This article relates to an =mc session delivered by Angela Cluff at the IoF National Convention, 11 July 2007: Development boards – how to make the pain worth more than the gain! It describes 15 simple strategies to improve development boards.
Writing your organisation’s case for support can become an industry, taking months of intensive work as internal stakeholders refine the arguments and refine them again. It’s not necessary!
What you need to do is create a short document that powerfully expresses:
Write it concisely. Write it in simple language. Write it emotively. Most of all write a 70% version – and then involve your Development Board in improving it. There are two reasons for this.
First, ultimately it is their case for support. Second, involving them in developing it is an important part of transferring responsibility for the fundraising target to them.
Creating an effective Development Board is hard, even with the right members. It’s almost impossible with the wrong members. Sometimes it’s appropriate to invite people to join the Development Board before you ask for their personal gift. But even in this circumstance you need to be confident that each person you have on the Board:
It’s easier to build an effective Development Board from a small core of the right people. But sometimes, for whatever reason, you are faced with some members who are the wrong people. In this circumstance focus your energy on the right people and build out from them. You can deal with the wrong people later – and much more easily – as the strength and commitment of the right people grows.
Even with a core of the right people, Development Board meetings can be a nightmare! Even usually focused, business-like, passionate volunteers get distracted and talk about anything but fundraising. So identify one or two key members of the Board whose support you can enlist. Share the strategy for each meeting with them before hand and challenge them to help you keep the meeting on track.
All Development Boards enjoy peaks and endure troughs – sometimes the money comes in relatively easily, other times it’s really hard going. In the troughs, it’s often important to take time out to have honest conversations with individual members about why it’s so tough.
Sometimes the existing Board have exhausted their contacts and the Board needs refreshing with new people. Think hard about who can hold the right conversation – it’s often easier for a volunteer to be more honest with an outsider than with a member of the organisation’s staff.
Ultimately if you have the wrong people on your Development Board you need to offer them ways out – nicely and without letting them off the hook completely!
The first key to getting volunteers to ask properly is to ask them properly. We set the expectations of how to ask by how we ask volunteers for their own gift. This means that we must take potential fundraising volunteers through the seven steps of solicitation – or if we get their gift without doing this, ‘train’ them in how to do it.
A good ‘ask’ consists of
No one wants to ask and fail – but it’s the reality of fundraising. One way to overcome the fear of asking is to link volunteers together in 2s and 3s to ask specific prospects. There are two benefits. First, they don’t feel quite so exposed. Second, they will challenge each other so that planned asks actually happen.
Obvious really – most volunteers will benefit from some form of ‘asking’ training, even if it is billed as something else! Like any other skill in life there are techniques that work and that can be learnt.
Many fundraisers become frustrated when they ask their apparently well-connected Development Board members who they know who can help. So often the answer is ‘I don’t know anyone’. The answer lies in how you ask them who they know. The secret is to create effective prompt lists – lists of potential prospects to put in front of your Development Board members.
Create these lists by including:
Focus your research effort on connecting potential prospects to members of your Development Board or other key people you know well.
Create a series of events that Development Board members can bring potential prospects to hear about the project and the work of the organisation. Ask volunteers to commit to an effective follow-up process before the event.
Whenever a volunteer relationship is tricky, think about how you can engage the volunteer by asking for their advice on something you know they’ll want to advise on. BUT remember you will need to act on their advice or explain why you haven’t!
Fundraising is a hard, hard job. Your fundraising volunteers probably want to have a real say in your organisation. So you must create meaningful ways in which they can be involved.
Whenever a volunteer says ‘no’ categorically to asking a particular prospect for money, respect it. It’s likely they have a specific and confidential reason why they won’t. And if you continue to push, you’ll risk alienating them completely. Instead explore other routes to asking this prospect, asking the primary volunteer contact for advice if appropriate.
If you’ve found this article helpful and you would like more information, please call +44 (0)20 7978 1516 and speak to Angela Cluff, Principal Partner Consultant, or click here to send a message.
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Clare Segal, Director