Related Workshop: Latest Trends and
Best Practices in Governance Series
The Board’s Role
Wednesday, March 25
8:00-10:00 a.m. at NPC
Creating a culture of philanthropy is key to ensuring there is enough money to do the work. Get tools and resources to effectively engage board and staff, and to help every board director be a good ambassador. Presenter: Rob Meiksins, Principal, Forward Steps Consulting.
Click here for more details and to register.
Guest Blog by Rob Meiksins, Principal, Forward Steps Consulting
As a board director you hear it all the time: You need to help raise funds for our organization! Quick – what image comes to mind when you hear that? I’ll bet you thought of sitting across the table from someone and asking them to make a donation. You pictured your hand shaking as you raised the coffee cup to your lips and watched the coffee spill all over your tie. The sweat dripping down your forehead…
Okay, I am overstating for effect, but the image of asking is an image of fear for so many board directors. I know I can’t convince you that actually it is a lot of fun to ask someone to support your cause. So, let me try something else.
Paul Simon once sang that “There must be 50 ways to leave your lover” and in fundraising there are probably twice as many ways that you can help as a board director without having to make the dreaded ask. Here is one of them: be the ambassador.
Know your organization’s story, and tell people about it. There are two stories to tell, by the way. One is the “party line,” or the message the organization would like to communicate about its cause this year. As a board director you should be able to make the elevator speech about that message, and then have an additional 10 minutes of information that you can share. So you do need some details about outcomes, budget size, staffing, sources of income, etc.
Tell your story. Almost more important than being able to deliver the official message is to be able to tell the story about why you are involved. What is it about the cause or the people that makes you want to invest your reputation, your time, your expertise, and your money? Make this a personal story that you would tell a friend or a neighbor across the fence. This story should tug at the heartstrings in some way – it doesn’t have to be about the facts or the numbers.
Wear the cause on your sleeve. When was the last time you introduced yourself to people as a board director for your organization? Is it in your resume, your bio? Do you list your board affiliation in the “About Us” section of your professional website? You should. The service you are providing the community as a board director is amazing and you should be very proud of it, so brag a little.
What I am getting at is that there are a lot of people who know you and trust you. Simply because that neighbor or friend you are talking to likes you and trusts you, they are also likely to be ready to like and trust your cause. If you can get a response like “Huh, I didn’t know that,” or “That’s great,” or something along those lines, you have helped build support for your organization. Guess what? You just helped with fund raising.
Give it a try. Raising awareness of the organization you are involved with, and spreading the good word about its impact on the community will almost certainly come back at some point to have a positive effect on the financial bottom line. That help may not be in the form of a gift from your listener, but a positive image of your organization in the community will affect the decision made by a donor somewhere at some time.
Oh. By the way. Once you have told your story to your friend or neighbor and you got that positive reaction, you are about a half step away from asking for their support.