Thursday, May 21, 2009

Working with your Board of Trustees

At the moment I should be preparing for tomorrow. Its our Annual General Meeting and a first time ever joint board meeting between the Foundation and the parent organization boards. Instead of reviewing my financial statements and staff reports I went for a little exercise with some girlfriends then we had a green tea and worried about our kids together.

Now I'm alert and writing this instead of reviewing materials for tomorrow. Why? Well it's their meeting isn't it? I'm just the hired hand. Reports are done. Recommendations made - tomorrow is about them. They will be just fine.

The relationship between a board and staff is complex, sometimes hard, often misunderstood. There have been a lot of great discussions and articles this month on this topic. Professional Fundraising in the UK was kind enough to publish an article of mine on the topic. Sean Triner has a good article in Australia that he just tweeted about.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy Had a very lively discussion on whether members should be donors.

I commented about it in the discussion and share my perspective with you below.

Completely agree with #14 Lori who says “because if you don’t think the mission is worthy of your money, why would anyone else?”

In fact we have now moved this out to staff. Those closest to the organization need to make a philanthropic commitment that tells the world “Our work is important and worthy of investment”.

To be considered a philanthropic gift it should come voluntarily without pressure, therefore the amount isn’t important. Stating an amount could prevent larger gifts or create a culture of “bought my way on, get to vote – what else to do you expect!”

The point about a diverse board with broad skill sets and networks is also key. $10 from someone who can find or raise $10 million or help in other areas is extremely valuable.

In order to create the philanthropic culture fundraising staff need to better support the board to help them understand what their gift means on a much deeper level than the budget.

It is the act of giving – not the amount that is important.

Yes absolutely all board members and staff should donate. Five dollars per month or $150K per year. All gifts should be recognized for the spirit in which they are given. Deep belief in the mission of the organization. Once this happens the culture that is created will speak for itself and other donors will want to be a part of you work.

There isn't an easy answer for working with a board. Each one is different and constantly changes depending on its members, your culture and your chair. There is a lot of great advice out there. Generally, I've found the techniques in the Influential Fundraiser very helpful and continue to study and practice them.

When the relationship between staff and board is working well - your organization can soar! Well worth the investment of time and effort.

Do you have a story about working with a board of trustees? We'd love to hear it. Your comments/thoughts are most welcome.

Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The worst AFP presentation ever

You absolutely must hear about the worst presentation ever.

It was at the AFP Toronto Chapter fundraising day. I've been attending AFP Toronto for nine years, while I frequently speak for work and spoke at IFC last October, this is my first time ever speaking there in front of my local peers. The room was a little dark and full of people. There was a mountain of A/V equipment was all over the place. About a million cords and remotes to sift through. It was difficult to find the right one to advance the slides.

I had neglected to test the PPT but trusted the A/V guys.(Other people do these things right?) Big Mistake they couldn't find it. Which forced me into the depths of C drives and F drives and G drives and USB sticks at the bottom of my purse. While I was digging through the clutter in my computer to find the presentation I kept falling through the floor because it was a series of platforms all with space in between covered by carpet. I had heels on so every time I took a step I almost died.

Still I tried to be cool, made a few jokes with the folks. Then my daughter appeared, nagging me about the importance of body piercings and the coolness of "snakebites". People started to leave. So I put up a video. Kept looking for the presentation. The room was almost empty.....then they started coming back...the room was packed, lined up out the door. Still couldn't work my way through the clutter in my computer to find the presentation. Lost the remote again!

Finally I decided we could tell the benefits of SOFII without a powerpoint. I was ready to try and talk my way through something useful with a flip chart and it occurred to me...this couldn't possibly be happening. It was only a dream and perhaps rather than sleeping in on this rainy quiet long weekend.... I should get up and work on my presentation!!!!

Have you registered for AFP Toronto Chapters Fundraising Day yet? That first presentation by that newbie promises to be very interesting...

Thank you for spending time here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Who are you leading?

Tell a story

Connect a tribe

Lead a movement

Make a change

Seth Godin is brilliant. This will take about twenty minutes, about as long as watching an episode of the Simpsons...but much better for you!

Thank you for spending time here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Start a parking lot committee

Conversations in parking lots are often some of the best ones. People are honest, they challenge each other, they dream about possibilities and even laugh.

THEN what happens all too often is that everyone goes back in the meeting and seems to leave their creative thinking and independent ideas a the door. Why is that?

Start a parking lot committee and encourage honest, frank, candid and respectful dialogue. Listen with intent to understand.

It is likely you have been asked to be there because you are a leader in your own right. You have a perspective that could add value. Be sure to share your perspective at the table, when it can make a difference...not just in the parking lot.

If you do this you will be far more likely to be proud of the result.

Get on the record - have honest and challenging discussion at the table, not in the parking lot.

Thank you for spending time here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Twitter Friend or Foe? Part II

In part one of this post I asked a simple question: Does knowing what other people are doing add value to your life?
It has been just over two weeks and 141 “tweets”. It started as a curiosity and now twitter is the first place I go to in the morning and the last place at night. It must add value although I’m not sure exactly why. Let’s try to figure that out…

Twitter moves fast.

Your network expands at a remarkable rate. People are ruthless; they follow for a day, stop following if you aren’t interesting to them. This way you end up building a community you enjoy spending time in.

Twitter is a place to get to know people.
It’s like spending your day in a big office full of likeable people with common interests who are working hard. At the same time they are joking, laughing, taking lunch breaks, getting married, watching pointless youtube videos, sharing news and oh yes…sharing resources.

Joining twitter can strengthen existing online relationships in a way Facebook or a blog can’t. Short tweets about riding a bike to work, babies keeping people up at night, meeting “boys” at the grocery store or cats taking over the couch add a human element to online relationships. Matt Parkes talked about twittering moments of discovery, reflection and achievement last week on his blog.

Twitter integrates other social media.
YouTube, facebook, blogs, news items, flicker, LinkedIn they all come together in one place and work to tell stories, share information and yes…even raise money.

Twitter and fundraising. This is tricky and controversial. A few charities I liked lost me quickly. They felt like machines blasting me with the key messages all day. I stopped following them immediately. There are a few consultants on there who promote themselves so much they will loose me soon too. Laurie Pringle is right. There needs to be a balance – it is called “social media” for a reason. The relationships you develop can lead to a raising money if done the right way. I’ll be writing more about this on SOFII next month.

However, Twitter is not the online answer to my organization’s two person fundraising shop. No way. I often wonder what is falling behind as organizations throw limited human resources into online fundraising? As Marc Pitman points out, it might be worthwhile to at least become familiar with web2.0 and certainly there is no need to fear it. In the Lake Simcoe too many of our other programs would be compromised if all my work energy went into online initiatives. It is hard enough for us to keep our website up to date. Until our capacity is stronger, I’ll learn about how social media works from the experience of other charities.

Who to follow?
Ask yourself why you are there. I am there to learn about how twitter fits into the charitable sector. So I started by searching for online colleagues I already knew. People whose blog I read, charities I liked. Then I looked at who they were following and before I knew it – I had my twitter community.

The Future of Twitter.

It is hard to imagine that the folks at Twitter will be able to sustain this growth, it will need to innovate quickly. Watching what they do will be very fun.

In the meantime, it is what it is. Informative, educational, social and sometimes completely without purpose.

Thank you for spending time here.