Is your Board of Directors your secret fundraisng weapon or biggest headache?

We know the story of the board that does not perform at the level the Executive Director and the organization need.

We know the frustration of unsuccessfully asking for more commitment and engagement from board members.  We know the painful (boring!) board meetings where the ED does all the talking.

Would you like to change that?

If the board is not your secret weapon catapulting you towards higher and higher levels of fundraising and program impact…keep reading.

Richard Gottlieb, Senior Services of Forsyth County’s recently retired Executive Director, knows how to create such a board.  (Read more about Senior Service’s growth in this earlier post based on a generous interview with Richard early this year.)

Richard had a simple goal: “to develop the best board in town.”

The Nominating Committee

“The Nominating Committee is often the most important committee of any nonprofit agency.” Through the Nominating Committee, Senior Services identified the strongest individuals in the community.  They carefully looked at who on our board was the best person to ask them to join the  board.

Richard kept repeating a mantra to the board members that, with work, eventually became true: “Senior Services has the best board in town.”  This powerful board opened their hearts to the mission, opened doors, and opened their wallets.

The Nominating Committee only meant once a year with communication in between meetings.  They were, however,  one of the most influential committees on the whole board.  They in effect, set it’s future.

Nurturing a Board of Generous, Committed, and Dedicated Leaders 

To hear Richard talk, the steps he took to create this board were simple.

He was always looking for ways to create and say ‘yes’ to opportunities that would further the mission of the agency with the help of the board and staff.  He used these opportunities to speak to board member’s hearts.

As a result, a board member was inspired to make a very significant investment in the organization’s first campaign to help people with Alzheimer’s disease.

This was a pivotal turning point for Senior Services.  It was the seed that created a board culture where every board member made a significant gift – monetary or otherwise.   Richard accepted this first gift and, indeed, others began to follow in turn.  Board members asked each other to give.  It became an expectation of being on this Board.

In Richard’s last $5.5 million capital campaign, $1.2 million came from personal donations of board members!  Their personal commitments made it much easier for Board members to approach others for significant donations.

A board member who was a senior executive in corporate marketing volunteered to help re-brand the organization.  This gave Richard a whole new avenue and appreciation for marketing.  They got so creative this became a major focus for him until he retired.

Becoming a Cutting-Edge Provider and Committing to Excellent Donor Return on Investment

Another board member developed a special event that significantly surpassed its fundraising goals. It helped the organization cement it reputation as a cutting-edge provider of services for seniors.  Her idea was to provide scholarship funds for those seniors wanting to attend day programs so that the organization turned no one away. This became an annual event raising over $300,000 last year.

Once Senior Services began to attract more significant funding, the organization demonstrated donors’ ‘return on investment’ in multiple measurable ways improving the lives of the most vulnerable seniors in the community.  They committed to eliminating the waiting list for Meals On Wheels.  This simple goal alone became a huge fundraising campaign led by the board.

As success deepened, it became easier to recruit great people to the board, and they, in turn, brought new opportunities for consideration allowing Senior Services to grow even more.

Presented with these opportunities, Richard strove to take full advantage of them over time through slow, steady progress.

When Richard saw the potential of working more closely with the board, he began to give it a lot more attention.  The organization developed a strong board selection and orientation process.

During Richard’s tenure, a second organization, The Senior Services Foundation, was created enabling him to engage in even more board relationships.  Today, between the two organizations, there are sixty-six active board members who whole-heartedly support Senior Services.  People are downright eager to get on these boards.

Face time with board members is precious!  During scheduled meetings – Richard always looked for ways to inspire board members and make them feel good about their time and financial contributions.

A CEO Focused on Fostering a Positive, Meaningful Experience for Board Members and Staff

Taking this great case study to heart, ask yourself “Are board members having a good experience in meetings, at events, on the phone?  How can you make their board service one of the best experiences possible?”

In my experience serving on boards, I am not sure the Executive Directors ever had that thought!  This genuine intention created a board that moves mountains for Senior Services.

Richard believed, “People are looking for meaningful purpose in their lives and to make a positive difference in their community.  If nonprofit directors can provide board members with an opportunity to be part of meaningful change that is a powerful motivator for involvement.”

Building relationships is less about what people think of you, and more about how they feel being  around you.  A key question for executive directors is: “How does a board member feel about themselves and the time they are spending when they are around me and my organization?”

If board members feel listened to, affirmed, and respected, they want to do more, give more, deepening their engagement with the organization and with you.

This intention supports your ability to communicate with board members and key donors with empathy.  These critical conversations kept large donations flowing in for Senior Services critical work and it can work for you too.

Want more details on Richard’s story?  Click here to download his case study and share it with your team and board of directors. 

Ready to get similar results?

Join us for a one day Executive Director Intensive on May 31st and lay the ground work now for increased board engagement and improved financial performance for your organization.

Unlock the true potential of your board!