Attention nonprofit board members: now is the time for you to take action.
As we approach the end of the year, board members should take some action to boost your nonprofits’ end of year giving efforts.
Give – board members should have already made your best gifts by now but still make a gift to support current efforts. If your nonprofit is having a year-end event, sponsor. If they are selling something, buy some. If they are sending a year-end appeal, make a gift.
Ask others to give – your friends and family should know that this charity is important to you. Now is the time to ask them to invest in this cause. If your nonprofit has special year-end drives (like toys or food), use that opportunity to tell the story and ask for donations.
Engage on social media – if you haven’t already, like, follow, join (whatever the appropriate verb) your nonprofit’s social media accounts. During the final weeks of the year, make an effort to check the social media channels once a day and share, retweet, repost. This simple but intentional action can amplify your nonprofits’ reach.
Thank – start with the people you know who support your nonprofit. Reach out with an e-mail or handwritten note to tell them how their gifts have made the world a better place this year. After that, ask if there are additional donors you could contact with a stewardship message. Don’t forget social media channels for thanking, too. For instance, a post on LinkedIn to thank corporate donors is a simple but powerful way to show appreciation.
Encourage staff – it’s been a tough year for everyone. This may be the most obvious statement I’ve ever written but it’s important to remember that nonprofit staff members have been under a tremendous amount of pressure for 9 months. Whether your nonprofit has been running at full speed or has had to curtail services, the stress has been real. Take a moment to write a personal note to staff members telling them that you see their hard work and it’s appreciated. Find a way to tell them that they are appreciated – by you and by the people you are all serving.
If you are reading this in November: take action now. If you’re reading this in early December: take action now. If you’re reading this in late December:take action now. (seeing a trend?) And if you are reading this after 2021 has started and year-end giving is completed, it’s still not too late to take action.
It’s not too late – it’s never too late – for board members to demonstrate their leadership by engaging in year-end fundraising.
As 2020 winds down, you might be asking, ‘should I even bother to make a development plan for 2021?’
I think YES!
Now is exactly the time to make a plan for moving forward.
Here is why I think you should make a development plan:
You will set goals for more than dollars raised. The only measurement of development is NOT dollars raised. You should also be measuring donor retention, new donors, contacts made to deepen engagement, board and volunteer involvement in fundraising. Create a development plan that addresses all of the key performance indicators you identify.
You can activate everyone on your development team: fundraising staff, CEO, board members and volunteers. Development is a team sport and now more than ever, you need the whole team working toward the same goals. Use your development plan to confirm who is doing what and when. Include goals and activities for everyone working on raising the funds your organization needs to accomplish the mission.
You will know that things are changing and your plan can change. Even in times of uncertainty, maybe especially in times of uncertainty, you will benefit from having a plan that provides a starting point for adjustments. Your development plan should be written down but not in permanent ink. Go into it knowing that you’ll be making changes throughout the year.
You can make hard decisions about where to focus limited resources. This year we’ve overused the word “pivot” so we know that there will be tough choices ahead. If you are facing budget cuts, a development plan allows you to see the impact of reduction and make the best choices. A well-researched and thorough development plan addresses those changes.
You will document uncertainties. Making a plan will allow you to note what is uncertain and set deadlines to make decisions about those. A plan doesn’t do away with unknowns but it can relieve some of the anxiety by putting them out in the open.
Now is the time to take a clear-eyed look at the future and make a 2021 development plan that will serve your organization and the people who depend on it.
“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.
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.
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:
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).
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.