May 5, 2014

Personal face-to-face solicitation should be part of your annual fundraising

When I was the chief development officer at Trinity Repertory Company, 75 volunteers joined me to solicit 500 individual and corporate prospects every single year. Only 10 of those volunteers were board members. The rest were subscribers who loved the theatre.

This annual operating support/core program campaign ran from January through March. The campaign began with a kick-off, mini training, and selection of prospects.

Solicitors signed personalized letters requesting a meeting. And then off they went, those wonderful solicitors. They contacted their prospects personally. Mostly they had face-to-face meetings. Sometimes they solicited over the telephone. (Although I discouraged that, of course.)

The solicitors secured pledges and reported those pledges to the office. The office sent thank-you letters and reminder notices for pledge payment.

And we repeated this process every year that I worked there. Over and over. The first year, it was 10 prospects and 2 solicitors. And then it grew and grew.

Yes, sure…some people didn’t fulfill their commitments (the solicitors!) So I graciously took away the prospects and did them myself or assigned them to other solicitors.

I’m always startled when organizations – no matter the size – tell me they don’t do this every year. Why not? We all know that personally meeting and listening and talking with a donor – and then asking… is pretty much the best way to raise money.

Visit the Free Download Library on my website for sample materials. Check out Andrea Kihlstedt’s book Asking Styles. Visit CharityChannel Press to see all the great fundraising and soliciting books there. Amy Eisentein’s Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops.  Read Jerry Panas’ book Asking. See Laura Fredricks’ book The Ask.

Please please please…. Do personal face-to-face solicitation every single year to support general operations. Good luck.

February 10, 2014

Overcoming barriers for board members

Read this useful book, Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully by Susan Howlett. Easy and fast to read. Very useful tips for your work with your board and its members.

Susan explores 11 barriers: Expectations are unclear. The Context is Cloudy. The Board Doesn’t Own the Budget. Trustees Aren’t Engaged in Governance. The Mission is Muddy. Goals Aren’t Driving Behavior. Outcomes Are Vague. The Fundraising Strategy is Ill-Defined. The Board Isn’t Being Used Optimally. Leaders Aren’t Equipped to be Ambassadors. Trustees Haven’t Seen Good Models.

And she has ideas about how to storm the barricade, topple over the barrier – or sneak around it!

Susan begins the book with a wonderful exposé about fear. Fundraising might be like a first swimming lesson, Susan says. She once watched a mom scream at her child: “Jump in the water!” But he wouldn’t jump. Instead, he stood on the edge of the pool and cried and screamed, “Noooo!” Mom promised that the teacher would catch him. Mom promised all would be fine.

But Susan reminds us: “What the mother failed to appreciate was that the little boy’s response was cannily appropriate. He knew he couldn’t swim and he had no proof that the teacher would catch him. He knew that when he threw things into water, sometimes they floated – and sometimes they sank to the bottom.”

I love Susan’s comment…”Cannily appropriate.”  Of course our board members are afraid of fundraising. You know it. I know it. Susan knows it. And if we’re honest, why wouldn’t board members be afraid? This could be a new activity for them. They aren’t experts like you’re supposed to be.

January 29, 2014

Smart clients with smart thinking

I’m in my hotel room in Lakeville, Connecticut. Right on the New York border. Soon, I’m heading over to  Women’s Support Services in Sharon.

I’m WSS’s strategic planning consultant. Yesterday I was doing sessions with board committees. Today, some more. And I just have to share some of the very smart stuff I’m hearing. Very smart, indeed!

On every board meeting agenda, WSS includes a “board meeting principle.” They talk about a particular principle of good governance. What it means. Why it matters. Whatever.

How great is that? Every single board meeting, they remind themselves of good governance, exploring a fundamental principle of good governance. I think that is so cool.

“Let’s renew our vows annually. “ Dick said that. He reminded me that he is a pastor. His great point: Every year, each board member should reaffirm her or his commitment to the performance expectations. And what a wonderful way to say this. Renewing my vows to the organization, to its mission and vision and values. Renewing my commitment to fulfill the performance expectations. I vowed all this when I agreed to serve on the board.

— So what does a committee do? How is it different than the board? How does the committee make sure it doesn’t disempower the board – or just ask the board to rubber stamp committee decisions.

Maria observed that committees don’t make decisions (or certainly shouldn’t!) Committees process in more detail. They may recommend. But the governance committees of the board – they don’t make decisions.

Then Steve used this good language: Committees are part of oversight and control. (I talk about committees helping the board fulfill its due diligence functions.)

Steve went on to say that a major role of any committee is to educate the board and its individual members regarding their responsibilities —  and how to interpret information in a way that allows the board to own its accountabilities and board members to ask important questions.

Thank you, Women’s Support Services. Darn good work! And thank you for your commitment to creating a community free of domestic violence and abuse.


January 27, 2014

Simone’s two new books…fundraising…board members

Check out these two new books:

npEXPERTS Donor Retention Guide from Blackbaud. Show the Love Ain’t that the truth? Meet a few of the 13 experts in this new online book: Roger Craver, Lisa Sargeant, Pam Grow, Harvey McKinnon, Nancy Schwartz – and me, Simone Joyaux.

Here is just a sampling of topics:  •  The case for donor retention  •  It’s all about the stories you tell  •  Why perfect thank yous will make or break you  •  Engaging board members in the retention process  •  Using your annual report to boost donor retention  •  AND MORE!

Visit Amazon or Charity Channel Press now. Get your own copy of my new book, Firing Lousy Board Members – And Helping the Others to Succeed. 

Learn how to find good board members and help them become great. Make sure you have the right policies in place for the board and its work – and for the board members and their requirements. Try the evaluation tools. Learn how to give feedback. And – only if it is necessary – then you can enhance attrition or thank and release.

And, have you taken a look at any of these books — with contributions by me?



December 11, 2013

Resources: Things to share with your board members – and boss, too

I couldn’t resist an extra blog this week – with resources. Yes, indeed.

Check out Seth Godin’s BRILLIANT blog about email and permission marketing. While you’re at it, read Seth’s book Permission Marketing. And just stop these e-mail blasts right now – until you can get it together well.

And speaking of Seth, read his blog of 11-29-13. Read this to your boss and board! It’s all about stories. And not your organization’s stories…the donor’s stories.

I’m late to the party, but have you seen the MARVELOUS info graphic “The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector,” developed by the Master of Public Administration at the University of San Francisco? Oh my heavens. You’ll also find this info graphic at Bloomerang, which I hope you’re checking out, too.

Listen to my interview at the AFP Toronto Congress, November 2013. I’m talking about donors and loyalty and fundraising. Maybe your boss and board should listen to this? You can also see this video on my website.

Have you been visiting SOFII? The best of the best…examples from all over the world. New stuff includes Oxfam Canada’s outreach to donors. Pamela Grow’s 12 days of Christmas. The latest list of fundraising must-reads. Visit my reading room about boards and governance. How about top tips from leading fundraisers? Maybe a nice way to end the year and start the new one.

So that’s it. Enough resources. Enjoy. Learn. Share.

Filed under: Resources / Research

December 8, 2013

Teaching your boss and board

One of the biggest problems we have in fundraising is bad bosses and lost-in-space board members.

What’s a bad boss? Just read the UnderDeveloped Report. Read my response and suggestions.

Sometimes the fundraising field is just so…so… Ill-informed. Ignores the body of knowledge. Disregards research. Doesn’t apply the fundamental principles and practice of great fundraising.

And without this knowledge and research and expertise, it’s hard to fight your boss and board. And mostly, your boss and board are really ill-informed and ignorant and apply the “opinion over expertise” approach. But remember, your boss and board members don’t need to know this stuff. Your boss and board just need to listen to you, because you’re supposed to be the expert, the one reading the research and interpreting the body of knowledge and and …

(So here are some big questions for you: Do you know the right stuff? Do your boss and board listen to you because you know the right stuff and they respect you and you communicate effectively? And if your boss and board don’t listen to you, why? And if it’s their problem and not yours, then find another job. Because you deserve better!)

Anyone who knows my work knows that I follow Jeff Brooks’ blog. And anyone who reads Jeff Brooks has encountered his stupid nonprofit ads. Jeff comments on nonprofit ads created by some of the world’s best ad agencies. And when I say “comments on,” I mean Jeff destroys these ads! He explains why they don’t work. And he warns nonprofits to avoid these ad agency creative traps.

So here’s today’s idea to teach your boss and board (and also your fellow staff colleagues who aren’t working in fund development): Periodically show one of Jeff’s stupid nonprofit ads – video or print or whatever. And then read Jeff’s critique to your people. Let Jeff tell the story to your boss and board and fund development committee and individual board members. Let Jeff do the talking.

Fundraisers teach their bosses and boards and board members and staff colleagues. Do it! Do it now and over and over.

P.S. What prompted me to tell you this right now? Jeff’s 11-25-13 blog about the whales. And what the creators said. And how smart the nonprofit was not to use it!


October 7, 2013

Board chairs – what do they do?

What do you think of this description for the board chair’s role? Dean (Cohort 22 at Saint Mary’s University) and I drafted this together.

Here’s how we begin: The primary role of the board chair is to facilitate the governance process. While the board chair has no more power than any other board, he or she – along with the CEO – is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the integrity of the governance process is maintained in all board proceedings.

But upon further reflection: Do I really think the board chair is primarily responsible for good governance? Actually, I think it is the board’s role to ensure good governance. And the board chair helps facilitate that process.

Then Dean and I came up with various functional areas, e.g., interpersonal, operational, and community.

1. Interpersonal functions of the board chair

  • Empowers all board members and board committees.
  • Empowers the administration to work enthusiastically in support of mission. (Hmmm… Really? Or is that mostly the CEO’s role?)
  • Ensures board members and the board (as a group) feels a deep commitment to mission and community. (Hmmm… Commitment is really an individual thing. Internal motivation. The board chair and CEO can certainly help. But ultimately, the individual is responsible for his or her own commitment and performance.)
  • Ensures that board members feel valued and respected. (The board chair can help. But each person has to value and respect others.)

2. Operational functions

  • Facilitates effective meetings.
  • With the CEO, creates the board meeting agenda.
  • With the CEO, appoints committee chairs and appoints board members to various committees.
  • Serves ex-officio on all committees but is not required (nor expected!) to attend all meetings.

3. Community

  •  Supports and advocates for the organization and its leadership team.
  • Demonstrates leadership in fundraising
And here are some other miscellaneous thoughts: The board chair has voice but no more authority than any other board member. The board chair is a leader by virtue of her/his elected position. More importantly, s/he demonstrates leadership by virtue of character.
Has your board talked about the role and skills and behaviors desired in the board chair? Does your governance committee talk about all this – in order to find nominate the best board chair possible?
How might life change in your organization – and within the board – if you all talked about the role of the board chair – and the expectations?
September 14, 2013

Always more resources

Read Adrian Sargeant’s article in Summer 2013 Nonprofit Quarterly. “Donor Retention: What Do We Know and What Can We Do about it.” And then do it!

Dip into the Agitator series on Donor Retention. Embrace that, too!

Compare your board’s performance to Board Source’s  Nonprofit Governance Index 2012. Yes, it was published in September 2012. But refresh your memory!

Now take a look at NPQ‘s online article by Rob Meiksins, “Is Dr. King’s Dream Realized? Not on Boards.”

Check out “Missing Pieces: Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards.”

And then, read Delia Ephron’s 09-07-13 New York Times piece, “You Can’t Have It All, but You Can Have Cake.” A commentary on having it all (which may be a particularly American perspective).

Filed under: Resources / Research

April 14, 2013

New resources in my Free Download Library

I’ve just added two new items to my Free Download Library on my website:

  • Version #2: Role of the Board
  • Version #2: Board member performance expectations

Versions #1 are still there. But I’m always thinking of new ways of saying things. And thinking of new things that are important.

So visit the Free Download Library and check out these new versions. 

And always remember the following:

  1. There is a difference between the board and the individual board member. These are NOT NOT interchangeable words.
  2. The first responsibility of the individual board member is to participate in the governance process. That’s what it means to be a board member. Go to board meetings, etc. etc. In Version #2 of the board member performance expectations, I’ve pulled together all the activities of being a board member.
  3. But the board member has another obligation – beyond corporate governance. I expect the board member to be a key volunteer, a leadership volunteer. So you will see assorted performance expectations for board members that happen beyond and outside of corporate governance. In Version #2, I’ve separated these to indicate that these activities are not part of governance but are equally important and non-negotiable.

I hope you find these new versions useful and helpful.

Filed under: Resources / Research

March 31, 2013

“I’ve never been so beat up in a workshop – and felt so great!”

People can learn – and must. Organizations can change – and must. Workshops can help. Reading the right books and bloggers can make a difference. Good conversations – with disagreement – can help. What are you doing to learn and change?

On March 29, 2013, I had the honor of serving as keynote presenter for the third annual East Bay Forum hosted by CompassPoint. The focus of the forum … UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising.

More than 100 nonprofit organizations, mostly in the East Bay, attended…including development officers, executive directors, and board members…mostly teams from the same organizations. That’s the way to build understanding, learn and change – bring a team from the organization. Make sure that the team talks and then helps design and facilitate change in the organization.

Within 24 hours, I received an email from a consultant attending the session with one of her clients. Here’s what she said: “I am working with a small non profit to do a development audit and create their fund development plan. They have a lot of development challenges.
“I emailed the ED the study (the UnderDeveloped Report) a few weeks ago and she read it but did not quite get the full understanding of all that was lacking with her organization for successful fund development .
“But then she went to the workshop on Friday and today I was at their board retreat and she could not stop talking about the workshop. She said ‘I have never been so beat up in a four hour workshop and felt so great!’
“Now she gets it and the board chair is starting to understand and they both see that the board needs to be involved in fund raising and the role of the DD and investing in long term donor cultivation etc.
“So I am so inspired that this study and the workshop can have an impact and that DD/ED and board can make changes with the right information and commitment!”

How wonderful. That ED heard the problems identified in the report. She recognized her organization’s challenges. She understands that the organization can learn and change. Ask yourself: Do you know your organization’s problems? Are you prepared to face the challenges and learn and make change? Can you enable your staff colleagues, board members, executive director (if you are the development officer) to see the challenges, follow the body of knowledge, and make change?

It was a great morning there in the east bay of California. It was, of course, tough love day. Most days are tough love day with me. I love and respect the nonprofit sector and its role in community and democracy. But there is lots to fix for the nonprofit sector to be stronger and produce greater impact. Changes in fund development. Changes in governance. Changes in executive leadership.

Now is the time for your executive director, develop director, and management team to read UnderDeveloped. Read my January 3-part blog in response. Your fund development committee needs to read the study. And your board, too. Talk about the implications. Figure out how to fix this!

For help with change, visit the Free Download Library on my website. Read Simone Uncensored, my blog, and subscribe to my e-news. You will receive regular tips and ideas about how to be stronger, raise more money, and engage a top-notch board in top-notch ways. Maybe you’ll need consulting help. So find a good consultant.

Just do it, as Nike says. A trite phrase these days. But nonetheless. Do it. Fix yourself. Be all that you can be. You know what I mean!

Filed under: Leadership

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