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The charge from the executive director to the board members was daunting, although the intent was to be inspiring: Raise $80,000 from new donors.

Yet instead of rising to the challenge, board members are cowering in their seats.

The scene is reminiscent of a high school classroom where the students aren’t prepared – people sink lower and lower in their chairs, hoping not to be called upon.

How can we turn this around?

How can we transform a board goal into a guiding light, not a looming threat?

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Posted on in Fundraising

We’ve all seen them: Meetings where board members report on what they’ve done, agree to take on tasks, offer to support one another (“I’ll help you with that Suzy”). Meetings that crackle with deliberation, discussion of tactics towards a common goal, decisions, and commitments to action.

And we’ve all seen their opposite: Meetings that get lost in a swirl of details, tangents, anecdotes, pet peeves. Where “everyone has their say” and the debate goes round and round, nothing really resolves, and everyone leaves it behind till the next meeting when the discussion gets picked up right at the beginning all over again.

What makes the difference? There are a number of factors, but the most meaningful is a strong chair. 

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Posted on in Fundraising

It takes time – coaching board members instead of doing it yourself.

Explaining.  Soliciting their opinion.  Talking it over.

Instead of just taking it on.

The payoff – board members who understand the principles of board management, who’ve internalized the key strategic issues of the organization, who talk to each other without everything coming through the ED – takes time.  Time invested in process, dialogue, checking in.

Enough time that it’s all too easy to give up and go back to getting it done yourself.

But that would be a mistake.

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Posted on in Board Development

1 year, 3 years, 5 years.

As nonprofit leaders, we’re responsible for steering our organizations ahead not only in this budget year but into waters we can hardly chart.

Especially as board members, that’s our job.  To ask the bigger questions that the ED, focused on the bottom line (delivering maximally impactful service with the achievable dollars at hand), doesn't have the everyday capacity to lift up their heads to contemplate.

How can we be different – way into the future? And what can we do about it now?

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Posted on in Fundraising

Three different board meetings last week, the same complaint:

I’m seeing a lot of numbers, but I don’t know what matters.

To do their fiduciary duty, board members need to know what’s happening in the organization’s financials.  But they don’t need to know the weeds.

And unfortunately, sometimes in the effort to be thorough and transparent, we give them weeds.  So many it’s impossible to see the landscape, to understand where the pattern is heading.

Is the answer to give them less?  Maybe.

But for sure, the answer is to help them understand what’s signal and what’s noise.  To point them to what to think – about.

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