You have three minutes…

It’s a warm evening, and the room’s malfunctioning HVAC isn’t helping matters. You wipe a slight smidgen of sweat from your hands onto your jeans and clear your voice. In syncopation, you review your opening statement at light-speed inside your head.

The proposal you slaved and lobbied over for nearly a month (or more) is finally getting its time at your nonprofit board’s monthly meeting. You documented your notes on a separate agenda to keep your speech on track. You even went to the bathroom 10 minutes before the meeting so nothing would interrupt your time.

Quick, pop quiz:

  • Did you bring enough copies of your proposal for every board member to review?
  • Have you anticipated additional time for questions and answers?
  • What if they think your plan stinks?
  • Do you even know who sits on the board?

Your heart jolts with an extra adrenaline shot after you review the questions in your mind (you might even feel the urge to bolt toward the bathroom again). Suddenly you’re not so sure your nonprofit board members will receive your proposal with open arms. They might even wait another month (or five) to put it to a vote.

Even the most hands-on of board members are incredibly, ridiculously busy people. This goes double for large nonprofits with employees who have umpteen to-dos before noon, and triple for small nonprofits who rely almost entirely on volunteer efforts.

But remember: your mission is the reason why you’re all there in the first place. Engaging your nonprofit board members doesn’t have to be an over-complicated, anxiety-inducing mess as long as you review these three tips beforehand:

When I was younger, my parents described trust like a brick house. It takes months to lay the brick, and only minutes to knock it all down. And while you don’t necessarily need to wait half a year to address your nonprofit board members, it never hurts to engage them early on and do your research.


1. Know Whom You’re Addressing

The Issue

As Julia Classen points out in a 2011 Nonprofit Quarterly article, nonprofit boards often operate in cycles. The nonprofit sector experiences environmental shifts, so an organization responds by shifting its own priorities and mission-focused tactics.

Then crises challenge these shifts and boards are forced to respond in a reactionary manner. All of this happens in a cycle independent from your own ideas on how your nonprofit should function.

We should also consider that nonprofit board member turnover is practically the norm. One particular study from North Carolina State suggests only one in four nonprofits have a succession plan for incoming executives. It’s not uncommon for some nonprofit board members to begin handling crises within their first few months — and that’s not including the added costs of restaffing and additional time for bringing one up to speed.

The Solution

It’s imperative to begin introductions as soon as possible. The more your nonprofit board members see your face, whether it’s around the office or actively observing meetings, the more likely they will recognize your efforts as an active, engaged member at-large.

Connecting with others outside the boardroom, in a non-work environment, will show that you’re not just talking with them to get what you want. It never hurts to take someone out to lunch.

However, if you’re still unsure on how best to approach your nonprofit board members with a capital campaign or project proposal, consider partnering with a professional fundraising consultant to help create a game plan in advance.


2. Define How You’ll Deliver Impact

The Issue

This flies in the face of numerous nonprofit metrics — and even some crabby stakeholders — but overhead is not the sector’s most important metric. Before you click the “close” button on your browser, let me explain.

Let’s say your nonprofit starts its work as a local soup kitchen and food pantry. But pretty soon, you have more food than you can possibly contain in one storage space. You have two options:

  1. Stick with your original mission and donate the groceries in mass, “everything-must-go” giveaways.
  2. Get a bigger storage space.

The first option lowers overhead and sticks straight to the nonprofit’s mission. It’s sensible. It’s easy.

But Feeding America didn’t choose to do that. Instead, its founder chose the latter option and decided to open the nation’s first and largest food bank network.

Which option do you think helps more people? Which option do you think delivers more impact?

The Solution

If your nonprofit board members are measuring your organization’s success by money and not people served, then they’re doing it wrong. So tell them the story of your vision. Explain to them how your long-term project will help do more good by focusing on people instead of doing what’s cost-effective. And if you have to use numbers to get your point across, make sure those numbers involve real human beings.

If the mission comes first, then core competencies are a close second. If you find your nonprofit is in a position to expand its offerings, it can be gut-check time for a wary board. But their decision can be a whole lot easier when you try to capture their hearts, not their wallets while appealing for your capital campaign or project.


3. Flexibility First, Follow-Up Second

The Issue

I volunteer for an all-ages lacrosse club in my area. I went to our most recent board meeting with three agenda items that I thought were all equally crucial to continuing our success. In a two-hour meeting, one agenda item took up 90 minutes of discussion time.

It’s not uncommon for nonprofit board members to review information, then hold a vote at a subsequent meeting. There’s just not enough time in one day, let alone two hours, to discuss everything we have on our plates.

The Solution

Don’t be a jerk. No one’s out to get you, or undermine your ideas or solutions. Everyone is busy, and everyone is dealing with their own things. So if an agenda item needs to sit for the next monthly meeting or quarterly vote, go with the flow.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to shut up when the meeting’s over. Remember that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Again, in most situations, the majority of nonprofit board members aren’t trying to deliberately avoid you — they might just forget to follow up with you, or can’t remember some of your feasibility study or proposal details.

So send them a reminder email. Or, again, take them out to lunch. After all, I’ve never turned down a cheeseburger in my life. Especially when it’s for such a good cause.


Remember that at the end of the day, your nonprofit board members are not a means to an end but rather fellow supporters of your organization’s goals and mission. That’s why connecting with them on a personal and professional level will do wonders for setting the wheels in motion for your next big project.


 

Click and Pledge: Matt Sutherland

 

Matt Sutherland is the Communications Director for Click & Pledge, an all-in-one online fundraising platform for nonprofits. Matt’s favorite activities include playing pickup lacrosse games and turning his guitar amp up to 11. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Learn more about hiring a capital campaign consultant.

You have three minutes…

It’s a warm evening, and the room’s malfunctioning HVAC isn’t helping matters. You wipe a slight smidgen of sweat from your hands onto your jeans and clear your voice. In syncopation, you review your opening statement at light-speed inside your head.

The proposal you slaved and lobbied over for nearly a month (or more) is finally getting its time at your nonprofit board’s monthly meeting. You documented your notes on a separate agenda to keep your speech on track. You even went to the bathroom 10 minutes before the meeting so nothing would interrupt your time.

Quick, pop quiz:

  • Did you bring enough copies of your proposal for every board member to review?
  • Have you anticipated additional time for questions and answers?
  • What if they think your plan stinks?
  • Do you even know who sits on the board?

Your heart jolts with an extra adrenaline shot after you review the questions in your mind (you might even feel the urge to bolt toward the bathroom again). Suddenly you’re not so sure your nonprofit board members will receive your proposal with open arms. They might even wait another month (or five) to put it to a vote.

Even the most hands-on of board members are incredibly, ridiculously busy people. This goes double for large nonprofits with employees who have umpteen to-dos before noon, and triple for small nonprofits who rely almost entirely on volunteer efforts.

But remember: your mission is the reason why you’re all there in the first place. Engaging your nonprofit board members doesn’t have to be an over-complicated, anxiety-inducing mess as long as you review these three tips beforehand:

When I was younger, my parents described trust like a brick house. It takes months to lay the brick, and only minutes to knock it all down. And while you don’t necessarily need to wait half a year to address your nonprofit board members, it never hurts to engage them early on and do your research.


1. Know Whom You’re Addressing

The Issue

As Julia Classen points out in a 2011 Nonprofit Quarterly article, nonprofit boards often operate in cycles. The nonprofit sector experiences environmental shifts, so an organization responds by shifting its own priorities and mission-focused tactics.

Then crises challenge these shifts and boards are forced to respond in a reactionary manner. All of this happens in a cycle independent from your own ideas on how your nonprofit should function.

We should also consider that nonprofit board member turnover is practically the norm. One particular study from North Carolina State suggests only one in four nonprofits have a succession plan for incoming executives. It’s not uncommon for some nonprofit board members to begin handling crises within their first few months — and that’s not including the added costs of restaffing and additional time for bringing one up to speed.

The Solution

It’s imperative to begin introductions as soon as possible. The more your nonprofit board members see your face, whether it’s around the office or actively observing meetings, the more likely they will recognize your efforts as an active, engaged member at-large.

Connecting with others outside the boardroom, in a non-work environment, will show that you’re not just talking with them to get what you want. It never hurts to take someone out to lunch.

However, if you’re still unsure on how best to approach your nonprofit board members with a capital campaign or project proposal, consider partnering with a professional fundraising consultant to help create a game plan in advance.


2. Define How You’ll Deliver Impact

The Issue

This flies in the face of numerous nonprofit metrics — and even some crabby stakeholders — but overhead is not the sector’s most important metric. Before you click the “close” button on your browser, let me explain.

Let’s say your nonprofit starts its work as a local soup kitchen and food pantry. But pretty soon, you have more food than you can possibly contain in one storage space. You have two options:

  1. Stick with your original mission and donate the groceries in mass, “everything-must-go” giveaways.
  2. Get a bigger storage space.

The first option lowers overhead and sticks straight to the nonprofit’s mission. It’s sensible. It’s easy.

But Feeding America didn’t choose to do that. Instead, its founder chose the latter option and decided to open the nation’s first and largest food bank network.

Which option do you think helps more people? Which option do you think delivers more impact?

The Solution

If your nonprofit board members are measuring your organization’s success by money and not people served, then they’re doing it wrong. So tell them the story of your vision. Explain to them how your long-term project will help do more good by focusing on people instead of doing what’s cost-effective. And if you have to use numbers to get your point across, make sure those numbers involve real human beings.

If the mission comes first, then core competencies are a close second. If you find your nonprofit is in a position to expand its offerings, it can be gut-check time for a wary board. But their decision can be a whole lot easier when you try to capture their hearts, not their wallets while appealing for your capital campaign or project.


3. Flexibility First, Follow-Up Second

The Issue

I volunteer for an all-ages lacrosse club in my area. I went to our most recent board meeting with three agenda items that I thought were all equally crucial to continuing our success. In a two-hour meeting, one agenda item took up 90 minutes of discussion time.

It’s not uncommon for nonprofit board members to review information, then hold a vote at a subsequent meeting. There’s just not enough time in one day, let alone two hours, to discuss everything we have on our plates.

The Solution

Don’t be a jerk. No one’s out to get you, or undermine your ideas or solutions. Everyone is busy, and everyone is dealing with their own things. So if an agenda item needs to sit for the next monthly meeting or quarterly vote, go with the flow.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you need to shut up when the meeting’s over. Remember that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Again, in most situations, the majority of nonprofit board members aren’t trying to deliberately avoid you — they might just forget to follow up with you, or can’t remember some of your feasibility study or proposal details.

So send them a reminder email. Or, again, take them out to lunch. After all, I’ve never turned down a cheeseburger in my life. Especially when it’s for such a good cause.


Remember that at the end of the day, your nonprofit board members are not a means to an end but rather fellow supporters of your organization’s goals and mission. That’s why connecting with them on a personal and professional level will do wonders for setting the wheels in motion for your next big project.


 

Click and Pledge: Matt Sutherland

 

Matt Sutherland is the Communications Director for Click & Pledge, an all-in-one online fundraising platform for nonprofits. Matt’s favorite activities include playing pickup lacrosse games and turning his guitar amp up to 11. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Over the years we’ve helped nonprofits raise millions of dollars, engage their leaders, hire top-notch talent and grow their missions. Are you ready to move your mission forward? Contact us to get started.
Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Subscribe To ASP News

Sign up for our email newsletter and receive FREE resources, exclusive tips, news and offers!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This