The nonprofit busy season is upon us! With fall usually serving as the most advantageous season for soliciting gifts and a popular time for hosting events, as a nonprofit professional, you likely already have your ducks in a row to take advantage of the fundraising opportunities in the months ahead. But the task of preparing for the busy season isn’t just on you and your staff. Your board should be gearing up, too, to help you solicit major donors, host awareness events and more.
If your board has met more sporadically in the summer months, or perhaps only half of your board is fully engaged, or you’re noticing some fatigue amongst board members in the midst of a campaign, now is the time to re-engage and re-invigorate your board to prepare for a successful season!
So, where do you start? It’s easy – at a regularly scheduled board meeting.
Step One: Reconnect your board to your mission.
The first step in re-engaging your board is to remind them of the importance of and reconnect them emotionally to your work, mission and vision. Your board members have a myriad of options for serving and supporting different organizations. Remind them of why they are on this board for this organization. To accomplish this, I recommend hosting an early season board meeting that focuses on the big picture and feel-good factor of your organization. Here are some examples:
- Get your “program people” in front of your board. Ask a staff member and/or volunteer or two running your programs to craft a presentation on the work they’ve done in the past year and the exciting projects on the horizon. Again, think “big picture.” Ask them to focus on the importance and impact of their work and how the community/region/world could be helped further if they were able to do X, Y and Z. This may be a sit-down presentation, or this may be an onsite tour of facilities, grounds, a new building, campus, etc.
- Host a presentation led by someone your organization is serving or has served. Work with this individual or group to help them tell the story of how your organization changed their life. A few ideas: simply ask them to share their story, host an interview-style presentation, conduct a panel discussion and possibly include your “program people,” or even pre-record a video, though an in-person appearance is always more powerful.
- Start a conversation with your board about your three philanthropic priorities for the year ahead. What are the three most important things your organization will accomplish this year? Go around the room and ask for everyone’s opinions and participation. You can write the responses on a whiteboard or large post-it pads and work as a group to draw out and agree on the top priorities and their impact.
- Break out into small groups and ask everyone to share why they are serving on this board and why this organization is so important to them personally. This conversation will not only emotionally connect your board members to your organization and mission, but it will connect them to each other. (But wait, there’s more – this is a three-for-one deal! This also serves as a great solicitation training exercise.)
- Invite a well-known and respected person in the community, a celebrity, or a significant foundation to express thanks and appreciation to your board members for their work. If the speaker has been affected by your organization or if they’ve contributed to your organization and they’re comfortable sharing that information to help inspire your board, even better!
Step Two: Invite your board’s participation immediately.
Now that you’ve reignited your board’s passion for your organization, invite their participation in fundraising activities and give them an opportunity to make a real difference. If possible, this invitation should be presented in the same meeting while the renewed excitement for your mission and cause is fresh!
Here are a few ways you can extend an invitation to participate:
- Have a board member lead a group conversation asking the board, “How do you want to help? What can you do that will have a meaningful impact on this organization?” The leader of this conversation should give three options: accompany staff on solicitation visits, host an awareness event, make introductions to potential major donors, etc. Then each board member has the chance to choose how they want to engage, and you have a much better chance of getting them involved.
- Provide an annual board participation evaluation. I recommend this to all organizations I work with. This can be an online or written survey that asks your board members how they would like to be involved in the next 12 months. Include anything you have on your to-do list that would benefit from your board’s involvement. Having this in writing – physically or digitally – will help ensure follow-through and accountability.
- Recognize the efforts or contributions of individual board members. A public “thank you” (for those who allow it) shows your appreciation but can also inspire your board members to be more involved or give more. For example, you can give a special thanks to those who donated over $X to your organization/campaign or recognize their time and effort. Other board members may think, “maybe I should be doing a little bit more,” or “wow, this organization is worthy of that kind of gift or time,” without you having to provide an explanation or even ask. (Bonus: this is also a great short segment to include at your major fundraising event for the year.)
The Carter team wishes you, your board and your organization a highly successful busy season ahead (you’ve got this!), and we hope that if you have any questions, you won’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. Our team of senior-level nonprofit professionals has been in your shoes, and we are here to serve as a resource to you as you help make our world a better place!
About the Author
Arthur Scully - Managing Director
With over 30 years of experience, Arthur Scully is well known for his ability to cultivate strategic thinking and creative partnerships that result in exceptional philanthropic experiences. Over the course of his career, and in partnership with colleagues, trustees and volunteers, he has successfully led development programs, established supporting organizations, and facilitated mergers to increase organizational impact. Prior to joining Carter, Arthur most recently served as Vice President of Development & Communications for Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation, where he helped grow annual revenue from $250,000 to $13.5 million. Learn more about Arthur here.
When it comes to transformational change, nonprofits are experts at knowing what they need to achieve but don’t always have the tools they need to get there. Carter makes the journey easier. With over 1,000 years of combined experience, the Carter team is comprised of over 40 senior-level professionals working to advance philanthropy worldwide through fundraising, organizational planning and governance. For more information, visit www.carter.global.