This post was written by one of the many nonprofit leaders who will be presenting at the 2020 BoardSource Leadership Forum May 7-8 in St. Louis. We hope to see you there!
As a senior governance consultant with BoardSource, I understand how important having the right people on the organizational bus is for overall fiduciary responsibilities and governance effectiveness. Strong board members are especially critical to success in resource development – from annual appeals and events to identifying, cultivating, and stewarding potential and returning donors.
Through my board service on the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Indian River Chapter and my conversations with Lenora Ritchie and Kerry Bartlett, we have identified seven key topics to include in discussions with your board to strengthen your organization’s resource development:
- Opportunity & Engagement
With these seven topics covered, your board will be “CERIOUS” about resource development — the subject of our session at the 2020 BoardSource Leadership Forum. Our session will break down all seven of these topics, but to give you a taste, let’s discuss expectations.
Expectations are a two-way street — you cannot have expectations of someone and expect them to be fulfilled unless you have communicated these expectations beforehand. We all remember what the meaning of “assume” can sometimes be (ass-u-me)!
However, there is also a growing (and much more needed) awareness of the fact that some expectations can be — unintentionally or not — exclusionary and combat your efforts to be a more diverse organization. An expectations like a board member needing deep pockets or access to others with deep pockets may cause an organization to inadvertently overlook, or even out rightly exclude, the candidacy of those in your constituency who can be very helpful in the other aspects of successful resource development.
Further, in some cases, the failure to be clear about expectations may also lead to downright trouble. In BoardSource’s Taming the Troublesome Board Member, it discusses how “… the board must do its homework and ask some very hard questions of itself as a body: Did we recruit well? Was this person brought on the board for the right reasons? Did this person receive an adequate orientation and onboarding?”
All of these considerations are important when building your board; and especially when an organization has an expectation that its board members will participate in needed resource development.
Here are some conversation starters for boards to help achieve clarity about its needs:
- What do we expect of our board, individually and collectively?
- Do each of our current board members fulfill these expectations? How do we deal with those who do not? And, if we don’t, how can we require these expectations of those we recruit?
- What is the best method and timing to explain our expectations to possible board candidates?
Here are some conversation starters for a board to use when recruiting a board member with regard to expectations:
- We appreciate your passion for the mission of the organization! We do have an expectation that all board members will participate in resource development and have identified a number of ways in which this can be accomplished [share a list on the spot]. What hesitations might you have about doing any of these?
- We know you have a personal/professional profile that would add legitimacy and credibility to our organization should you serve on our board. We would like to be able to leverage this to help us raise funds and other resources. Would this be acceptable to you?
- New board members to any organization can open new doors to help bring in money as well as connections to other individuals and organizations. Are you in a position to extend this kind of help to our organization while you are on the board?