Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake. Even though my website has gotten lots of inquiries from people looking for advice on the infamous Board Give or Get Policy, it never occurred to me to create one. So now I"ve created TWO. Figured I'd give you a choice. You can download the article containing both versions right here.
I'm sure you'll agree with me. Fundraising is everybody's job. The board has a role in fundraising. If your fundraising is not effective and efficient, you probably won't raise as much as you'd like. Yawn. What else is new? Well, here's a tale that will go direct to the bottom line. If you don't have an ideal-funder profile, you risk losing time and effort, two resources you can't replace. With an ideal-funder profile, you can fund your organization far more easily and efficiently. I'd like to tell you about an organization that overcame a bad case of pursuing the "Usual Suspects," learned how to qualify a donor/funder prospect properly, and transformed themselves into an organization with adequate cash reserves.
What a fantastic opportunity to improve the client's fundraising plan! We were selected to facilitate a two-day strategic-planning retreat for a nonprofit whose name you would know, so we'll just call them "The Transformers." In a flash of brilliance on my part (that was a sarcastic remark in case you were wondering), we negotiated a nice deal, got insights into the backgrounds and personalities of most of the major players, and we were good to go. We called the retreat a "refresher on the fundraising plan," because the CEO had a reputation for hating strategic planning and being an impatient kind of guy with a blithe disregard for detail. We did all that good stuff ahead of time...but we never sat down with the CEO himself.
We've been running our Leaky Bucket Assessment of Fundraising Effectiveness for about a year now, and to our surprise, only a tiny fraction - 3% - of respondents to date have scored at the "Watertight" level. Only a teeny-tiny minority of nonprofit organizations are truly efficient and effective in their fundraising practices, at least in terms of the nine practices measured in the Leaky Bucket. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting the CEO of one of those "Watertight" agencies, and got a taste of what it's like in a nonprofit with effective development practices.
"You've got to help us out," they said, "we really need you!" And so, with the ink still wet on my incorporation documents, I agreed to conduct my very first fundraising retreat for the board of The Commodores, not their real name. I even drafted my friend Rebecca, with her PhD in organizational psychology, to share the project with me! We expected to enlighten these folks, dazzle them with our brilliance, and then give them fundraising strategies that would reinvigorate them and give them a brilliant future.
Quick, boys and girls!! What's the least understood function in the nonprofit world? One, two, three - it's fundraising! Dan Pallotta calls it "the black sheep of the fundraising sector." Nonprofits brag about how little they spend on it. Executive directors complain about it (or at least their lack of results). And boards of directors make demands and expect miracles from the fundraising department, always with the best of intentions, but not necessarily with awareness of costs or other constraints.