Post-pandemic steps to an engaged and diverse board

Your board is essential for driving your mission and strategic priorities. Over the last couple of years, the pandemic has kept many boards from meetings in person. The lack of face-to-face interaction may have your board members feeling less connected and effective. Now that we are able to gather again, what are you doing to make sure your board is diverse, engaged and well-trained?

Annual Assessment

Each year, a great practice is to conduct an assessment with your board, review where your board stands today, and to determine where there are gaps.  Does your board reflect the community your non-profit is serving?  Do your board members have the expertise and talents needed to get your organization back on track and marching strongly into the future and beyond? Creating a checklist of skills and talents required will help identify collectively where your focus should be on recruiting new members. 

In addition, an annual assessment of each individual board member and the entire group will help your organization identify and stay on top of underlying issues that may be rapidly weakening the effectiveness of your board.

A Diverse Board

According to the National Council of Nonprofits, building a diverse board is top of mind for most nonprofits. Unfortunately, not much progress has been made. Following is a link to the National Council of Nonprofits’ helpful resources to increase your board’s diversity and engagement.  (We found the self-assessment on diversity, inclusion and equity particularly valuable) https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/thought-leadership/10-steps-more-diverse-board.

Effective Board Practices

Also, at the beginning of each year or following the voting in of your newly elected members, plan a board training session and orientation for a collective review of:

  • Mission/Vision
  • Bylaws
  • Strategic plan(s)
  • Budgets and development plans
  • Financial forecast
  • Association and foundation key programs
  • Volunteer structure, roles and responsibilities statement
  • Organizational policies
  • Process for working with board members who may require training or mentoring
  • Conflict of interest documents (current and renewed each year)
  • Board role in philanthropy and fundraising

As Jonathan Schick, author of The Nonprofit Secret: The Six Principles of Successful Board/CEO Partnership reminds us, at the heart of every successful non-profit is one thing:  the board/CEO relationship.  Prioritize the processes that can keep you and your board connected and engaged.

If you would like to talk through any of these ideas, or if you have any questions, contact Lori Vega, Principal at CAP, directly at lori@associationphilanthropy.com.  Or, more information and resources are also available on the CAP website:  https://associationphilanthropy.com/

Time for Some Thoughts About Time

Here’s a timely list of comments many of us use every day. Sound familiar?

  • I don’t have the time.
  • I need more time!
  • Where does the time go?
  • Time flies when you’re having fun.
  • There’s just not enough time in the day!
  • It’s just not the right time.
  • I don’t have time for such nonsense.
  • I wish I had the time to read a book.  (Or watch a movie.  Or go to the gym.  Or play with my kids.)
  • Well, I guess I’ll just have to make the time.
  • This is a complete and total waste of time.
  • You can’t make up for lost time.
  • I’m making incredible time! (Typically expressed when traveling a long distance by car.)
  • We need to buy ourselves a little time.
  • There’s no time like the present.
  • Time and tide wait for no man.
  • Say, do you have some time to talk?
  • I’m just killing some time.

There are sure a lot of expressions about time, aren’t there?  I don’t have an original, pithy saying like the ones above, but let me share a few observations I’ve picked up about time after 39 years in the fundraising business:

  1. The Pareto Principle still applies.  80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts.  This does assume that you and your team are focused and stay focused on the right stuff.  Google “Eisenhower Matrix” and let it be your guide.
  • By definition, you can only have one single priority.  If you have more than one of those, what you really have is a to do list.  The secret to time well spent is identifying the one tru priority in the list and focusing your efforts there—suddenly the entire list becomes shorter and less daunting.
  • Can you justify your salary on a day-to-day basis?  If you make $100,000/year, work 50 weeks/year, and put in 40 hours/week, your per hour rate is $50.  If you work an 8-hour day, and are responsible for raising money, do you generate $400/day?  If you do that, over the course of a full year, your association or society will break even on you.  But the job of a frontline development office is to do more than break even.  So, the question is this: What will you do with your time to generate 2x, 5x, or 10x of your employer’s investment in you over the course of a year?

I will suggest that elimination or reduction of lower-level administrative tasks should be a starting point.  If you are getting paid to build relationships, then that is what you should be doing.  You should not be manipulating Excel spreadsheets, generating generic acknowledgement letters, or managing the logistics for your annual meeting or golf outing.  (Yikes!)

  • Here’s an oldie but a goodie.  Knock out the most difficult or the least enjoyable task (related to you number 1 priority, of course) early in the day.  (Slight amendment: With so many of us working from home now, knock it out during your daily “prime time” window.)
  • Spend at least one hour a week alone.  Take time to think, plan, assess, and reflect.  Build it into your weekly schedule.  Developing this habit will give you amazing clarity as to what is important and in turn, how and where you should focus your time.

I’ll leave you with two great quotes about time.  Internalize them by printing them out. Then tape one to the mirror in your bathroom and the other right above the computer monitor in your office.

“Time management is an oxymoron.  Time is beyond our control and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives.  Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.”—John C. Maxwell

AND

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time.  You have exactly the same number of hours in day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”—H. Jackson Brown

Principal, Consultants in Philanthropy

Do Your Funding Priorities Pass the SNIF Test?

What makes a good funding priority?

It’s a question we hear often from fundraising leaders at associations and professional societies – especially as many of them increasingly look for ways to expand their giving among individual members.

Their need comes as no surprise. The development culture in our sector has evolved along a different path from most nonprofits. For many associations and professional societies, resource development has leaned heavily on sponsorships from industry – grants from corporations looking for exposure and business advantage among the organization’s membership. Today, funding patterns have shifted. Corporate sponsorship was already on the wane before COVID. But as associations canceled or shifted their annual conferences and other opportunities for exposure online, the result was a deep dip in corporate support that persists.

Associations and societies are now playing catch up, hoping to raise more funds from individuals, especially major donors. In this realm they find a different set of interests at play and, consequently, a different kind of funding opportunity is in order.  In this moment, we encourage our clients to ensure their proposed funding priorities pass what we call The SNIF Test.  That is, are they characterized by…

  • S – SOCIETAL BENEFIT.  Like donors to other nonprofits, association members want to do good in the world.  That good might take the form of advancing the profession by funding scholarships, training, etc., but many organizations are attracting increasing funds for more altruistic projects that are mission-aligned but which only indirectly benefit their members, such as public education initiatives, etc. 
  • N – NEED. It’s true that donors don’t give to “needy” organizations.  But it is important for philanthropy to be genuinely pivotal to projects the organization hopes to fund; if those programs can be funded through other means, there’s no urgency for the donor to give. Organizations must demonstrate that their aspirations need contributions to enable, expand and accelerate them.
  • I – INVESTMENT.  Every nonprofit’s goal is to attract major gifts. Whether defined as 5-, 6- or 7-figure gifts, these are contributions that rarely arise from mere duty or in response to an annual appeal. Associations must articulate funding opportunities with enough specificity and focus to both answer the questions and awaken the passions of individuals capable of true philanthropic investments.
  • F – FUTURE.  A good funding opportunity is not about “filling next year’s coffers,” but is rooted in a well-articulated vision. Fundraising priorities should be positioned as essential, enabling elements of the organization’s strategic plan to impact the profession and society.

The SNIF Test provides a practical guide to identifying and selecting funding priorities that donors will find compelling. But that’s just the first step. As the test implies, how you explain the relevance and impact of your funding opportunities has a lot to say about how they will be perceived by your donors. A carefully constructed case for support is vital. Sharpening the case for your organization and its funding priorities is vital to showing donors how they can fulfill both professional and personal aspirations by supporting your organization’s programs.

Describing your funding opportunities through the donor’s lens has never been more vital than it is today. The payoff?  Fundraising results that are nothing to sniff at.

COVID-19’s impact on medical society fundraising

Results of a survey among development professionals serving medical societies and foundations

In Spring 2020, Consultants in Association Philanthropy conducted a survey among members of MSFRN — the Medical Society Fundraising Network — regarding the disruptions they had experienced and their adaptations in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The following presentation reports on the survey data and provides CAP’s takeaways and recommendations for sustained fundraising success.