Board of Directors

Sleep Soundly, Fundraisers

In a recently concluded survey of 1200 fundraisers, Gail Perry of Fired Up Fundraising asked “What Keeps 1200 Fundraisers Up at Night?” The answers were almost all were management related, painting a picture of pretty unpleasant places for many fundraisers to work. 

With the average tenure of Directors of Development now being less than two years and major gift officers being sixteen months according to a Nonprofit Times article out earlier this week, it seems fundraisers have good reasons for imitating the Runaway Bride, bolting out the door at the thought of making a long-term commitment to the organizations they serve.

In Gail's survey, fundraisers mentioned too much to do, too little assistance, too little support from management, confusion about priorities, changing priorities or changing goals mid-year, and an absence of a coordinated fundraising plan. Yuck!

No wonder we're unhappy with 57% of us planning to leave our current positions and 40% of us contemplating exiting the development profession altogether, according to Compasspoint's oft-cited Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. study. 

Mission Moments: Keeping Your Board Connected


Are your board members missing meetings? Not showing up at events? Are your board members M.I.A.? Fear not! You can keep them engaged with mission moments. 

Fish in Your Own Pond


Who are the wealthiest people in your community?  Come on! You can name them! Everybody can. We’re talking about the people in town who have their names on buildings all over town because they’ve made large gifts to capital campaigns of other nonprofits.

If your board is anything like the boards with which I’ve worked, they’re thinking about and talking about those names often. “If we could just get so-and-so to give to us,” the conversation in meetings goes or “What can we do to get her to give to us?” or “How can we get them to attend our gala?” as if that donor is the only person in town capable of making a sizable gift and without his or her support we’ll never really be on the map.

Frankly, I say forget about him or her.

My Library Card

My Library Card

We were on a staff retreat and the facilitator had asked us all to produce one thing that was on our persons or in our pocketbooks or wallets that was meaningful to us. She asked us each to share with the rest of the group what item we had chosen and why it was important to us.

Others on the staff had chosen their wedding rings, pictures of their children, lockets or charm bracelets passed down from grandmothers. I felt a little sheepish and silly, like I hadn’t really gotten the point of the exercise, when it was my time to share because I had picked…

Signs Your Organization Has No Culture of Philanthropy

Signs Your Organization Has No Culture of Philanthropy

Too many organizations want to treat fundraising as an add-on, like an extra appendage sewn onto the body. Imagine attaching a limb—say an arm—to the body, but not connecting it to the circulatory and nerve system and not re-wiring the brain to recognize the new arm.  How uselessly it would flop around!  Eventually, without blood, oxygen, and the protection of the nerve system, the limb would die.

For fundraising to work – that is, for fundraising to be done as sustained, donor-centric development, rather than as an episodic, short-term, organization-centered fundraising, fundraising requires changes with which many organizations are simply not comfortable.

If fundraising hasn’t been an integral part of the organization’s life from its beginning, it has to be skillfully grafted on in a way that wires it to the brain and connects it to the body’s major systems.

Here are my 13 Ways an Organization Reveals That It Is Not Serious about Fundraising

Impact, Advocacy, and Board Responsibility

Impact, Advocacy, and Board Responsibility

With the publication last week of BoardSource’s updated Ten Basic Responsibilities of Board Members,  I’ve been thinking a lot about Crutchfield and Grant’s seminal Forces for Good book.  The Ten Basic Responsibilities of Board Members list of the core, fundamental, legal responsibilities of a Board member has been gospel for all of us for many years. Most of us have relied on this list to orient our board members and to explain board members’ responsibilities for new members.

When BoardSource changed this list last week, BoardSource didn’t make the number of items on the list longer, but what it did do is determine that ADVOCACY is a core responsibility of Board Members. The responsibility to advocate for the mission is added to the first core responsibility (to determine an organization's mission and purpose) and discussions of advocacy are added to several other responsibilities such as the responsibility to enhance an organization’s public standing.

Career Advice for Nonprofit Professionals

Career Advice for Nonprofit Professionals

In the nonprofit sector, we nonprofit professionals apply for positions in the nonprofit sector. We have experience with nonprofit jobs.  Because we’re nonprofit professionals with nonprofit experience, applying for nonprofit jobs, we assume that the people who are reviewing our resumes understand what our titles and positions mean and entail.  They don’t.  Even if we list our accomplishments, they don’t get it.  Too often, board members are hiring or sitting on the search committees that hire us. Those board members are almost always business people who don’t understand what’s involved in our jobs.

Nonprofit Boards and the Dysfunctions of Team

Nonprofit Boards and the Dysfunctions of Team

Nonprofit Board members are unprepared to govern.  That’s the finding of the 2015 Survey on Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations, a study released in April jointly conducted by GuidestarBoardSource, and the Stanford Business School.

What remedies would we pursue if we were to view the breakdowns in our systems of nonprofit governance as failures of the early stages of team building rather than as the [later] results of process and outcomes failures? 

12 Things To Do During The Summer Slow Down

12 Things To Do During The Summer Slow Down

For fundraisers and other nonprofit professionals,  the summer months are often slow.  Donors, board members, and other colleagues head out for vacations.  It becomes difficult to hold committee meetings and get things accomplished.  One board of directors I used to work with met monthly all year-long except in the months of July and December—December because of the long holiday break and July because they recognized that practically everyone was on vacation.

So how can you make the most of this summer slow down? Here are 12 things you can do while the office is quieter during the summer months:

A Firestorm: Marketing v. Fundraising

A Firestorm:  Marketing v. Fundraising

This year’s Nonprofit Communications Trend Report, published annually by Kivi LeRoux Miller, highlighted the possibility of conflict within nonprofit organizations’ communications and development departments about role definitions, goals, resource allocations, strategies, tactics, and more. 

And, just to prove how prescient the report might be, nonprofit fundraising and marketing bloggers have begun to slug it out online.

I suspect where communications and development cannot agree, collaborate, and talk things through, it is often the case that, in these situations, there is no culture of philanthropy. And while Underdeveloped calls on Development Directors to work to change from within the culture of philanthropy in organizations that lack it, it’s been my experience that in those organizations where no culture of philanthropy exists, the development director often lacks the power or authority to lead such change.  By the nature of the problem, the development director is disenfranchised in these situations.