Board Retreats: Don’t Skip the Fun

Today we’re going to talk about fun.

Running a successful nonprofit organization is a lot of hard work. There are animals to save, people to feed, art to be created – the list goes on and on. On top of all of the world bettering, comes the day to day operations. Your organization not only has internal leadership, but a board of directors. This group is entrusted to not only making sure the organization does things right, but does the right thing. Again, a lot of hard work by a lot of people just trying to make the world a little better.

Back to the fun. With all these responsibilities it’s important that you don’t skip the fun at your next board retreat. We’re not talking about putting “fun” as an agenda item between strategic planning and lunch. More like weaving fun into the entire retreat.

Don’t skip the fun at your next

board retreat!

Here are six ways to put the fun in your next board retreat:

1. Don’t conduct regular board business at the retreat. I understand that this is difficult, but it is a real momentum killer. When there is that “one little item to cover while we’re all together” it is tempting to address it at the beginning or at the end, but that “one little thing” rabbit holes into a lot different directions. Avoid this. Find another way to address it like an e-mail vote or a conference call a few days before the retreat.

2. Be active. Skip the room with just room for a conference table; find a space that accommodates moving around. Do some work sitting, some standing, some outside in the fresh air. Mix up the agenda so it isn’t the same person talking most of the day. More active participation will lead to better results because everyone feels heard and included.

3. Mix up the groups. Every board has natural groups so you need to do some prep and put retreat teams together that are counter to the natural groupings. Then change the groups throughout the retreat. Encourage board members to interact with someone they don’t already know well. If you have new members attending, ensure that they are interacting with longer-serving members. Again, this allows everyone to feel heard and included.

4. Combine team building with retreat objectives. Team building exercises don’t have to be standalone items that appear to distract from the objectives of the board. For instance, if you want board members to work on their elevator speeches, have them do it in pairs. When I facilitate a retreat, I work with board and staff leadership to establish objectives THEN I look for ways to weave in fun exercises that relate to those objectives.

5. Laugh. The work your organization is doing is important and likely not a laughing matter. But, when a board laughs together they form bonds that will serve them in the future. Use an exercise that allows board members to laugh at themselves and each other.

6. Include your mission. Your nonprofit has a unique mission and personality so be sure to include that in your retreat. This also allows your board to really immerse in the mission and remember why they joined the board in the first place. For example, if you are an arts organization do something creative. Help the board make memories together so they can work better together to support the mission.

Don’t be afraid of having fun at your board retreat. Retreats provide an opportunity to move the work of your board forward and help your board build relationships to better serve the mission.

We’d enjoy the opportunity to discuss how we can help make your next board retreat fun and successful.

Board Giving: How Much?

“How much should a board member be required to give?”

It’s a question I receive fairly often when working with all types and sizes of organizations. The short answer – it depends on your board culture.

My personal preference is not to set an amount, but ask each board member to make their best gift. If they are serving on your board, it is not unreasonable to expect to be in their top three gifts.

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Two ways to approach it with your board:

Their Best Gift
Board members should feel strongly – even passionately – about your organization’s mission. Therefore, they should want to make their best gift to help you accomplish that mission. Through their perspective as a board member, they know how much money you need to make a difference and their passion should translate into a gift that makes the biggest difference possible.

Caring How it is Used
A key responsibility of a board member is the fiscal health of the organization. Board members who have made a personally significant best gift, will feel ownership of how donated funds are used. As they monitor the fiscal activities of your organization, they will see their gift at work. This allows them to shift from an “advisory” role where they are watching over other people’s money to a “service” role where they have a stake in your progress.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention minimum gift levels. I’m not opposed to them in all situations. Many organizations have a culture that supports that approach. If it’s working for your nonprofit, stick with it. However, if you have a minimum amount but most board members aren’t giving it, it’s time to reevaluate your approach.

Board giving is a critically important topic for every nonprofit. After all, it is easier to ask other people to join you in making a difference – rather than just asking them to do it. Now is the perfect time to discuss your board giving and take action to improve it.

If you need help with your board giving plan, contact us today and we can discuss how we can help.

Board Giving: Does Corporate Giving ‘Count’?

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One question that seems to always come up when working with an organization is ‘does corporate giving count as a board members gift?’ Like most fundraising questions, the answer is it depends. Since that doesn’t help with real-life situations, let’s expand on that.

One BoardSource certified trainer I’ve worked with taught that corporate gifts don’t count for board giving. That answer seems too absolute to me. I think it comes down to two variables:

  1. How the board member was recruited.
    We often ask our large corporate donors to put someone on our board. Sometimes we get a board member who is completely committed to our mission and sometimes we get a board member who is there because they were “voluntold” (one of my least favorite made-up words). When they are recruited to represent a company, it can be unrealistic to also expect them to be personally committed and make a personal gift (with no cultivation).
  2. How expectations were articulated to them.
    If the board expectations (which should be discussed with all new board members) aren’t explicit on the difference in a personal gift and a corporate gift, we can’t determine that arbitrarily. Any changes would need to be discussed and adopted by the board as a whole (including that person).

Don’t forget, with any board member there is opportunity for cultivation. That applies to personal and corporate giving. If they represent their company and don’t give personally, it might be because they were never shown how that makes a difference and asked. Many times we just expect board members to give because they are required to do so and forget that they need to see the mission in action and be invited to invest. In some cases, board members need special cultivation because we spend so much time telling them how financially successful we are, they might not see how their support will make a difference.

By now you probably know my favorite response is it depends, because in fundraising – and most things, really – talking in absolutes should be avoided when possible. Statements like ‘Board members should always’ or ‘board members should never’ don’t allow consideration of the many factors that can impact a situation. A more diplomatic way to state it might be, ‘best practice in this area is …’ or ‘BoardSource recommends…’ then ask why that may or may not work in your specific situation.

The Secret Life of Board Gifts

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Many times in my career I resented the money we were spending on board gifts. Looking back, that was short sighted of me. Board gifts – those little things with your organization’s logo that you can use to express gratitude for their service – actually pay a dividend to your organization.

I’ll use my favorite Yeti knockoff as an example: it was a thank you gift for my service on a board (it was actually leftover participant gifts from a golf tournament – so check the supply closet). At the time I opened the gift, I thought “oh this is nice.” But now 5 years later, it is a powerful tool that opens many conversations about the organization.

Yesterday I took it to my daughter’s high school softball game. Lest I sound like a complete nonprofit nerd, let me assure you I selected that tumbler because I can sit in the hot Florida sun and the ice won’t melt in my Diet Dr. Pepper. But, because the Young Life logo was on the tumbler, one of the other parents asked me about it (the organization, not my cold beverage). I had the chance to talk about the mission of the organization and why we support the organization. I didn’t have to bring it up – they asked me. In any fundraising book, that’s a win-win.

Here are some ideas on how your next board gift can be a win-win for your organization:

  • Do they write with your organization’s pen? Do they keep an extra on hand so when someone needs a pen they can share it?
  • Do your board members have name tags they can wear at your events? These are cheap and easy to order, so make sure it looks nice.
  • Do your board members have shirts (a collared shirt for casual Friday or golf)? Hats? Some kind of apparel that makes it apparent they are on your team?
  • Do they drink from a coffee mug or insulated cup with your logo on it? It could also be used on their desk to hold pens.

Board gifts are a valuable tool in helping board members share the mission of your organization and allows a soft introduction to the people they see when out and about.

We’d love to hear about the best board gift you have given or received – please share in the comments below or Tweet us @SaraTampa.