. That would be
Gail Perry: I want to. Yeah.
Steven Shattuck: Well, cool. Well, Gail, thanks again.
Gail Perry: My pleasure.
Steven Shattuck: We will talk to you soon. So, thanks for joining us
and have a great rest of your day.
Gail Perry: Okie dokie. Everybody take care and good luck and onward
to the cause, right? Onward and may you get one idea from
today and help put it to work so that things will shift in
your organization and raise more money.
Steven Shattuck: Right on.
Gail Perry: Bye, bye.
Steven Shattuck: Bye!