Getting buy in from your boss and board: Part 1

board training for nonprofits

Have you ever been frustrated because you have a great fundraising idea, but you can’t get buy in from your boss, board, development committee or other leader in your organization?

            You have carefully mapped out a fundraising strategy that will bring in much needed funding. You explain it in detail to your boss and other leaders.

            Instead of the excitement you expected (and the praise for your insight and hard work that you hoped for), they say the organization can’t afford it.

            As if that wasn’t bad enough, they start brainstorming ideas for you. Use bright pink paper for your appeal letter to grab people’s attention, they suggest. Or have the staff assemble the 20,000 piece mailing in their spare time.

            Aargh!

            Here we’ll discuss some suggestions on getting buy in from your board, and in Part 2 we’ll discuss training your board.

            Basics—is fundraising important? Many board members look at fundraising with distaste. They don’t want to have to personally ask people for money, so they distance themselves from fundraising discussions altogether. But if you don’t have funds, you don’t have a program. Make sure everyone understands that without fundraising, your organization’s mission would screech to a halt.

            Involve them from the beginning. Create a planning committee or development committee and invite key board members to join. If it’s handled right, the people who had been obstacles to your plans will become valuable partners.

            Include an outside fundaising expert in the planning process.

            There are two reasons for this:

            1. The fundraising expert can bring in valuable ideas, of course.

            2. You need allies.

            There’s a saying that a prophet isn’t valued in his own country. I know how that feels.

            At one point in my career, I was the fundraising director on the staff of a nonprofit organization. One time, I had just finished explaining a new strategy to the executive director. He looked at me and said, “I wonder how a professional fundraiser would advise us.”

            Wait a minute! I am a professional fundraiser, and I am advising you, I thought. The exchange was unfair. It was galling.

            But I learned something important that day: if I wanted to get the powers-that-be to adopt my ideas, one way I could do that was by bringing in an expert to work with me and advocate for me.

            Paying a consultant for just a few hours work can benefit you in two ways: you receive help with your strategy, and you receive help getting your strategy approved!

            Direct the planning process. When your committee convenes, start with a review of your organization’s goals. Explain how the planning process will work. People who aren’t familiar with fundraising will be tempted to stray away from the effective, but boring, methods. They may try to get “creative.” If you start getting suggestions on how all you have to do to raise more money is to use bright pink paper for your appeal letter, you know you’ll have to lead your committee members back to the basics.

            Again, it’s helpful to have a fundraising consultant at the table. A board member may think you don’t know how to do fundraising if you can’t see the sheer brilliance of his pink paper idea. But when the consultant also thinks it’s time to move away from discussing pink paper, the board member is more ready to concede that it might not be a good idea after all.

            Framing the finances. When money is tight, some see only the initial cost of a new fundraising project, and that expenditure stops them in their tracks.

            Instead, you and your consultant can reframe the conversation: How much does your organization have to spend to raise the money it needs?

            If you have business people on your board, you can enlist their help to explain ROI, or return on investment. Make sure when you report to the board, you emphasize how much money a fundraising project netted so that they don’t get distracted by what it cost.

 

 

            What techniques have you found helpful in getting approval for fundraising projects? Please share them in the comments section!

 

 

Tom Harter, Partner

 

 

Not only can working with a consultant streamline your operations and maximize your fundraising efforts, it costs less than you may think. To find out more, contact Tom Harter, partner, at 1 (888) 244‑4013 or [email protected].

 

Fundraising Assets helps busy fundraising professionals raise more money, save valuable time and reduce costs. We offer consulting, writing, design and production services for direct mail and e-mail fundraising, social networking and more.

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