How to Handle Nonprofit Boards Who Won't Play Nice
Why are trustees so nervous about fundraising?
I’ve found there are two key reasons. Understand these reasons, and we can put an end to the fears in two easy steps.
ONE: Overcome Fear of Rejection. We think we’re asking for ourselves; begging. We’ve been raised that it’s impolite to talk about money. Even worse, no one wants to be a ‘charity case.’
To help board members face this fear head-on, I ask them in a group session: “When did you give when you felt bad afterwards?”
I encourage them to share all their stories about guilt, peer pressure, strong arm tactics, etc. and get all their bad energy about fundraising out on the table. Folks go to town on this one! Among the most common negative responses:
· Firefighters. People fear that if they don’t buy tickets to the firefighters’ event then they may be in jeopardy in the event of an alarm. They give. But they don’t feel warm and fuzzy about it.
· Not my interest. Sometimes a friend asks for a gift to a charity about which we care not one whit. We’re too embarrassed to confess. We fear if we ask a friend to support our charity the same feelings will be engendered. But just because we don’t get jazzed about rain forests (and they do) does not mean that we both don’t get jazzed about saving whales. We forget to allow for the possibility that our friend might actually agree with the values enacted by our organization and might relish the opportunity to tender support — given half a chance.
· Small stuff. The boxes of cookies, chocolate bars and magazine subscriptions we don’t want. We don’t feel terrible about this, but it doesn’t make us feel inspired either.
The reasons donors end up feeling bad about giving can be categorized as:
Now that all the negatives have been explored, I ask: “When did you give when you felt good afterwards?” Among the most common positive responses:
· Giving back. Usually where they or a family member or friend were helped.
· I’m involved. It’s where they volunteer. Or their kid goes to school.
· I felt appreciated. They were promptly and personally thanked and also updated on the impact of their gift.
The reasons donors end up feeling good about giving can be categorized as:
Then I remind folks that these are the same emotions other donors feel when they give money. When a donor makes a gift, he or she becomes a partner in a cause that is bigger than just one person’s life. It’s a way for them to be the change they want to see in the world – and the ‘asker’ facilitates this amazing accomplishment!
TWO: Overcome Fear of Lack of Knowledge/Skills. Too often board members do not fully understand their organization, the impact it makes, or its mission well enough to talk about it. They don’t know how to be articulate spokespeople for their organization. We give our board members plenty of materials, but often it’s not the right information or is too full of jargon for board members to use effectively. Before you even bring up the topic of fundraising, your trustees have to be engaged, active, excited and involved. This may mean involving them in some planning exercises to assure they are aligned about mission , vision and values.