Elizabeth Abel will explore the role of the board in elevating fundraising activity and discuss effective strategies to recruit, engage, and deploy diverse board members as fundraising ambassadors.
Steven: All right, Elizabeth, I’ve got 2:30 Eastern officially. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?
Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Good morning if you are on the West Coast, I should say. And if you’re watching this as a recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter when and where you are.
We are here to talk about philanthropic leadership. Yeah, engaging those board members to be fundraising ambassadors. Who doesn’t want that, right? And we’re going to be talking about that today over the next hour or so. I’m so excited for you all to be here. Nice to see a full room, especially and during such a busy and hectic time of year. So thanks for being here, all of you. And thanks for watching if you’re watching the recording.
I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. And just a couple of quick housekeeping items. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this session, and we’ll be sending out the slides as well as the recording later on this afternoon.
So if you have to leave early, or maybe get another appointment, or maybe you’re working from home and a toddler barges in something like that, like me, don’t worry. We appreciate that situation for one thing, but don’t worry, we will get that recording to you later on today. So just be on the lookout for an email from me with all those goodies.
But most importantly, I know a lot of you have already done this, but please feel free to chat in during the session we’re going to save some time for Q&A at the end. There’s a chat box, there’s a Q&A box, you can use either of those. If you use the Q&A box, it might be a little bit more visible to us. There’s just a little insider tip there.
But either way, we love to hear from you. Introduce yourself now if you haven’t already. Tell us where you’re from, what you do, how the weather is. I always like to get the weather report. But we love to hear from you. We love for these sessions to be interactive. You can also send us a tweet, I’ll keep an eye on Twitter as well. But don’t sit on those hands. Don’t be shy, we’d love to hear from you.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say a special welcome to all you first-timers. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year. We literally do like 50 sessions a year. It’s one of our favorite things that we do here at Bloomerang. Definitely, my favorite thing because I’m the host.
But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang beyond the webinar series, we are also a provider of donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang is. So if you’re interested in that, check us out. We’re pretty easy to find online, you can visit our website. You can get a demo, you can watch videos, all kinds of cool things on our website. If you’re interested, just putting that out there.
But don’t do that right now, at least wait an hour because dang, who doesn’t want to hear about board fundraising, especially from an expert like my pal Elizabeth Abel, who’s joining us from beautiful downtown Manhattan. Elizabeth, how are you doing? Are you doing okay?
Elizabeth: I’m doing well. Really thrilled to be here, Steven. Thank you.
Steven: Yeah, I’m thrilled too. I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite a while. We’ve been getting to know each other over the past few months. And you all got to know Elizabeth because she’s all over the place speaking, she’s doing podcasts, she’s getting interviewed. She works over at CCS.
Which by the way, if you work at CCS, this is pretty serious people if you know that agency. If you don’t, check them out because they do a lot of really awesome work. We have a lot of mutual clients and customers. And I can vouch for the awesomeness of all the things they do.
Elizabeth has worked on tons of campaigns for her clients, billion dollars raised. She can put at least her fingerprint on a little bit on all those too, and a lot of our fingerprints too, because she’s awesome. I don’t know how you find the time to do this, Elizabeth, in addition to your full-time job which is a lot, but you’re also an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. That’s awesome, really involved in their nonprofit leadership program, which is really cool.
And she also serves on her home chapter of AFP which we always we appreciate. Love AFP. And, dang, you’re busy and you’re a super-smart person. So I’m going to pipe down because people don’t want to hear from me, they want to hear from you. So I know you got some slides to pull up but the floor is yours. Tell us all about those philanthropic ambassadors. Go for it.
Elizabeth: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much. Really thrilled to be here. Again, my name is Elizabeth Abel. And I’m a Senior Vice President at CCS Fundraising, which is a global fundraising consulting firm that works with nonprofit organizations.
And my colleague is going to share our presentation and we will jump right in. This is one of my absolute favorite topics in philanthropy, this idea of engaging board members as fundraising ambassadors.
So today, we are going to talk about a few key strategies to help you educate, engage, and empower your board members to amplify your fundraising activity. We’ll start with a few key trends in philanthropy that will ground our conversation. And then we’ll have some time for question and answers to make sure that we can do our best to address some of the things that you and your teams and your boards are facing today.
So we have three key goals for our conversation this afternoon or morning depending on where you are. First is to understand the role of the board specifically in elevating an organization’s fundraising program.
Second is to develop some action-oriented strategies to recruit and retain and engage diverse board members in fundraising activity broadly. And then we’ll hone in on some best practices that you and your teams can apply specifically to leverage your board members in your fundraising activity in a way that excites and energizes them.
So a little bit more about me very quickly. As I shared, I’m a Senior Vice President at CCS and an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. And when people ask why I do the work that I do, I like to share my own mission.
As nonprofits, we have the missions of our organizations. And my mission is really to educate and empower nonprofit leaders and their teams with the knowledge and tools to scale their revenue and amplify their impact. And that’s really what I do in my role as a fundraising consultant through capital campaigns.
I’ve managed campaigns ranging from about $5 million to over a billion dollars in health care, education, arts and culture, and advocacy sectors. And really appreciate the opportunity to share my experiences on the frontlines working on these campaigns with all of you here today.
For those of you who are not familiar with CCS, we are a global firm. We have offices across the country and around the world. So on the next slide, you can see we partner with more than 500 nonprofits annually worldwide. Currently, we have campaigns under management totaling about $10 billion.
So again, we work both with smaller grassroots organizations all the way up to some of these large institutions that you see here and may be familiar with. And we have about 300 employees across the country and a few in Europe as well.
So with that, what we wanted to do is start our conversation by understanding your understanding of key trends in philanthropy. So we have three questions that will help anchor our conversation. And just to make it easy, we’ll ask you to type your questions in the chat. And then you’ll get a chance to see you know, what other people think about these trends and how they relate to board members in fundraising.
So the first question we have, how much do you think was invested in the philanthropic marketplace in 2020? So your options include $389 billion, 471, and 525. All right, I got a lot of Cs, some Bs. A lot of Cs, okay. I love the active participation. Please keep it up. We appreciate it.
So what we’ll share in the next slide, is that in 2020, giving reached a record-breaking $471.44 billion. So for those of you who guessed B, you are correct. In June 2021 Giving USA Foundation and partnership with the Lilly Indiana Family School of Philanthropy released their annual Giving USA report. And the headline was that this $471 billion was a new record for charitable giving in the United States.
And I want you to let that number really sink in because it is extraordinary. And it represents the highest year of giving on record since the Giving Institute began tracking this data more than 60 years ago.
So knowing that 471 billion is kind of the volume of the philanthropic marketplace. On the next slide, we have a question about where the majority of this fundraising revenue comes from. So A, corporations, B foundations, or C individuals. All right, I will argue that this is probably the easier question and most of you are getting this right. So we’ll jump right to the next slide.
What we continue to see is that individuals drive giving in America. And so of this 471 billion individuals gave $324 billion in 2020, which is about 69% of total giving. And if you think about this pie chart, what I really want to call out is that bequests, which are about 9%, are gifts made by individuals. And foundations this 19% includes both, you know, national foundations and family foundations.
So when you really think about it, individuals drive about 80% of total giving in America. And as fundraisers, this is really important because it grounds us in the value of building relationships with people. I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase people give to people.
And as we think about our board members and think about their individual reasons for being a part of your organizations and how they are people who care about your mission. It is incumbent upon us to really engage them thoughtfully as people who give to nonprofits that they care about and who are leaders of these nonprofits.
And so the last question we have, what percent of charitable donors are also volunteers? So 21%, 46%, or 62%? Seeing a range here.
So I was pretty surprised to learn that on the next slide, it’s actually 62% of charitable donors are also recent volunteers. And this is according to a 2020 report The Role of Volunteering In Philanthropy by Fidelity Charitable. And this is really important because it means that meaningful volunteer opportunities can build engagement that then leads to greater giving.
And so a few of the statistics here from this report that we wanted to call out before delving into some of our specific strategies. So 62% of donors are also volunteers. 39% of donors support a nonprofit by volunteering before they make a donation. So again, volunteering can lead to being a major donor.
And then I thought this was really interesting about millennials is that 33% of millennials say they give more to a nonprofit they volunteer with. So all signs lead to thinking about volunteers as meaningful perspective major donors.
And so when we think about today’s theme, and this idea of your board members as your fundraising ambassadors and your leaders as your champions, it really reiterates the point that volunteering leads to fundraising, that it’s kind of a symbiotic relationship. And we need to be that much more intentional in engaging our volunteer leaders and our board members in a way that’s meaningful, and valuable, and energizing for them.
So that brings us to the heart of our presentation today. So we’ll talk about the role of the board and elevating fundraising activity. We’ll then pivot to recruiting and retaining diverse board members. And then unpacking some case studies that can articulate some of these strategies in action.
So the role of the board, every nonprofit has a board of directors, which as we know provides strategy, oversight, and participation. So strategy really focuses on organizational direction, establishing values, mission, ensuring the organization embodies its cultural ethos. Oversight, specifically in financial matters, ensuring accountability, approving the budget.
And then participation, which is really focused on fundraising. So ensuring that an organization has the resources it needs to do its work. And as we all know as fundraisers, one of our main goals is to ensure 100% board participation in both annual and capital fundraising projects.
The key message that I really want to leave you with today is that board members are your greatest fundraising ambassadors. They are natural storytellers and advocates for your organization. They bring a diverse set of experiences, skills, talents, perspectives. They provide access to potential avenues of new support. And through all of this work, they are multipliers of your fundraising activity.
And so this is one of my favorite graphics which really shows your development office, your board members, they’re effectively being multipliers that leads to greater revenue. And the point that I would emphasize here is that this theme and this concept is particularly important for smaller development teams, where you have limited staff capacity. And yet ambitious revenue goals, deadlines that you need to meet, pipelines that you need to kind of mine through, and you just can’t do it all yourself.
So think about your board members as an extension of your fundraising team. And think about how we can have them multiply all that you do.
The next thing I want to talk about is setting fundraising expectations with your board. So your responsibility as we know is fundraising. We’ll talk a little bit about what that means specifically. And so what we’ve seen according to BoardSource, and I really think this is important when we think about setting up our boards for success. Is that when fundraising expectations are clearly articulated during recruitment 52% of CEOs report that their boards are actively engaged in an organization’s fundraising efforts.
Now personally, I would like to see this 52 be like 82 but I will take the 52. Compared to when fundraising expectations are not clearly articulated during board recruitment. Only 12% of CEOs report that their boards are actively engaged in fundraising efforts.
Huge lost opportunity by not communicating fundraising expectations when you are bringing people onto your board. And when you are kicking off your fiscal year or your calendar year, set those expectations high so people know what they can do to be helpful. And what is expected of them to be successful on your board and for your organization.
On the flip side, there are a number of things that donors want to know about your board. So donors want to know that your board members are supporting your mission. And this is not just in the boardroom, but that they’re really championing your mission as human beings outside of their formal responsibilities. Donors want to know that your board members are personally involved, they want to see that your board is diverse and inclusive of all perspectives and backgrounds.
Number four is something that I come across a lot in my work when we think about campaigns. When we’re asking a major donor to support a campaign, the first thing that major donor will oftentimes ask is, do you already have 100% board participation?
We get this from foundations in particular. Okay, I’m a foundation. I’m interested in supporting. Has your board already committed to supporting? Because we want to make sure that if we’re going to invest in you, your board and your closest circle of advocates has already demonstrated their support.
And then five, donors also want to believe that there’s a solid partnership between your board and your administration and that you’re working in harmony together.
So now that we understand the role of the board and supporting your fundraising activity at the highest level, let’s discuss the importance of recruiting and engaging diverse board members.
This is really important when we think about an organization’s values and beliefs. Having a diverse board allows us to reach a broader audience. It builds a culture of trust and respect. It allows an organization to communicate authentically. And it ultimately as we’ll talk about in a minute, will allow you to amplify your fundraising efforts.
So over the summer, BoardSource published a really excellent report called “Leading with Intent: Reviewing the State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on Nonprofit Boards.” The report, which if you don’t have it, we can share it after this. And if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. It was super interesting.
It really unpacks data around the composition of boards and specifically, the implications of diversity on boards, programming, fundraising, and operations. And what the report states is that the percentage of people of color on boards increased from 16% in 2017 to 22%, in 2019. Okay, so positive trend.
And what we’re seeing is that while this is encouraging, the numbers are going up, nonprofit boards are still far from representing the communities that they serve. And this is compounded by traditional board recruitment practices, where oftentimes board members identify new board members through their own existing networks. And so what we saw on the right-hand side, some of the statistics that really resonated with me.
So 82% of chief executives say that racial diversity is important to their external leadership. But only 70% of that group is . . . or actually 70% of that group is dissatisfied with the board’s racial composition. And what we’re seeing is that’s because only 50% have actually aligned their board’s recruitment practices with their diversity goals.
So what does this mean? Why is this important to our work as fundraisers specifically? So board diversity is critical to philanthropy. And so a board’s level of diversity . . . on the next slide, we’ll talk about how it really affects the organization’s programming, fundraising, and overall impact.
So greater board diversity will allow us to do six things . . . many more than six things but we’ll focus on six things right now. Number one, it will allow us to expand our donor base and reach a broader audience. Number two, we’ll be able to enhance our organization’s current standing with current funders and donors alike.
Third, greater board diversity will allow us to attract and retain top talent for the board. Next, it’ll allow us to cultivate trust and confidence with the communities that we serve. Enhance the organization’s standing with the general public. And then understand how best to serve the community because as we know, we want to make sure that our boards are representing the communities that we serve.
So the question I’m asked a lot is how can we turn this insight into action? And so I really want to emphasize the importance of intentionality and authenticity and offer a few action-oriented strategies to foster greater diversity and inclusion on our boards.
So the key message I want to share for right now is that by becoming more diverse and inclusive, boards will be better positioned to amplify their fundraising activity, which in turn will allow them to be more effective in fulfilling their mission, delivering their programs, and positively impacting the communities that they serve.
And so the report really challenges us to think about five things. So first is how we can reflect on the importance of diversity to our board’s work, specifically fundraising. Second is how we can recruit board members in a strategic and thoughtful way. Second or third is committing to building an inclusive and welcoming culture. And I think number two and three go hand in hand. So we’re not just recruiting, but we’re really engaging meaningfully.
Four is considering the level of depth of our DEI practices and challenging ourselves to engage in deeper, more meaningful ways. And then five is to dedicate time for continuous learning and growth. Knowing that we’re moving forward and we need to be intentional about our commitment [inaudible 00:20:57].
So now that we’ve talked a little bit about board compensation broadly, I want to talk a little bit about what it means to be an effective board member, specifically an effective fundraising ambassador and board member.
So one of the questions that I receive almost all the time when I talk about board members and fundraising is what characteristics should I look for in a board member when I think about their fundraising responsibilities? And there are really six characteristics that resonate most with me.
The first is advocate. So we want people who are respected community leaders, strong communicators, people who will generate energy and momentum, and credibility and trust in the work that you’re doing.
Second, we want people who are also able to make connections. So people who have access to potential new supporters, potential leaders who can continue to multiply the community that you’re a part of.
Next is, we always hope that our board members are some of our most generous stakeholders, they’re personally philanthropic, they’re setting an example and helping to raise your communities’ sights. You know, one of the things about being a donor, it’s not just giving a gift, it’s building a strong culture of philanthropy.
And if we have 100% board participation, if we have people who are advocating and connecting and giving, that will allow you to build a strong culture of philanthropy, where giving and major giving is a natural and valued, and energizing part of your culture.
Next is we want people who we can partner with. They’re collaborative, they’re passionate about your mission. And they’re not scared to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty on behalf of the work that you’re doing.
We also want people who have a unique perspective. They can share their own personal story for why they’re involved in your organization, how their involvement has perhaps changed their life or their perspectives, and how we can really leverage their stories to help generate momentum and energy around the work that you’re doing.
And then lastly, we want people who we can steward and who can help us steward our community members. So we want our board members to have the time to commit to building, maintaining relationships, making calls, thanking people with notes and emails. And helping to again, just build a strong culture of philanthropy.
So this really brings us to the heart of our conversation today. So once we have a strong board, we have the right people on our board, we’re building an inclusive culture. How can we activate our board members as fundraising ambassadors specifically in a way that resonates with each of them?
And kind of the big disclaimer I always share is that, you know, it works for me as a board member, what I like to do may not be what you like to do as a board member. And so I think it’s really important for executive leadership, and development directors and board chairs to understand that being an effective board member is not just asking for money. And we’re going to talk about all of the ways in which board members can engage in fundraising more broadly.
So there are four ways we’re going to talk about today. First is championing the vision. Second is building meaningful relationships. Third is activating personal networks. And then fourth is supporting solicitation and stewardship activity.
Now I know there’s several hundred people on this call from all over the country, the world, small, large, complex institutions, newer institutions. What I want to share to you is for development professionals on the call, I would note that there are ways for your leaders to support philanthropy at every stage of your donor journey. So identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.
And then for those of you who are board members and volunteers on this call, I would encourage you to think about what resonates most with you, and what gets you most excited. And then follow up with your development directors to talk about ways that you can elevate your own involvement in fundraising. Because I do mean it sincerely when we were thinking about this presentation and the audience, I can promise you there will be something in here for each of you and for your teams.
So the first thing we’re going to talk about is championing the vision. So what do I mean by championing the vision? So every nonprofit, every vision that we have, is grounded in what we call a case for philanthropy, a case for support. So it is essentially a vision for the future that illustrates the impact that philanthropic investments will have, and that we can communicate to help inspire support. It’s like a cohesive vision, a cohesive mission, and a cohesive message that we want to be sharing and championing within our broader community.
And so what I would say here, is that the simplest way to be an effective board member is to champion and communicate your vision. So let’s build enthusiasm and momentum around the case for support. So talk about what’s happening at the institution.
So if you’re embarking on a capital campaign, and you’re building, let’s say, you’re a hospital system, and you’re building a new oncology wing, let’s talk about that in the community. What’s the need? Why are we meeting the need? How are we meeting the need? What will the impact be?
If you have a gala coming up, how can you speak on behalf of the organization at the gala? Could you share your story, whether it’s you know, with the people at your dinner table, or whether you’re delivering the keynote, but how can you always be thinking about opportunities to talk about the organization, formally and informally?
And then the bottom left box, the easiest way to do this, and it’s also the most compelling way to do this is to share your personal story. So if you’re involved in your organization as a professional fundraiser, or an executive leader, or volunteer leader, I would argue that you’re involved because the mission resonates with you. And there’s probably a reason why you have a connection with that mission.
And so I would think about your own personal story, why are you here? Why do you care? Why should I care as a donor? And champion that vision through your personal story. So talk about why you’re involved and talk about why you give.
I sometimes think some of our major donors can shy away from talking about why they give financially. And I think it’s a missed opportunity because if I respect you as a board member, and you talk not only about why you’re involved but also why you give, it will inspire me to think about how I can give and how I can stretch my giving too. As I think about you know, those characteristics, you’re credible, you’re an advocate, you’re someone that I aspire to be like perhaps.
And then another way we can help build brand awareness for the organization through our role as a board member is to allow the use of your name associated with an organization. Again, how many of you have attended an event or go to a museum? I feel like the first thing I do is look at the names of the donors, and the trustees, and the ambassadors who are publicly proudly championing the vision and mission of the organization.
So again, thinking about that initial message that I had shared, our fundraising ambassadors, our board members, our multipliers. So championing the vision, what we’re doing here is we’re multiplying the message, we’re multiplying the case for philanthropy in our community.
So the next thing we’re going to multiply is our audience through building meaningful relationships. So one of the ways that we can really leverage our board members is through their personal networks and community connections that can ultimately drive support for our organization.
So some of the ways that we can do this are by identifying and qualifying prospective donors. We can ask our board members to assist in what we sometimes call prospecting sessions. So let’s say we want to expand our board or, you know, engage a new cohort of major donors. Let’s talk about who we know in our community that has the ability to make a meaningful gift, that they have an affinity for our mission, and that we have access to them through our board.
Our board members can facilitate personal introductions to our professional leadership. They can help with follow-up. I think about it like they’re the glue. If you look at the little icon, they’re really the glue that bring people together under the umbrella of the mission and the community that you’re serving.
Where board members can add a tremendous amount of value is by participating in select donor meetings. So, you know, if I’m an executive director and I’m meeting with a new donor, I should and I would encourage you to invite one of your board members to join you. You know, your perspective as an executive leader is complemented by their perspective as a volunteer and major donor. And together, you can probably have a really powerful response and conversation.
And similarly, you know, when . . . we do a lot of work here at CCS with independent schools, and we really lean into peer-to-peer fundraising. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that in a few minutes. But having our board members not only participate in donor meetings but perhaps lead those donor meetings is really powerful as well.
And then, as we continue to engage in this digital remote world, I think we’re all becoming much more comfortable with leveraging technology and social media to amplify our message as well. So encouraging our board members and our volunteer leaders to engage with us on social media, again, really furthers our brand awareness and our audience as well.
So I would say you know, thinking about the most active ways that we can engage our board members in fundraising specifically, now we’re starting to get into some of the cultivation and solicitation tactics. When you think about identify, cultivate, solicit, and steward, we’re probably now starting to get into that second half.
So one of the ways that we can leverage our board members is by engaging their personal networks. And so again, thinking about how we’re multiplying, we’re multiplying engagement, we’re multiplying our audience. So board members can invite prospective donors to meet to learn more about your organization.
You know, pre-COVID, we really encourage board members to host a parlor meeting in their home or business. I know we’re starting to see this happen a bit again. Specifically, in a nicer weather, we can host things outside. But it’s really powerful. And I’ll walk through one of our case studies in a few minutes, how a parlor meeting is a really great opportunity to bring a select group of people together and to help build some meaningful relationships under the umbrella of the work that you’re doing.
And then again, inviting people to attend events that are in your network, your professional, personal, religious, children’s networks, invite friends, invite prospects. What we see is that personal touch really goes a long way in driving engagement and ultimately philanthropy.
And then finally, one of the most valuable ways that our board members can support solicitation and stewardship activity is by thinking about how we can leverage their own giving and their own role as champions, to inspire giving.
So the most, I would say straightforward way is to ensure that all of our board members are making a meaningful stretch gift to the organization, that they’re growing their philanthropy. That they are really setting the tone for your community that we take philanthropy seriously, it’s an integral part of our culture, and that we expect 100% participation on our board.
The next way that we can also engage our board members is offering guidance on the right gifts strategies or materials to present to a donor. You know, I think this will depend on the type of organization you have and your community. For schools, for you know, smaller communities where people know each other, it’s helpful to get a sense of insight. It might be harder if you’re a national organization.
But, you know, if I’m sitting at a table thinking about how to engage you know, Joe Smith and I know Joe from work, I’m able to provide some insight that our development department might not know that can help inform a gift strategy.
And when I say stretch gift, I’m really talking about major giving. So some of the larger annual gifts to your organization, or if you’re embarking on a capital campaign, some of the gifts at the top of your gift pyramid. The ways in which board members can really again just set the tone and lead with pace-setting gifts that inspire the rest of the community to step up as well.
I will say the most powerful way that board members can serve as fundraising ambassadors is by asking others to join me in making a gift. I think this phrase “join me” I’m sure many of you are familiar with it, it’s very powerful. If I’m being solicited for a gift and I have a board member say, “Join me in making a gift,” I hear a few things.
Number one, this board member has already made his or her gift so I’m not alone in making a gift. Number two, this board member is important, influential, probably wouldn’t make a gift to an organization if it wasn’t credible. So I’m joining a credible winning team. And then third, I’m part of a community, I’m part of a community of people who are making significant investments to support the organization that we care about together.
And so I would encourage you, for those of you who are board members, for those of you on the call, who are thinking about how to leverage your board members in fundraising. This idea of peer-to-peer gift requests, and this phrase of “join me” is one that I cannot emphasize enough.
And then finally, supporting stewardship activity. You know, one of the questions that I hear a lot, especially from smaller development teams, I only have a finite number of hours in a day, Elizabeth. How am I supposed to do everything? How am I supposed to make the ask, and then thank all the donors who have already given?
Because we know as fundraisers we have our annual goals, we have a finite amount of time to meet them. And if we have an extra hour in our day, are we going to make an ask, or are we going to thank someone for an ask? We’re probably going to make the ask.
So the best way we can complement our own time is by leveraging our board members to help us with stewardship. So could each of our board members over the course of the year thank 25 people, make five phone calls, write five thank you notes, write five emails. When you kind of divide it into these small micro-steps, and then take a look at how much you can do collectively, it will go such a long way.
At CCS, we do feasibility and campaign planning studies for organizations that are thinking of embarking on larger campaigns or capital campaigns. And one of the questions we ask is often around stewardship. And you know, how well does the organization steward? Are there opportunities?
And one of the things we hear a lot is, you know, I only hear from the organization when they want my money. And so one of the ways that we recommend kind of balancing this is by leveraging your board members to help partner with you for your stewardship activity.
So we’re going to kind of pivot to the final phase of our conversation today, around some of our case studies. So I’m going to walk through two case studies. And then what I think about is a toolkit that we can use to help support our board members.
So the first case study is about parlor meetings. And I want to talk about an experience I had working with an advocacy organization. And the way that I’m going to talk about these case studies is the purpose, the structure, and the outcome of each. It’s how my brain works. Very linear thinker over here.
So the purpose of the parlor meeting for this advocacy organization was to engage high-capacity prospects in fundraising efforts and to expand their donor audience. And so here’s what happened.
We had a board member host a parlor meeting over the summer. And this was pre-COVID. But it was still able to be outside should it be in COVID. And it was positioned as a special opportunity to hear from the CEO on his vision and a unique capital project. The board member is a person of influence who invited some friends and colleagues to their home and the CEO spoke about the vision.
So the board member welcomes everyone, so thrilled to be here, introductions, little cocktails, everyone’s mingling getting to know one another. And then we hear from the CEO about this inspiring vision. The impact of financial investments on allowing the organization to realize that vision sooner.
We had a number of attendees who were really inspired. And there was one attendee who was like, really, really excited. The mission of the organization really resonated with him. The CEO’s energy he felt a connection to. And this vision and the call to action he felt ready and willing to make a meaningful gift the next day.
Now, I will say this is an ideal outcome, of course, we were prepared to have one on one follow-up with each of the people who attended. But really the outcome is that through this parlor meeting that was hosted by a board member, we were able to engage a new cohort of leaders through one-on-one meetings and strategic follow-up that built authentic personal momentum with the people who had never attended an event for this organization before.
And I would say this is a pretty replicable model, right? You have your board member host, you hear from your executive leadership. Perhaps there are community members who are beneficiaries of your organization’s work who could speak as well. There are plenty of opportunities to be creative.
Next case study is peer-to-peer solicitations. And I’m going to focus on this for a few minutes because as I shared again, you can probably tell this is one of my favorite opportunities. I just saw a question pop in the chat. I’ll pause quickly. How many people attended this event for the advocacy? There were about 40 people in attendance.
And I would say there’s no like one-size-fits-all model for the number of people. I think it really depends on having the right people in the room. So if you have, I would say 12 to 15 is probably a nice, sweet spot for a parlor meeting. Cocktail party, you could have maybe 25 to 30, it depends on the space. And it also depends quite honestly on the capacity of your team to do follow-up. Because a parlor meeting is great but if there’s no follow-up, then it’s a little bit of a wasted opportunity.
So peer-to-peer solicitations. So our purpose here . . . this was an independent school. And so really, our focus was on the annual fund. We wanted to build a stronger culture of philanthropy at the school and secure new and increased gifts to our annual fund. And so what we did is we established in advance the committee.
So we recruited and convened a group of major donors who were influential in the community. Again, thinking back to those characteristics of successful fundraisers. Influential, ready to roll up their sleeves, comfortable making peer-to-peer solicitations, major donors themselves.
And what we did is we assigned each committee member two to three families that they would personally be responsible for soliciting with support from the advancement team. We provided a solicitation training and toolkit. And I can talk a little bit about the solicitation training in a moment.
But basically, we talked about why we have the annual fund, why we support the annual fund. We talked about how to make the ask. And then most importantly, we talked about how to respond to donors’ responses after we do make the ask so that people are prepared. You know, if we were to ask the family for a gift, and they said, I need to think about it, how are you responding in a way that makes everyone comfortable and moves the conversation along.
So after the solicitation training and toolkit that we provided, committee members were then kind of activated to invite families to meet and these were . . . at the time, this is pre-COVID. But I think depending on people’s comfort levels, these were in-person, one-on-one-meetings. Now we’re seeing them virtual. But these were kind of personal one-on-one meetings where committee members met with families and then made the ask for the annual fund.
And what we saw is that we were able to multiply solicitation activity from about 500,000 to about 850 that year, because of this ability to leverage our board members as fundraising multipliers, and help generate additional revenue for the organization. Because at the time, the team internally was really small.
And so again, this idea that your board members are your fundraising ambassadors, they’re multipliers, I think is really important, because we’re able to see how they can help us raise more revenue in a way that works well for them.
The final slide before we open it up to question and answers is empowering your fundraising ambassadors. So while our board members are instrumental in supporting our fundraising efforts, it is on us as fundraisers and development teams to make sure that we’re providing them with the support that they need to be successful.
So there are three things that I’d like to focus on. Number one is clear expectations. Number two is a fundraising toolkit. And number three are educational opportunities.
So clear expectations. So whether this is your board or an advancement, or major gifts committee, or capital campaign committee, we want to make sure that we are communicating clearly about what is expected in this rule. Again, think back to that slide I shared at the beginning of the presentation, the 52% versus 12% of board participation in fundraising efforts when they’re clearly communicated. Again, I still think 52% is low.
But think about the importance of clearly communicating, you want to be on this board, there are lots of things we do and fundraising is one of them. You want to be on our capital campaign committee, amazing. Let’s talk about your participation in the campaign and, you know, your comfort level, inviting others to join you.
Second, is a toolkit. So we do this a lot when we partner with nonprofits on capital campaigns specifically. We’ll craft talking points and you know, do you have an event calendar or prospect list? But really, I think about like, tactically this is like a folder if I’m a board member with everything I need to be successful. It includes your giving societies if you have them, it includes your case brochure if you have it, it includes an event calendar to drive activity.
So one of the things that I really think is so important is once we meet with families, or donors, we never just want to say thank you. It’s nice to have that conversation. But oh, by the way, it’s so great to see you. I’m so glad you’re excited about our mission. Here’s our event calendar. We happen to have you know, an annual gala in a few weeks, would love for you to attend as my guest.
But always have something in your back pocket that you can pull out to continue that conversation. And the fundraising toolkit is a really helpful way to kind of compile that all together.
And then lastly, and this is something that I personally do all the time, in terms of fundraising trainings, and workshops, and solicitation trainings, fundraising retreats for your board. But what are the professional opportunities that we can offer our board so that they feel prepared with the language and the skills and the tools to be successful?
When I was working at that independent school, and we led the solicitation training, we did it in the evening. We had wine, it was actually fun and I think it built people’s confidence. So we’re not just saying, “Great, thanks for being a board member. Here’s the five people you need to ask for money.”
But we’re talking about what does it mean to make the case. We’re talking about the way in which you’re asking for money so that people are prepared, and they’re confident. And then they do have those wins. And it’s like a snowball effect. You have a board member who solicits a major gift and the donor says yes, that board member is like, give me more donors to solicit. I am ready to bring home the money. And that’s really what we want.
So the final thought I will leave you with is about recognizing our board members for their time, energy and leadership. So our board members are the greatest asset to our fundraising efforts and we just need to make sure that we remember to thank them, you know. Perhaps it’s an orchid, it’s a bottle of champagne, it’s a handwritten thank you note. But what are the little things above and beyond that we can do to recognize our board members for all that they do to support our mission and the communities that we serve?
So with that, I will turn it over to Q&A. I will encourage you, if you, you know, liked what you heard, you want to stay in touch, you want to learn more about CCS, you can visit our website. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I have a professional Instagram as well, where I offer nonprofit industry insights and fundraising tips as I think about them in my work. It’s Elizabeth Berni Able. You will also see some photos of my adorable toddler.
But really, as I shared with you, my mission is to be a resource and to help you and your teams amplify your fundraising efforts so that you can have the greatest benefit to the communities that you’re serving each day. So thank you.
Steven: Nice. Thank you, Elizabeth. That was awesome. I was just finding myself nodding along with basically everything you were saying for an entire hour. So I think that was echoed in the chat here. So thanks for doing this.
We’ve probably got about 10 minutes for questions. So if you haven’t asked a question, do so now because there’s a lot in here, and I don’t think we’ll be able to get to all of them. But we’ve got Elizabeth’s contact information like she said up on the screen. And she’s an awesome person. And I bet if you shoot her a quick note, she won’t mind that at all.
Dang, there’s a lot here, Elizabeth. Maybe it might be time to get this question out of the way, which is a lot of people are asking about, well, what if the board is just not doing these things, right? Maybe one person, not the entire board. What’s your take on term limits, on, you know, asking board members to perhaps roll-off? What’s your philosophy on all that?
Elizabeth: It’s a great question. It’s something that we see all the time. And it’s our greatest challenge. Because if our board members are our greatest champions, and they’re not necessarily championing the work that we’re doing, it can inhibit us, I think, in sometimes building the momentum and multiplying the fundraising activity that we know we can.
So what I would say is a couple of things. I do believe in term limits. I think it’s important. We want to make sure at the same time that we’re recognizing outgoing board members, we’re bringing new energy to the board. And I think energy is important.
I was on a call earlier today with an organization that we’re working with. We’re embarking on a campaign. It’s the second campaign that the board is doing. The board is tired. They are tired of being asked for money. They’re tired of peer-to-peer solicitations.
And so the conversation pivoted almost immediately to who’s next on our pipeline? Who can we bring onto the board to be the next champions of this fundraising effort or campaign? And how can we bring their energy and their generosity to inspire greater culture of giving?
So yes, definitely think about term limits. And then always think about people you’re meeting in your community that you can funnel into your board leadership.
Steven: I love it. Here’s a question . . . a variation of one. I’m going to kind of combine a couple similar questions here. So if you hear elements of your question, it’s because I did this. This concept of 100% board giving, which I totally agree with, is there room for maybe organizations who may have someone on their board that is someone that directly receives services?
For example, I got invited to one of these parlor meetings next month, and the organization serves people in Nepal. And there’s a Nepalese villager on the board. Is there room for maybe that person being perhaps exempt from a stretch gift, or some other you know, mode of participating?
Elizabeth: It’s a great question. And I would say that yes, and there are also opportunities to incorporate give/get policies. So if you’re someone whose perspectives and experiences are tremendously valuable to the organization’s mission, if you’re a thought leader or someone who brings a tremendous amount of credibility on your own, yet can’t necessarily make a gift. Could you perhaps make a gift that you can comfortably give, and perhaps fundraise on behalf of the organization as well.
But I do know of many organizations who try and bridge that because they do want to make sure that they’re not excluding people from the board, who can bring a lot of value in different ways.
Steven: I love that. Yeah, I had a feeling you’d say that. Dang, there’s a lot of good ones. Stewardship. So you recommend people getting involved in making phone calls, writing thank you notes.
What have you seen work in terms of like the training or kind of preparing them to do that work? I think a lot of people are excited about trying that. How would you recommend maybe getting them to do that? Because, you know, is it giving them a script for a phone call, or a template? Is that kind of a good way, or what do you think?
Elizabeth: There are so many ways. This is one of my favorite questions. So I think a couple of things. I always like to set . . . I like to use the calendar. So what are opportunities in two ways, one, in terms of upcoming board meetings at the beginning of a fiscal year, or the beginning of a new calendar year that you can use to anchor the work of your board as fundraisers for the next three months, six months, 12 months?
And I would think about it quarterly like, is there one event each quarter that you can really rally your board around? So do you have a Giving Day? And can you have your board make phone calls? Yes, we do need to provide the board with scripts, like a voicemail message, and some talking points, if they do have someone pick up the phone.
If we’re having board members, send a personal thank you note. I always want to emphasize the importance of making it as easy as possible for our board members. So I would draft a thank you note for my board member to send and then write in red, insert personal note or a thank you note.
If you’re doing a new building tour for a capital project, like have a template and then have spaces where you can make it personal. Because our donors aren’t stupid, they will know when it’s a generic note, and they will know when someone’s like really put some time and thought into it. So I think it’s a balance between making sure that we have a template that’s easy. And we’re then providing personalization.
And then the second thing I would say is, don’t shy away from formal fundraising training workshops with your board. So if you have a board retreat . . . you know, I think board members actually appreciate sometimes when you bring someone in to just talk to them about fundraising. And they can ask, you know, without fear of, you know, what if I’m nervous to make an ask? Like, how do I handle someone saying no? I don’t like to be rejected.
And so being able to create an environment where you can role-play and you can help your board members feel more confident, I think is really great.
And then the last thing I would say is leverage your holidays. So you know, the end of year is always a great time for giving as we know, and it’s also a great opportunity for stewardship. So perhaps at the end of this calendar year, let your board members know in September that in December, we would like each of them to write 10 handwritten cards.
We’re going to mail you your pre-addressed cards with the donor’s information. And you know, over your weekends or your evenings, if you can just do one card. If you have 15 people on your board, that’s 150 thank you notes that you can get out to your community.
Steven: I love it. And you read my mind on the retreats thing because I was thinking about orientation as well. It seems like this would be part of like a new board member onboarding. What do you think about that?
Elizabeth: I love that idea. I couldn’t agree more.
Steven: So in keeping in this idea of the training, what about when it’s time to ask for money, is it same rules apply to the stewardship piece you equip them? Like what’s in that toolbox? I think you used that word in the presentation. What are the kinds of things you see in that? Are they stories, talking points?
Elizabeth: So I think it depends on what you’re fundraising for. So again, CCS, we do a lot of capital campaigns. So, typically, we’ll have our case for support. We’ll have an FAQ that we like to provide our board members.
So like, if I’m asking for a multi-year pledge, I might have questions around, how can I pay that pledge? Can I give stock gifts? Does the organization accept gifts from my donor-advised fund? Like some of the technical things that we want our board members to be able to answer that they just might not know.
So you’ll have your case for support, which is focusing on the organizational vision. You’ll have your FAQ which is some of the tactical questions we get from donors. And then we also will put together kind of like a prospect research snapshot on who you’re asking and what you’re asking for.
So one of the things that we believe in is asking for a specific concrete figure. So you know, Steven, would you be willing to make a gift of $25,000 to our annual fund? Or, you know, would you be willing to make a multi-year pledge of $250,000 to our capital campaign? And would you join me in serving on our campaign committee? So I think, again, it’s not just the physical materials, but it’s the language and the messaging that we want our board members to kind of embody so that they’re successful.
Steven: I love that. And on the topic of capital campaigns, I know you do a lot of good work on this and the ask amounts. How do you kind of decide on what that ask amount would be? I assume you equip the board member with what that range would be. But what do you use? Do you use wealth screening? Is it the donor database? What are the things that go into that ask amount?
Elizabeth: Whole separate presentation topic, which I will cover later. At the highest level, it’s a mix of publicly available information. We do oftentimes rely on databases. I like Wealth-X for high-net-worth individuals, as well as WealthEngine. And then we think about past giving to your organization to peer organizations, and then levels of engagement currently. So it’s both a science and an art.
Steven: I love it. That’s the stuff. We’ll have to have you back if you’re willing to talk about that because I love that topic too. Last thing, it might be a good way to end on. I know a lot of folks listening are small shops, maybe one or two-person shops, there’s an ED, there’s a DD. How do you get kind of buy-in for this?
I think one thing you mentioned, I wonder if you could kind of pull on the thread is, maybe there’s a champion on the board, maybe it’s the board chair, right? If the ED doesn’t necessarily have that power to dictate what the board does is. Is that kind of the key piece to get these things kind of moving for folks? Or what would you recommend for maybe those small shops who may feel a little powerless to, you know, direct the board to do some of these things?
Elizabeth: I do think the board chair is for sure someone you want to make sure that you have a great relationship with. I also think a very valuable and perhaps underappreciated member of your board is your development chair, or your advancement, major gifts chair of your board.
So just like you would have your finance committee, you have your development committee, whoever is leading that, I think is someone that should be a real partner to your development director, because they’re oftentimes the people that are rolling up their sleeves with you.
Steven: Dang, I can’t believe we got to an hour. That flew by. And I know you and I could probably talk about this all day. And I think we almost did when we talked last. But I want to be respectful of everybody’s time. And you’ve already been so kind and gracious in giving up part of your day. But I want to give you the last word. How can folks reach out, learn more about CCS, maybe? Tell us how to get involved with all the cool things you’ve got going on?
Elizabeth: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Steven. Really, it’s been such a valuable conversation. And to those of you who have been participating today joining us in the chat, welcome you, encourage you to stay in touch. You can learn more about CCS at our website, ccsfundraising.com. We do a tremendous amount of work with nonprofits seeking to scale their philanthropy on planning studies, development and systems assessments, and of course, capital campaigns.
And then if you’re interested in connecting more with me, would be happy to facilitate one of these retreats, or volunteer leadership workshops for your board and just continue to stay in touch and be a resource.
We have a number of publications that will be coming out as well this year. So feel free to get on our mailing listserv or whatever the real phrase is called and stay in touch. Would love to continue the conversation. And thank you so much for being here.
Steven: I hope folks will do that because CCS puts out some really good stuff. I see that come in my inbox as well. So thanks for doing this, Elizabeth. Hopefully, you will come back. I was totally serious about the ask amount thing. And I think people would enjoy that based on what I’m seeing in the chat. So thanks again for doing this and your team there, and CCS for giving you the time to do this. I think that’s really cool.
I know we’re right at the half-hour mark here, but I just want to let people know about our next session. Next Thursday 1 p.m. Eastern. Every Thursday, we got a good session, folks. And next week is by no means an exception, we’re going to talk about lapsed donors. One of my favorite topics for January because maybe you’re looking back on past year’s performance and some of those folks who gave in 2020, didn’t give in ’21. We’re going to talk about that.
My buddies, Kari and Jackie are going to be here. They are awesome. They’ve been contributing to the Bloomerang blog and doing webinars all over the place. And we finally got them on Bloomerang webinar, so I’m really excited.
So register for that. Even if you can’t attend, you can register and get the recording. It’s okay, if you don’t attend live, I won’t even notice necessarily. I’ll still send you that recording. So be there if you can. And if you can’t there’s a lot of other sessions out there scheduled on into the rest of the year that we’re really excited about. So check that out. Hopefully, we’ll see you again on another session.
And like I said, we’ll be sending out the slides and the recording a little bit later on today. So be on the lookout for that. Be an email from me. And yeah, connect with Elizabeth, connect the CCS. And I hope you come back and join us on another webinar.
So thanks to all of you for hanging out for an hour or so. It’s really fun. And hopefully, we’ll see you next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Stay safe, stay healthy. We need all of you out there doing all y good work. And hopefully, we’ll see you again soon. See you.
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