Fundraising

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Oversight. Management. Hands-on but not Hands-in.

It's a tough relationship to manage, between board members and the executive director.

And the distinction – that the board oversees the executive director, but board members are not an executive director's “boss” – is a tough one.

How do you establish the trust that gives an executive director the autonomy to run a nonprofit without board member interference, yet assures the board that the executive director is managing the agency well?

And, how can you re-establish trust for a board that's micromanaging the executive director on too tight a leash? 

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“If you turn the page, this child will starve…”

Remember that one? Quite dramatic, and for many years held up as the gold standard in fundraising pitches.

Who could resist? The supposition was that it was within your, the reader’s, power to transform a life from one of hunger and misery to one of potential.

But recent research has proven that fundraising pitches accentuating the positive dramatically out-perform messaging based on righting wrongs.

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In a well-run company, leadership development on staff is nurtured, planned, designed.

Why not on boards?

Why do we so often manage board member behavior by default, hoping we have the good fortune of “landing” the next leader through happy accident?

Just like great staff leaders are built through cross-training, shadowing, and education, great board leaders learn by watching the best and by having the chance to spread their wings, little by little, in positions of greater authority and breadth.

By planned growth, in other words. 

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Special events, even modest ones, require lots of time and attention. And sometimes the return on that investment stalls.

Even a successful house party – for example, 75 attendees at $100 each – can feel like a mountain to produce, year after year, for only $7,500.

“Don’t mess with success,” the warning goes – but is there a way to increase the net with the same amount of effort?

The answer is yes.

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A lot has been written about David Rockefeller’s philanthropic legacy in light of his death last week at the age of 101. From support for local community improvement projects to investing in NYC’s major civic institutions, Mr. Rockefeller’s giving totaled an estimated $2 billion over his lifetime.

David Rockefeller worked hard to transmit what a New York Times article characterized as his family’s philosophy of giving – humility, responsibility, and engagement – through various charitable vehicles. Under this philosophy, we owe a common debt to each other, and much is expected of those who receive.

But while Mr. Rockefeller championed appreciation-fueled giving, his philanthropic interests reveal a deeper motivation than simply giving back. 

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