Time for the Trees

on in Fundraising

I was at a one-topic board meeting last night.

And, natch, the topic was fundraising.

The board deftly dispatched some legal issues, financial trend-spotting, and new program development in a half-hour – and took 5 minutes to recognize and thank the executive director for an extraordinary leadership effort in opening a new afterschool center.

Then, with 1.5 hours to go, the board settled in to the question: “What are we going to do to raise money in the next 4 months?”

And without much sidetracking – except to look back at the benefit’s results, and to look forward to potential fundraising activities for the next year – board members rolled up their sleeves.

The result? Plans for a wine-tasting with a take-home fundraising packet…a summer Hamptons house party…a general appeal to parents led by board volunteers…one-to-one calls to select major donor prospects…and the formation of an advisory council to further the organization’s fundraising reach.

Pretty fruitful for one board meeting, yes?

Now there are two elements of note in this tale. One, is the use of a dashboard for pretty substantial areas – finance, legal, new program development – which allowed the board to quickly digest the issues, see where the organization stood, and ask particular questions without having to go through the whole story.

Which gave it more time for the details.

Because Two, is that the dance is in the details – and in the relationship between the fundraising committee and the board as a whole.

Sure, the fundraising committee could have come up with these or similar ideas on its own, but then the board wouldn’t have owned it.

But in order not to get lost in each detail, when the discussion got too nit-picky the chair was able to relegate continuing the conversation to the committee to work out the particulars.

In other words, the board came up with an idea, took ownership over it, and then asked the committee to come up with a plan. And, board members got home in time to tuck their kids into bed.

Sounds like a win-win, yes?



(Originally published 5/10/11)

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