How to Handle Nonprofit Boards Who Won't Play Nice
|Is this a board member you know?|
Board members often take unrestrained delight in not cottoning to fundraising. They smile and wink and pat one another on the back about it. “Oh, fundraising, that’s not for me!” “No, it’s yucky; I’ll do anything but fund raise.” “Yeah, fundraising is for folks who like to sell.” “I’m not good at it, so it’s better if someone else does it.” Board members luxuriate in self pity, and we allow it. How? We agree with them! We say, “sure no one likes to ask for money; it’s a necessary evil.” “You can do something else, like help open doors.” “We can train you so it’s not quite so painful.”
My last post was about the first way we go wrong when asking boards to help raise funds. Today’s post digs into the second reason.
The problem with letting folks wallow in how painful fundraising is.
Maya Angelou wrote: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When we let our board members feel negatively about fundraising, they never forget. It burns into their brains. They wallow in it. And, in the end, this leaves them stuck in the mud like a bunch of pigs in a sty.
We may think it’s nice of us to go with people’s flow, but we do our board members a disservice. Yes, people know what it feels like to detest fundraising. And they’re comfortable with their pain. They don’t know what it might feel like to embrace fundraising. So that’s scary. But wouldn’t it be better to help them overcome their fears rather than leaving them scared and wallowing in the pigsty?
Fundraising is joyful when fundraisers are partners in creating positive outcomes.
We help board members overcome their fear of fundraising by reminding them it’s a value-for-value exchange. It’s not about money. There’s nothing distasteful involved. Everyone wins. Everyone gets value. The people they will approach for philanthropic gifts yearn to make a difference, but are simply clueless about where to begin. The board member gives them the clue they need to become the change they want to see in the world. The donor then gives something of value (money; time; expertise) and the charity gives something valuable back (a feeling of satisfaction at having done something genuinely helpful).
We must give our board members the courage to stop the wallowing. Consider asking them the following questions:
1. What are you telling yourself that keeps you focused on the negativity?
2. What will you have to give up to leave the painful associations behind?
3. What will you gain from leaving the pain behind?
4. Who benefits from you staying in pain and self-pity?
Usually what folks are telling themselves is that fundraising is begging. Overcome that argument this way. What they think they’ll have to give up is freedom from an onerous chore. Overcome that argument this way. What they need help understanding is that they’ll gain a boatload of satisfaction by helping others to enact their values. You can help them become inspired this way. In the end, it should become abundantly clear to everyone that when board members don’t engage enthusiastically in fundraising, no one benefits. It’s a lose/lose. But it’s so easy to turn it into a win/win once board members understand the very special role they play (that’s the subject of Part 3, coming up next!).
Other posts to help your board members embrace fundraising: