Andy recently sat down with Mazarine Treyz, a terrific colleague based in Portland, Oregon. Mazarine asked tough questions about training boards. Andy did his best to answer them.
Thanks to Mazarine for sharing this Q&A on her blog. Here’s your chance to eavesdrop on their conversation.
The biggest mistake – and how to avoid it
Mazarine: What’s the number one mistake most board trainers make?
Andy: They talk too much. The best trainers give the group work to do — exercises, activities, problem-solving, role plays — and then gently get out of the way.
Here’s the most important thing to know about adult learning. People remember about 20% of what the trainer says, but they remember 90% of what they DO. So give them stuff to do.
Can you wear multiple fundraising hats?
Mazarine: Recently I facilitated a board training for a nonprofit that helps small businesses. The issue was that people on the board were all part of other boards and did not see fundraising for this organization as a priority.
They said, “You get city money to covers your budget. We need to fundraise for our other boards!” I taught them what I could about fundraising, but I’m concerned about follow through.
What would you have said to these board members?
Andy: Three points.
1. As trainers and fundraising leaders, we need to redefine the word “fundraising.” It’s not about money, it’s about relationships. The vast majority of the work happens before and after the ask.
People will find any excuse to avoid asking, but if we define the word more broadly, it’s much less scary for people to participate.
For example, I am a great believer in board members and other volunteers making thank-you calls to donors. Not scary, super effective.
2. When people join a board, reciprocal fundraising responsibilities must be clear.
Yes, the board is responsible for helping with fundraising — defined broadly (above) so everyone can choose from a variety of activities. The organization, in turn, is responsible for training and supporting them in that effort. These roles need to be explicit from the start.
3. For those who are cultivating and/or soliciting donors, I encourage them to practice the menu pitch. “Martha, I’m serving on three boards. I want to tell you briefly about all three groups, and then you can tell me which of the three you’re most interested in.”
The nice thing about this approach is that it assumes a yes – that the donor will pick at least one.
When you can’t kick them off
Mazarine: What can you do when board members are mandated to be on a board and you can’t kick them off, even if they don’t do any fundraising, “ambassadoring,” or outreach?
Andy: This is a challenging one.
I tend to lean on my earlier answer about redefining fundraising — “Will you write thank you notes? We’re hosting a house party…can you drive a few people who need rides? Can you help us collect good stories about the impact of our work? Would you write something for our newsletter?”
I’ve been training lawyers to raise money for their local bar foundations, which provide grants for legal services for the poor, immigrants, domestic violence victims, etc.
One judge said at the training, “I can’t ask for money given my position, but I can be in the room when somebody else is asking for money.” Other judges may disagree, but I loved his attitude.
Finally, consider making it competitive. For example, create organizational business cards for all board members – put the mission statement or a few descriptive bullets on the back. Give each trustee 50 cards and say, “The first board member who gives away all their cards gets dinner for two, on us, at your favorite restaurant.”
Even the resistant board members might jump in with the right incentive.
Stay tuned for more
We’ll post the rest of Andy’s conversation with Mazarine next week.