In this webinar, nationally recognized speaker, trainer, nonprofit founder Rachel Muir, CFRE will help you prune dead weight board members and show tools that can help you ensure a successful board transition.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Rachel, okay if I go ahead and get us started officially?

Rachel: Absolutely.

Steven: All right, cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast, and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “The One Hour Nonprofit Board Makeover.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I am the chief information officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating, as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin. Just want to let everyone know that we are recording the session, and we’ll be sending out that recording later on this afternoon. So if you have to leave early or if you want to review the content later on, maybe even share it with a friend or colleague, or maybe even a board member, if you’re feeling very bold, you will be able to do that. We’ll get you the recording and the slides later on this afternoon. So if you don’t get it from me by the end of the day, just send me an email and I will get that good stuff in your hands.

More importantly, some of you have already done this, but if you haven’t already, please make use of that chat right there on your screen. We’re going to use that to collect questions and comments. We’ve got a Q&A session at the end. Going to try to save as much time as possible before 2:00 Eastern. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. Send us your questions and comments. We’d love for it to be as interactive as possible. You can do the same thing on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed, as always, throughout the hour.

And if you have any audio problems through your computer, we find that the audio by phone is usually a lot better. So if you have a phone nearby and you don’t mind using that to listen in, give that a try before you totally give up on us. There is a phone number you can use in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour ago today. So try that before you totally ditch us.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say a special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars every single Thursday except for a couple, maybe a couple weeks out of the year. We bring in a great guest like Rachel for a totally educational and inspiring presentation. One of my favorite things to do at Bloomerang, for sure, but what we are best known for is our donor management software. So if you are interested in that or just kind of want to take a look at what we have to offer, you can check out our website later on. Don’t do that now, because we’ve got a great presentation coming up, but if you’re curious about Bloomerang, feel free to learn more about us later.

But for now, I am so excited to welcome back one of our favorites. She is just returning from an amazing vacation in Costa Rica, but still made time to fit in a Bloomerang webinar. Rachel Muir is with us. Hey, Rachel. How’s it going?

Rachel: Hey. It’s going awesome. Thank you so much for having me.

Steven: Yes, it’s good for you to be here. You’re obviously one of our favorites. And like you guys said, like I said, you guys are in for a treat. Rachel, I just want to brag on you real quick before I turn it over. If you guys don’t know Rachel, you’ve got to follow her online, you’ve got to follow her on Twitter, check out her website. Puts out great educational resources and training. Definitely worth the investment, for sure.

And I always struggle with reading Rachel’s bio, because it’s so inspiring and it makes me feel like I haven’t done much with my life. She founded her own nonprofit at the age of 26. I think when I was 26, I was still learning how to make scrambled eggs, but she started a nonprofit that has since gone national, big organization, and since then she has raised over $10 million in her fundraising career.

Maybe you’ve seen her at conferences, on other webinars. She was an AFP outstanding fundraising executive of the year. She was one of Fast Company’s Fast 50 champions of innovation. And a whole other bunch of accolades, which I won’t read off. But you will see why she has gotten all those accolades after this hour.

So Rachel, I am going to turn it over to you to help us whip our boards into shape. Really important topic. So take it away, my friend.

Rachel: Awesome. Thank you guys so much. Thank you so much. You’re too kind with all of your compliments. And I absolutely love helping people be better with their fundraising, and this is such a great topic. We’re going to, I’m going to take you through a 60-minute board makeover, and my friends, I want to invite you to type in your questions any time.

I want to give a shout-out. We invited you guys to let us know if you could hear us okay and tell us where you’re dialing in from. We’ve got Courtney in the Ukraine. We’ve got Vegas, Tahoe. We’ve got Gigi in DC, Vermont, Riadosa [SP]. So everybody’s experiencing all different kinds of fantastic temperature ranges. And we’re thrilled to have you guys here. Again, I want to invite you to type in your questions anytime and, you know, let us know what’s on your mind.

This is me, and I am, when I’m not helping people be better with their fundraising, I’m raising twins. I’ve got boy/girl twins. They are starting middle school in just a little over a week, so cross your fingers for us.

And I’ve got lots of goodies for you guys today. A lot of what I’m going to be talking about is in this ebook “Makeover My Board,” and that is a link. If you want to download it, it’s got some great, it’s got a sample board contract in there, which I think is, like, one of the most important tools for managing your board. But it’s loaded with goodies. A guide for difficult conversations, how to prune dead weight off your board, and all kinds of other . . . and thank you so much. Steven just popped the link in there. So that’s got lots of goodies if you guys want to check it out if you . . . you can kind of think of it as, like, a takeaway from today.

I do a lot of webinars. I love being a guest for Bloomerang, but I do a lot of webinars. So if you want to sign up, I will send you an invitation when I do a webinar. And when I’m not doing webinars, I’m out there training people to be better at their fundraising. I absolutely love helping people improve their fundraising and get energetic and inspired with their fundraising. I do a lot of custom training. I also do a lot of board retreats.

But I’m going to give you lots of tools to help you with your board today. I’m going to talk about the number one way to change the board that you have. I’m going to give you some tips for recruiting and inspiring and even firing your board. How to set them up for success. How to get them excited about fundraising. And again, you are welcome to type in your questions anytime. I’ve got time at the end reserved for handling your questions, so just type away.

And the first thing that I want to invite you guys to do is let me know how you’re doing with your board. Like, are you green, yellow, or red? Green is like, we’re doing awesome. Yellow is we could use a little bit of fine-tuning. Red is I’ve got a few members I’m ready to throw overboard. We’ve got red. We’ve got lots of red. Yellow, orange. Got some orange. Awesome. Awesome. Okay. You guys are in the right place, so welcome. You’re going to get lots of tips and tools to help you out today.

Let me know if you have, I’m curious to find out more about your experience levels with board members you have on your board. So my next question is, one is I’ve got a few folks who have never served on a board before and this is their first time. Two is everybody’s done this before. Everybody’s served. Okay, so looks like most of you guys are one. Most of you guys have some board members who, the vast majority are brand spanking new to service, and I’m pretty sure they’ve never worked for a nonprofit before, so it’s their first time in this sector.

Let me, I’m curious to ask you guys how often you guys offer training. So one is we do it every year, we’re really faithful. Two is maybe every other year. Three is not often. Four is, “Oh my God, we totally should do that, you’re absolutely right.” Okay, so a lot of you are fours, and I’ve got some threes.

Okay, so one of, this is one of the most important things we can do is offer board training. And so many times when I talk to organizations, they’re not doing it and they’re not budgeting for it. I’m going to talk with you guys about how to do an assessment, how to kind of get your issues out in the open that you’re having to help you improve your board, and how to do a board training.

And I’m a really big fan of giving people training. Obviously, it’s what I do for a living. But I’m a really, really big fan of, you know, even if you have zero budget, you can still provide great training opportunities for your board. And sometimes it’s important that that come from someplace other than you, because a lot of times, this is true, this is a quote from Chuck Loring. A lot of times people perceive you doing a training as having a vested interest in the outcome. So you can work with other organizations to bring in a trainer. You can work with your AFP. You could get a great board member from another organization to come talk to your board. There are lots of creative ways to get help free or inexpensively to provide some great training for your board.

Well, I mentioned to you guys that I was going to start by talking about the number one reason why boards fail. And I think it ultimately starts with having unclear expectations. This is not real life. This is a movie set. But unclear expectations are really kind of the path to failure with our boards, and the truth about serving on a board is that, and the truth about life is that you wouldn’t take a job without looking at the job description, and you wouldn’t hire someone without being really clear about what the job was, if they were the right fit for the job, how they could get an A in their job, you know, what the performance expectations were.

And the same is really true for our boards. But too often we downplay what the commitment looks like. We downplay what the role and the responsibility is. A lot of times we do this because we’re really trying to get that big name person on our board. And we’re doing ourselves a disservice when we aren’t clear about setting the right expectations.

Our board members are busy people. There’s lots of ways we can have missed connections with them. They aren’t as intimately familiar with our programs. And the truth really is that they won’t ever be. They’ll never know them as intimately as we do. They may not have a personal connection to the mission.

The number one thing that I like to stress when it comes to boards is that this isn’t one size fits all. You know, I’m a big fan of giving board members the whole diversity of all the ways that they can be involved, all the ways that they can support fundraising so that they can find the opportunity that’s right for them. And I encourage everybody to be sensitive, because, you know, unlike you, they’ve never worked for a nonprofit before, and you, many of you have already let me know that you’ve got board members in service, this is their very first experience with one.

So this is why I think board agreements are absolutely critical and are totally king in setting a board member up for success. When we’re not clear about the roles and responsibilities, that’s the number one place where things absolutely, positively blow up. So I’m a really big fan of having a super detailed board contract or board agreement. Agreement sounds a little bit more friendly and approachable than contract.

But this is an example. This is a screenshot of what is in this lovely goody right here. You can download this and have the sample. But I’m a big fan, so in this, it talks about their individual giving, how they’re going to support fundraising, all the different ways that they can support fundraising, giving them opportunities. How are they going to participate in the program? What programs are they going to attend? What committees are they going to serve on?

I’m a really big fan of, you know, think about it as, you know, going into a menu, an a la carte menu of every single possible thing that you could order off of the menu. Because, you know, when it comes to board members and fundraising, people are just different.

So this is an example from my friend Andy Robinson. He and Andrea Kihlstedt wrote a fantastic book, and it’s a really great training resource. It’s called “How to Get Your Board to Raise Money,” and it looks like a cookbook. Andy’s written a lot of really great books on boards, and this is an example. This is a sustainable food organization. But this is an example of a menu of fundraising opportunities.

And so they have this, this is kind of adorable. They have this split up between appetizers and entrees and desserts, and they’re clear, this is an all-you-can-eat menu. We ask you to commit to as many items as you like, but at least one per category.

So I’m a really big fan of, I want to challenge all of you, think of the 50 different ways that board members could support fundraising in your organization, list them all, and put those in your board agreement, and give them opportunities to sign up for what works for them. Because too often we circulate a list of, like, top prospects that we want to have meetings with, and we ask board members, okay, just write your name down next to anyone that you know.

And that’s intimidating for board members. They don’t want to do that. They need to have an opportunity to support fundraising in the way that works for them. Some people are introverted. Some people are extroverted. And so you want to give them an opportunity to sign up for what works for them, what makes the most sense for them.

So Terry asked for the book. It is “How to Train Your Board to Raise Money” by Andy Robinson. It’s a great one. The cover looks like a cookbook. It’s a really, really good one.

Another piece of advice that I love from Andy that I echo to everyone who’ll listen to me is when you’re setting expectations with your board members, when you’re in the dating stage where you’re getting to know them and you’re setting expectations around service, you need to let them know that there’s give and that there’s take.

What they can expect as a board member is that they bring a positive fundraising attitude, that they share their skills and their time and their effort, that you ask them to give generously, and that you ask that they make you one of their top three charitable commitments while they’re serving on your board. I think it’s totally appropriate to spell that out.

And in return, they can expect training and support. They can expect to be given a variety of different ways that they can support fundraising. And that they get a choice in what they signed up for and when and how they give.

So I think it’s important that, you know, a lot of times with board members, they [inaudible 00:14:56] we aren’t upfront about the fundraising expectations, and that’s where it really leads to problems. And I think a lot of times when we don’t spell it out in the recruitment phase, we end up with, we end up inadvertently downplaying the fundraising commitment. We have board members that come on board, they’re not happy, they’re not fulfilled, they’re not fulfilling their obligations, we’re frustrated with them. And it kind of creates a, like, awkward uncomfortableness about it.

So a lot is about how you introduce them to service. So I’m a really big fan of setting them up for success.

So someone asked about the link, and if you go to . . . I’ll type it in here. If you go to, then you can get the book. There’s, like, a little ebook that’s all on boards. And I just popped it in there to the chat.

So I’m a really big fan of setting people up for success, setting your board members up for success. Of course you can have the, you can try before you buy. You can date before you marry and have them serve on a committee first. You can have them apply and complete a board application so you have a really good sense of what skills they’re bringing, what’s motivating them, you know, how they like, you know, what their preferences are, what they want to contribute.

I’m a big fan of a board orientation, a robust orientation. You have someone who is motivated, who’s a great board member. You know, you put your role model board member to do the orientation and you don’t downplay the expectations in the orientation, and you’re positive, you’re upbeat, you embrace the role that they’re going to play in fundraising.

I’m a big fan of welcoming board members, and I’m a big fan of welcoming them, whether it’s wine and cheese or it’s, you know, coffee and donuts. So many times, I mean, how many times have you guys served on a board, how many times have you had this experience? I like to joke that I’ve had several iterations of boards, I’ve served on boards, and I like to joke that I have the scars and the T-shirts to prove it. And some of the time that I served on boards, I would join a board, and they would, it would, we would be like wallflowers in the back of the room, and it would just be this casual, “Oh, we’ve got a couple new board members this month.” You really want to welcome your board and celebrate them, and celebrate them coming on, your new board members.

I’m a big fan, just like I talked about having, like, your role model lead your board orientation. Give them a board buddy. Assign them a board buddy, and especially if they’re new to board service, assign them your role model board member who’s doing a really great job of serving on committees. You know, give them someone whose performance you applaud and who’s a high performer so that they know what’s expected of them, and they’re not just in there without a life preserver or anyone to talk to or check in with.

Just like if you take a job, you might have a 30-day check-in and a 90-day check-in and a six-month check-in, I’m a really big fan of doing that with your board members. I would rather you find out a problem early, find out if it isn’t a good fit early and be able to correct it, than having to tackle it later on.

And finally, a self-assessment. Self-assessment is probably the biggest opportunity that you have to right a course gone wrong. So if you’re feeling like, oh, and I’m going to talk about this. I’m going to talk about self-assessments in here. We’re going to cover everything. We’re going to talk about getting your board engaged in the fundraising, as well.

But self-assessments are my absolute favorite tool that you can use if you are having struggles. If you’re ready to recruit new blood, if you’re ready, if you didn’t set expectations and you need to, if you’re ready to get more training, if you want to know what they want to get training on, self-assessments are really fantastic tools. And that goody, that board goody that I mentioned to you guys, I have some sample questions that you can ask in a self-assessment.

So in real life, this is what fundraising is often like to board members. And when I say the F word, I’m not talking fun. But a lot of times this is how fundraising is. And I think the biggest mistake and the biggest reason why we end up like this with our board members is because we haven’t properly set the right expectations about fundraising. We’ve downplayed it. It’s got to be clear in the recruitment process, it’s got to be specified in the board contract, and it’s got to be discussed in the board orientation.

So we also have to really make it fun. We’ve got to, a lot of times we’ve got to think about why are these people volunteering to serve on our board? What do they want to get out of it? What motivates them? What do they most want to get out of volunteering? Why do they volunteer? You know, it’s important that we find out what motivates them.

I think a lot of people join boards as a way of meeting other people, making important professional connections. Sometimes it’s adding, you know, stuff to their resume. A lot of times it’s making really important connections, connections with other business leaders. And we’ve got a deliver on that. If that’s their goal, it’s really important that we give them time to network with other board members. It’s really important that we create that space and create those opportunities for them to meet other stakeholders and network with other board members.

And we’ve got to make it fun. The more fun we make it, the more they’re going to come to our board retreats, the more they’re going to enjoy it, the more they’re going to participate, the more they’re going to actually look forward to board meetings.

So I get it. It is a lot of work to have a board and to motivate a board, but we have, it’s a give and take. We have to be prepared to support them. We have to be prepared to know what motivates them, give them feedback, give them rewards and recognition. A lot of board members are really competitive, and seeing other people get rewards and recognitions, it incentivizes them.

So these are just a few things that you can do. You know, nominating them for awards. Giving them affirmations. Having fun with them. Bragging on them to their boss, to their family. “Thank you so much for, you know, sharing Gigi with us. We know that the time that she’s with us is not at home with you, but we’re so grateful,” for example. You know, these are all different ways that you can support them.

So I challenge you to ask, you know, how are you supporting them, and if you’re not, what do you want? What can you change? What can you do better?

These are some tools to manage a board. My favorite one is the self-evaluation. You can call it a self-evaluation. You can call it an assessment. You can call it a survey if those words sound too intense. You can call it a survey. But that’s a really great opportunity. You can, the board can take an assessment, and they could rate themselves individually. They can rate the board as a whole.

And that’s a really good way to get it out there if you have board members that need training, to find out what topics they want training on. It’s a really safe way for you to get that information out there, and it makes it not about you. It isn’t about you making this. It’s not just what you want. And this is, you know, we did a survey, and overwhelmingly we found that board members were feeling like we had an . . . they wanted more training. Overwhelmingly board members felt like we needed to get more skills or new skills or more diversity on our board. It makes it not about you and your own agenda, but something, it’s a really great jumping off point for you to use.

Also using a facilitator or consultant can be really helpful, especially if you’re in a situation with a board where you don’t have term limits and you want them, your board isn’t fundraising, they’re not giving of themselves. There’s a lot of benefits because a facilitator or outside consultant, they objectively represent the, you know, best practices, and it isn’t just you saying this. You have an interest in the outcome. This is an impartial expert in the field who’s saying this. So that’s one way that working with a facilitator or consultant can be really helpful.

I love board assessments. You know, they’re board-led. They really help hold people accountable. They can show the gap of what you’re lacking. And it gives you a diplomatic path to move forward and really kind of charting a course for what you actually want to achieve with your board.

So there are a lot of free board assessments. McKinsey & Company has a board assessment. They have a long one and a short one. So there’s a lot of free board assessment tools that are out there that you can use. I’ve got some sample assessment questions in that goody.

One thing that I feel like, just to take a step back with board members, we’re going to talk a little bit about fundraising and getting your board members fundraising. And one thing, like, just type in if you’ve ever worked for an organization and you were given a fundraising goal, but you yourself absolutely had no role whatsoever in setting that goal. Okay, I have lots of people. Lots of sad faces and people saying yes, that’s me. That happened to me. Oh yes, all the time, it says. All the time. So, you know, everybody’s . . . Okay, only one person has typed in no, they’ve never been given a fundraising goal. They didn’t play a role in setting.

But the reason why I ask you guys that question, my fundraising friend, is because that’s probably how your board members are feeling, and if they don’t have any background in fundraising, unlike you, they’ve never worked for a nonprofit before, they don’t have a background in fundraising, they don’t know how it works, it can be really overwhelming, and it can be intimidating, and they can not feel as invested in it if they don’t understand the mix of how fundraising works in your organization.

So before you just take the leap into, okay, now we’re going to work on fundraising. And by the way, when I train boards on fundraising, I never call it fundraising. I call it things like the art of cultivating relationships, or creating a culture of philanthropy, or the joy of giving, or donors are just like us. You know, I really talk about it in terms that don’t use the word fundraising, because I know that tends to be the F word for some board members, but I talk about it in tools that make it fun, that make it accessible, and I really link it back to the tools that they can take and apply in their own life, you know, in their own professional lives.

So if you have board members that are reluctant to fundraising, I would encourage you to take just a few steps back and just introduce them to how fundraising works in your organization. You know, your mix of sources, your goals, your fundraising model. What are you bringing in from individuals? What are you bringing in from corporations?

I’m a big advocate of organizations having a line item for board giving in your budget. That way you’re transparent and it’s out there. Your board members can see where you’re at towards your goal, what your performance is now. It gives them really, like, some skin in the game where they see, “Oh, our board goal is this and we’re only halfway there. What are we going to do to get there?”

So introducing them to how fundraising works and then their role, where they can add value, and how they can be supported. So I’m a big fan. If fundraising isn’t going well, and I’m about to hop into lots of tips to help you with that. But if it isn’t going well, I encourage you to take a few steps back and really start with how fundraising works in your organization. Because them having that basic understanding of that foundation, they probably didn’t join your board knowing that already. They have been given a goal that they did not have a role in setting. And so it’s important for them to have, take a, be able to understand where did all this come from, how did we arrive here, and what role they can play in being helpful and supportive.

So I want to invite you guys to type in what is the number one thing you want your board members to know about fundraising. If there was anything you could get through to your board, what’s the number one thing you want your board members to know about fundraising? I have to say, oh, I love this. Tom said it’s fun. Gigi said it takes time to build relationships. I love these answers. Brooke said I’ll do the work if you genuinely connect to me. Okay, Deanna said you have to do it, and there’s, like, four exclamation marks. I love, Kelly said it’s not scary. Very true. Kim said it’s about our story. These are great answers.

Jennifer said we need help, exclamation mark. Tommy said it’s about people. I love what Bruce said, oh my God. Bruce Day said people love to give. Exactly. That is the number one thing. If there was just one thing I would want your board members to know is how good it actually feels to give. Giving is the neurological equivalent of winning the lottery. When we give money, our body immediately releases all of these endorphins. That’s the runner’s high. Next our body makes oxytocin. That’s the same hormone that’s produced during lovemaking. Donors are happier than non-donors. They have better health. They have lower blood pressure. They live longer. Giving feels really, really, really good.

And in the world of giving feeling great, the giving that feels the very best is when donors give to a charity via a friend or a relative or some kind of social connection. And that’s exactly what happens when their board members invite their friends and their family and their network of contacts to give. So if you have board members who are feeling averse to fundraising, that’s one of the first things is letting them know, and all they need to do is give to just be reminded of how good it really actually feels to give.

So I’m going to talk to you guys about how board members can support fundraising without asking for money, and I want to invite you guys to type in your questions. I’ve got time reserved here at the end for your questions, so please feel free to type them in. So I’m going to talk about how board members can be fundraising superheroes without asking for money.

So number one, they can give personally. And I’m a big fan of, you know, them, like I said earlier, in your board agreement, we can call it agreement instead of a contract, but in your board agreement, I want there to be every different way that they can give personally, whether it’s being a monthly donor, making a major gift, supporting your annual fund, putting, naming you in their will or estate. Every different way they can give personally and support fundraising.

They can also call donors to thank donors. This is one of my favorite ways to get board members feeling energized about fundraising and positive about fundraising. Because when they pick up the phone and actually call donors and thank them, what happens? The donors are overjoyed and feel really, really special to get an actual phone call from a board member. And what I love about that is not only does it make your, of course, number one, it makes your donors really happy, and I want your donors to be ecstatically happy.

But number two, it makes that board member feel a lot less afraid and intimidated by fundraising because they feel like, “Wow, this person, this really felt good. They were really genuinely happy to hear from me, and I can’t wait to make another phone call and thank another donor.” And this is meaningful to donors because they know that these people are volunteers. They know that we’re staff members. They know that we are paid in salary. But it’s really special to have a volunteer just call you out of the goodness of their heart. That’s why it’s so meaningful. And I’m about to show you some awesome statistics on just how meaningful it is.

Now, I, you can type in . . . I’m guessing some of you may have board members who have not made their own gift to your organization, so you can say yes if that’s true. I am, I believe that every board member should support fundraising, every single board member. And it is not appropriate for a board member to ask anyone else to give if they haven’t given themselves. That is not appropriate. If you are in this situation, there are a lot of grants, especially as you go out to do a capital campaign and are seeking corporate or foundation grants, where you are not eligible to get the money unless you can say that 100% of your board members have supported the cause. So if you’re in that situation, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to find a grant that specifically calls that out and that you can bring to your board’s attention.

Every board member can make a gift. If you have board members who are clients or, you know, are financially fragile, they can make a gift that is personally significant to them. A lot of boards have a minimum gift amount. You know, people do it in different ways. A lot of people ask individually based on the board member’s capacity and interest. So I’ve seen it, it’s often done both ways. But all board members have to give. No board member gets a, you know, get out of, “Oh, I don’t have to give. I’m giving my time.” Well, I can’t cash a check for time at the bank. So every board member needs to give. If you have, if you’re in a situation where you have clients who are board members, they can give a gift that is personally meaningful for them.

I’m going to, I promised you some specifics on board member thank you calls, and these are from Penelope Burk. So this is in one study for, these were gifts, these were $1000 gifts for . . . Donors who got a thank you call from a board member gave 39% more. Fourteen months later, those donors gave 42% more, and they had a 70% retention rate. So if you think this doesn’t matter, it absolutely does. There’s a lot of research that proves this, just the impact that actually getting a thank you from a board member actually has on giving.

Here’s a script. So I’d like you to identify as, “I’m a board member of this organization. We’re . . . ” Now, here’s one thing I love about this. “We were thankful to receive such a generous first time gift from you.” If this is someone’s first gift, call it out. There’s just, like, a bonus thank you tip for everybody. If you have, this is just one quick and easy low-hanging fruit way for you to improve your donor retention for first time donors. If it’s their first time gift, call it out in your thank you. “We were thankful to receive such a generous first time gift from you and I’m thrilled to welcome you to our donor family.”

And then it’s telling them what their $500 gift is going to provide, so giving them some tangible information. These are some really great discovery questions for board members. I have a healthy obsession with really great stewardship, and I have a healthy obsession with discovery, and I would, when you give, give your board members a thank you call script and make it sound like a human being would say it, not a robot or a tax ID letter. You know, be personable, be warm.

Give them the script, because you’ve got some board members that are introverts. I’m a big fan of just taking, like, a few minutes at the beginning of your board meeting, split out in the room, go to other rooms and make your calls. Have them be prepared a script and a few discovery questions if they get a donor on the phone that they can ask.

So I love these questions, and I love a lot of these, how are kind of, you know, can I invite you to this? Can I introduce you to this? So kind of, like, giving them some next steps to deepen the relationship.

Give them scripts. Give them a phone number. Give them a little bit of information about the donor. Give them some sample discovery questions. One really short story, some win that happened to your organization that they can give the donor credit for. So just, you know, make it easy. This is going to make your introverted board members feel a lot better. And this is all about just thanking them. This isn’t about making an ask in a thank you call. This is about calling and thanking donors.

This is a really fun way to boost your board members’ knowledge of fundraising and attitude towards fundraising, because I guarantee you, those board, most of the time, I mean, I’ll be honest, like, eight to nine times out of 10, they’re going to get voicemail. That’s okay. That’s another reason why it’s important to have a script ready for them. Leave a message. But when they do get someone on the phone, that person is going to be excited and overjoyed and really, really warm and positive about hearing from them.

So they can invite guests for a tour of the organization. They can host a cultivation event in their home. They can also be assigned to cultivate donors. That’s just cultivation. That’s just getting to know them, having lunch with them, talking with them, asking questions about their interests. These are all, there’s no ask involved, but these are all great ways that board members can support fundraising.

They can also talk about how and why they made their gift, which is always important, always inspiring, especially, you know, whether it’s a major gift, whether it’s a planned gift, whether, you know, a planned gift can be especially meaningful because they could talk about how easy it was. They can talk about how money makes an impact at your organization, how a dollar gets spent. They could talk about client testimonials. They can share client testimonials. They can talk about why they volunteer with you, why your organization is important to them. Those are all things that could be shared in your email newsletter, in your annual report, these are all these opportunities.

So these are all in here, too, so if you didn’t have a chance to write all of that down, those are in there. I also have some recommended reading. So these are a couple books on boards that I adore. I really love this book by Kathy Hedge, “Engaging Your Book in Fundraising: A Staff’s Guide.” It’s really written . . . It’s a different perspective on getting your board members involved in fundraising. It really kind of starts with a premise of how can we create the conditions in which board members motivate themselves? What can we do to create those conditions?

And there’s a really great example in that book of an organization that set up stations in the hospital, and they set up stations all over their hospital to give their board members a little hands-on feel about the work that they were doing. And it made those board members super motivated and super excited to go out and share it.

I love Susan Howlett. She’s fantastic. She wrote this book “Boards on Fire,” and I think she’s actually coming out with a second edition of this book. These are both really, really short books. I mean, they’re maybe, like, 75 pages long. So these are both really great books on getting your board involved in fundraising.

You know, I really believe it all starts, and Jennifer, you’re so sweet. Jennifer’s giving me some love on my presentation skills.

I believe that it all really starts with setting the right expectations. I mean, think about, go back to our dating lives, you know, when we met that special someone, we asked a lot of questions. We found out what was important to them. We found out where they saw themselves, what motivated them, what was meaningful to them. And, you know, if you do the work on the front end, you will have great board members with the right expectations joining. If you’re not there, if you’re frustrated and you’re not there, I’m a really big fan of board assessment, and those can be a really fantastic tool.

You guys, I’m going to dig into your awesome questions, because there’s a lot, and I want to invite you to type them in. So I’m going to hop over here and look at some of these questions, and I’m going to go through and answer them. So Emma asks, who is responsible for creating the board training curriculum?

So I would say, now, if at all possible, in the best scenario, I encourage you to have some board training at all of your meetings. So some board training on fundraising, however short, in all of your meetings. It could be practicing doing great discovery questions.

I was, I had the pleasure, and Gigi was with me, I had the pleasure last week of being at the Bridge Conference, and Gigi was, from DC, came to my session, and I had everybody do a really fun activity where they asked each other discovery questions. So you could pick some great discovery questions and have board members practice asking discovery questions. There’s that book that I mentioned earlier, “Train Your Board in Fundraising” by Andy Robinson. There’s lots of activities in there.

I recommend having some kind of mini, really small fundraising training thing that you do at every meeting, but of course your retreat is a great opportunity for doing training. And there are a lot of great resources out there. I’ve mentioned a lot of these. Your local AFP chapter. Of course Bloomerang has all these fantastic webinars. There are, I’ve mentioned several books in here. I guarantee you if you read these, you’ll get ideas about board training and questions and what you could do.

If at all possible, I think it is really great to have training as part of your retreat, and you can always work with another organization. You can work with your local AFP chapter. You know, you could recruit people. You could recruit different guest speakers. You could recruit great board members from other nonprofit boards to talk about how they fundraise. If you have, like, zero budget, you can always work with other organizations to pool together to do a training to get, because a lot of organizations are struggling with getting their board members engaged in fundraising.

And as far as, so I hope that was helpful, and if that didn’t answer it, please feel free to type in if there’s more questions. I’ve reserved a lot of time here.

Karen asks, are there some fundamental obligations that every nonprofit board member should have? For example, do they have a responsibility to fundraise? If they came on with these obligations stipulated in writing, I’m sorry, if they came on without these obligations, do you have suggestions?

Yes. So you came late. That’s a lot of what I talked about. Every board member has an obligation to fundraise. Every board member must give. If you have board members who are clients, they need to make a gift that is personally meaningful to them. I believe that every board member has a role to play in fundraising, and my challenge to you is, and there’s a guide in here with a sample board contract. But my challenge to you is to brainstorm the 52 ways that board members can support fundraising in your organization and let the board members pick, of those 52 ways they could support fundraising, what are five or 10 ways that they want to do it? Let them pick the opportunity that’s right for them.

Because this isn’t a one size fits all. You want to give them the opportunity to support fundraising in the way that’s personally meaningful to them, whether it’s hosting a cultivation event or buying the wine for the wine toss at your gala or going on a visit or calling donors to thank them. You want to pick what they gravitate to that interests them.

So there’s so many awesome questions. There’s some donor management questions. How, well, and I’m sure, I know that my friend Steven has an opinion on this. I certainly do. Kim asks, how important is a donor management system?

It’s really important. It’s critically important for you to be able to track your donors, to be able to communicate with them. I’m sure that there’s more that Steven would add to that, and you’re welcome to if you’d like.

So many great questions. Carol asks, are thank you calls as expected today when people are deluged . . . okay, this is a great question. I love this. So Carol’s feeling sensitive about people getting a lot of phone calls, and she’s asking, “Hey, is it effective today when people are getting all these other phone calls?” An unknown number’s not likely to be answered. I love this question.

I think they are absolutely very, very effective. And yes, I try not to answer my phone if I don’t know who the caller is. I try not to. I’m a really curious person, so a lot of times I’ll answer it anyway. But I try not to because I get a lot of sales calls. So I try not to.

But it’s okay. If you get your donor’s voicemail, just leave a message. I’m a big fan of leaving a message. Give your board members a script. But, you know, thank you calls, I would argue, are even more effective than they were in the past because I think so many people aren’t picking up the phone and taking the time to thank their donors, and they’re not taking the time to have a meaningful conversation or ask their donors questions, and it really stands out when a volunteer picks up the phone and makes that call, it really stands out, and it makes an impression.

So I encourage you to leave a message, give them a script, and make it personal and meaningful. If it’s a first time gift, call it out as such. You know, let them know we’re thrilled to have such a generous first time gift from you.

So I have a question. What is an appropriate amount for board members to give towards the annual fundraiser? You know, this is a question that is going to be specific to every organization. Some organizations have a policy, you know, all board members must make a gift of $2000 or a specific dollar amount. Other organizations have a goal specific to each board member. You need to make the determination that’s right for you.

They’re, you know, you’re asking the appropriate amount. I couldn’t answer what the appropriate amount for your board members to give to your annual fundraiser is because I don’t know enough about your organization or your board members. But what I would tell everybody is every board member needs to make a personal gift that is meaningful to them. So it, you know, and it’s appropriate to ask your board members when you’re recruiting them for service, we expect to be one of your top three philanthropic priorities while you’re serving on our board. If you are one of their top three philanthropic priorities and they are philanthropists, that’s going to be a large gift. If they are a client and they have a, you know, then that’s going to be a smaller gift.

So it really just depends, but I believe that everyone needs to make a gift, and whether you choose to have them make a minimum gift or you choose to have it be specific to them, you need to pick what is the most appropriate for you.

So Christy has an interesting question. She said, would it be appropriate to share this webinar with the board? You certainly could. I will tell you, this is really a webinar where I’m speaking candidly and openly to executive directors and development directors and nonprofit staff. When I speak to board members, when I do a training for board members, it’s a different flavor, because when I do a training for board members, I’m really just talking about the joy of giving, and I’m really focused 100% on them feeling, like, excited and empowered and like they can do this and that donors are just like them, and I want to connect them to how good, re-connect them to how good it feels to give.

So I’ll be honest, like, you know, this is a little bit of a flavor of me speaking candidly to you peer to peer as another professional in the space. When I speak to boards, I really focus on how good it feels to give and really training them on questions to ask, you know, getting a visit, etc.

And let’s see. So Jane asks, what’s my stance on setting a specific give amount versus not giving the board a specific amount? I think you need to think about what would work best for you and your organization. The danger of having a specific amount is that, let’s just say it’s, like, $2000, and let’s say you’ve got one board member who could, you might have some board members who could give more, but that don’t, but you might also have a lot of board members who might not normally give $2000, and by having that as the floor, you know, having that as the minimum would get them to that point.

I’ve had organizations who have been really happy with having a minimum gift amount, and I had organizations who, you know, I spoke to an organization in the fall who moved to, I believe it was, if my memory serves me correctly, it was $2000, and they felt at the time that was a little bit out of their comfort zone, but they were, they ended up being really excited and thrilled that they did it, and they were really happy and had really great participation, and it ended up being a really good decision for them.

So it’s really based on your organization and, you know, it’s a thoughtful decision for you to make for your organization with your, for your board.

So these are all awesome questions. Kathleen asks an interesting one. And we still have time if you guys want to type in your question. Kathleen asks, how do you tell a board member that the cash situation is not good and get their help?

So I would start by educating them about how the, you know, how the money is spent, what the funding sources are, where it goes, what it contributes to. What does it mean if you can’t raise this money? What programs are going to be affected? What things won’t happen?

And I would also do it under the context of them being privileged to this information as board members. You know, I once was doing a training, and I had an individual in the training who did a fundraising appeal that was a very, like, we’re going to close our doors if you can’t give to us right now. It was a very desperate kind of last ditch fundraising appeal. And he sent it to his whole list. And he got some really negative feedback back from his major gift donors who were angry and frustrated, and they told him, “How dare you send this out? Why didn’t you just call me? If it was that bad, I would’ve wanted to know personally.”

So I would be thoughtful and intentional with how I presented this information and what I expected the board members to do with this information. I would really phrase it as, you know, this is what we’re doing and this is where we need your help and here’s how you can help. Because it’s important that your closest stakeholders feel an important connection to you, and they could, you know, in that, that’s a classic scenario of this person accidentally offended them because he could have and should have gone to them first before he went out to everyone and given them an opportunity. He should’ve honored that relationship by doing that.

So Courtney asks, it sounds like this book is targeted to organizational staff. She’s trying to help an organization that has a staff but doesn’t really have a board.

So I guess, I don’t know, Courtney, if this is an organization in, this may be an organization in the Ukraine? Because if my memory serves me correctly, you were joining us from the Ukraine. But legally in the United States, you have to have a board of directors in order to get your 501(c)(3) certification, so you can’t exist without a board of directors. And I know in the state of Texas, last time I checked, you were required to have, I believe, three board members. So you may be talking about an international organization.

But yes, these two books, these are great books, and they are really, all the books that I’ve recommended are really targeted towards a staff audience. Again, when I’m . . . you guys are drinking the Kool-Aid and you guys have the fundraising chops and the fundraising knowledge and the fundraising background, so I can communicate with you because you have a certain level of fundraising knowledge already. And when it comes to board members, I typically assume they may not have the same fundraising knowledge that you have going in. So and I always talk a little bit more candidly and openly with you, whereas when I’m communicating with a board, it’s really about getting them excited and empowered and engaged.

So we still have time if you guys have a few more questions. These are awesome questions. I want to invite Steven if he has anything he wants to add to Kim’s question about how important is a donor management system. I’m just going through to make sure that I haven’t left any questions off.

Steven: I would say it’s very important. But I am somewhat impartial.

Rachel: We could be a little biased, right?

Steven: Yeah.

Rachel: Yeah, it’s pretty important in terms of, you know, just, you know, it’s your whole, like, DNA for your organization of who’s given, what have they given, what are their interests, what do they care about, how am I going to communicate with them.

You guys have been an amazing audience. We do still have a little bit of time. Oh, there’s some in the . . . Okay, so Fiona asks, how do we get rid of board members who insist that they are valuable but they don’t contribute at all? What an awesome question. And Amy asked a really similar question, how do you ask board members to leave? So these are juicy, juicy questions.

Okay, so I have a guide in here on difficult conversations, and one of our other fundraising friends who we adore, Simone, she has a book “How to Fire Lousy Board Members,” and Simone uses a term called enhancing attrition, and I think this is a great term. But I like to refer to this as the graceful exit, my friend.

So, first off, I already gave plug for assessment, and board assessments are really great, you know, impartial, non-emotional place for you to get this dirt out in the open where, you know, board members are frustrated with a lack of board member participation. You know, this is a demotivating element.

One, okay, term limits are really great to have. Really great to have. And that’s another place where an impartial expert can really be an asset to you. Term limits are of course huge. But when it comes to graceful exits, and there’s a guide in that goody on having a difficult conversation and talking about graceful exits.

So when it comes to graceful exits, your goal is for them to walk away feeling appreciated, feeling acknowledged, feeling heard. So I like to, you know, I like to, no matter what happens, if you can own that expectations weren’t properly set. Even if it was someone else who made the mistake, you can own it. You know, I am so sorry. We did not set the right expectations. We weren’t clear, we were vague, and we didn’t set you up for success.

Because you want them to walk out with their head held high, only going out into the community and saying really amazing things about you. So I like to give them lots of different options. I like to give them, they could take a leave of absence, they could leave and maybe, and a leave of absence, we get that in our professional lives, whether it’s, you know, jury duty, hopefully we’ve got a nice maternity policy where we work, or paternity policy, and we hopefully have an opportunity. So I think a leave of absence is an option. Serving in other, less time-consuming ways. You know, serving on a committee.

I would really walk in thanking them, acknowledging, appreciating them, and be prepared with other opportunities for them to serve that are less time-consuming. Serving as a consultant. Serving as a mentor. Serving on a committee. Taking a leave of absence. Checking back in with them after a certain amount of time. Those are all ways.

Your board chair is like your partner in crime in having one of those conversations. You need a set time. It needs to be dedicated time that you dedicate to it and not, like, a drive-by conversation a few minutes before your board meeting. But the most important thing is honoring people’s service, honoring their emotions. Passionate emotions means that they care. And being prepared and ready to accept responsibility for not properly setting expectations and have graceful ways that they can contribute in other ways.

And Simone says, you know, that one person’s feelings don’t get to compromise the entire health of the organization, and I totally agree. You know, this is another place where sometimes getting help, talking to other folks, other organizations, other leaders. I’ve mentioned some of these books that could be helpful. Could be helpful to you in knowing that you aren’t alone and that there is indeed help out there.

Kim asks, is the board chair the same as the president? Yes, typically.

If the board chair is a problem, then you need to talk with your governance chair or your vice president. So, you know, I’ve weathered many board transitions. I’ve weathered many boards. I joked earlier that I have the scars and the T-shirts to prove it. At one point in my career, I actually had a complete turnover of my board where my board basically, we did a transition where a board resigned, I had board members resign and a new board come on, and we did, like, a really big transition. I worked with outside expertise to do it. But I really had board members that weren’t the right fit for the organization, and they weren’t able to commit, and they knew it.

And so we, you know, I worked with, I didn’t do it by myself. I worked with outside council. And sometimes that can be a real benefit to you not just in terms of the transition, but in terms of your emotional wellbeing, as well. But this happens, you know, nonprofits are messy. That’s Joan Garry’s kind of tagline. Nonprofits are messy. It’s true. And emotions can run high.

So there are some guidance, there are some tips in there for difficult conversations and other ways that board members can serve in having difficult conversations. I hope that is helpful.

We are on the hour. Thank you guys so much for joining me. I’m going to pass the baton back to my friend Steven. I’m so grateful to be here, and thank you so much for having me today.

Steven: No, we owe you the thanks. You’re the one who gave us all this good advice. So thank you. I know it’s hard to cram all this board info into one hour, but you did it, and it was really cool. There was lots of good advice. So thank you for taking the time, Rachel, to share your expertise. This was a good one, for sure.

Well, we have, we’re about out of time, so I just want to thank everyone else for hanging out with us, and I’m sure all of you are very busy, as well. So we will get you the slides and the recording later on this afternoon. Definitely the recording. You should probably already have the slides, but I’ll re-send them just in case. And hopefully you can make use of all this stuff. You know, share with your board members if you are feeling adventurous. I think Rachel’s advice was probably pretty good, and maybe you want to just take some of the advice away and apply it to your board.

We’ve got some great webinars coming up. We are back one week from today. Hopefully, I should say to you guys that this is my wife’s due date, so we will try to do this webinar as long as I do not have a baby arrive, but I heard that only 5% of due dates are accurate. So plan on being with us one week from today. I’m planning on it. I’ll certainly let you know if we have to postpone it.

But we’ve got one of our favorites, Lori Jacobwith, joining us. She’s awesome. This is a great presentation. I’ve actually heard this in person at a conference, and I told her, I asked her if she would do it for us, and she was more than happy to oblige. It’s a really good one, for sure. So check it out. You can register. Totally free.

There’s lots of other webinars you can register for, for sure, throughout the year, and I’m sure we will have Rachel back again very soon. That’s always an easy one to schedule. So hopefully we’ll see you again next week. If not, hopefully we’ll see you again some other Thursday. So have a good rest of your Thursday today and a good and safe weekend, and we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.

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.