Should you administer the 'Marshmallow Test' to new non-profit board prospects?

marshmallow testI’ve been on the road a lot lately. When this occurs, I typically look for eBooks to help pass the time during airport delays and other frustrating travel hiccups. Last week, I downloaded The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control. I selected this work of non-fiction because I blogged about it on October 26, 2012 in a post titled “Does your non-profit agency pass ‘The Marshmallow Test’?” It was part of an ongoing series we called “Organizational Development Fridays” at DonorDreams blog, and it was based on OD blog posts at johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly”.
The Marshmallow Test blog post was one of my favorite posts during that time period. So, when I saw the eBook I knew that I just had to read it.
I suspect the next few DonorDreams posts this month will likely connect back to this book. Today, we are talking about the always elusive idea of what characteristics and traits make-up a productive non-profit board volunteer.
The Marshmallow Test explained
The Marshmallow Test (as it has been dubbed by the media) is an experiment to test self-control in small children. In a nutshell, here is how it works according to Walter Mischel, the book’s author and lead researcher:

“On the table were a desk bell and a plastic tray the size of a dinner plate, with two cookies in one corner of the tray and one in the other corner. Both the immediate and the delayed rewards were left with left with the children, to increase their trust that the treats would materialize if their waited for them as well as to intensify their conflict.”

Here were the rules:

  • The researcher would explain to the child that they had to leave the room for a little while. The child would be left alone with the rewards in plain sight.
  • The child could ring the bell at any time and the researcher would come back immediately.
  • If the child waited until the researcher came back without ringing the bell, then the child would earn the two cookies (aka marshmallows) on the plate in front of them.
  • If the child rang the bell and summoned the researcher back, then they would only earn one cookie.
  • The child had to remain in their seat and not wander off to play in other part of the room.
  • The child was allowed to eat one cookie at any time, but if they did then they forfeited their right to the second cookie.

Researchers observed behavior and timed how long various children took before they rang the bell or caved in and ate a treat.
In subsequent years, researchers have followed up on their research and found that kids who did better on the tests (exercising self-control and opting for the delayed reward) actually did better in life (e.g. income, retirement savings, weight control and health, etc)
Using marshmallows during board recruitment?
Of course, this is a whimsical question. I’m not suggesting you pull out marshmallows and administer the test as part of your agency’s board recruitment process, but the mental image makes me giggle.
However, as I read more and more of the book, I find myself wondering if some of the characteristics and traits of those who practice self-control should be added to our board development prospecting processes.
For example, the following is a list of key board member competencies and characteristics that I recently found included in a sample non-profit board member job description:

  • Has achieved recognition and status within the community.
  • Is knowledgeable about the social concerns of the community.
  • Has the resources (personal and/or corporate) to apply to the needs of the organization.
  • Is committed to youth and the agency’s mission.
  • Has the ability to listen, analyze, and think strategically.
  • Has the ability to work well with others and demonstrates tolerance of differing points of view.
  • Is willing to prepare for and regularly attend board meetings and relevant committee meetings.
  • Exhibits honesty and sensitivity.

In Chapter 8 “The Engine of Success: I Think I Can!” the author ends the chapter with the following list of characteristics and traits of successful people who exercise self-control and maintain an optimistic view of life:

  • pursue goals with persistence
  • develop optimistic expectations for success
  • cope with frustrations, failures and temptations
  • inhibit impulsive responses
  • develop mutually supportive, caring friendships

I couldn’t help but wonder if these characteristics and traits should be added to our prospecting criteria when searching for new non-profit board volunteers?
What criteria does your agency use as part of its board development cycle? How do you assess whether or not a prospect possesses those traits and characteristics? How many of your board volunteers would pass “The Marshmallow Test” if it were administered at the start of your next board meeting? What does that say about your board? 😉
Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How much time are you asking for from your board members?

timeI ran across an old board development handout the other day, and it made me laugh. So, I decided to share its essence with you today and ask for your thoughts and opinions. The handout started off with the following two sentences (and I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent):

Of the 8,760 hours that make up a calendar year, ABC agency only asks for 100. These 100 hours, if properly utilized, can help save and/or enhance the lives of hundreds of people in our community.

From this point, the rest of the document actually attempts to breakdown how much time will be spent doing specific things. The following are the categories of activities and estimated hours that were included on the board development handout:

  • 14 hours attending meeting (e.g. board meetings, committee meetings, fundraising events and planning meetings, etc)
  • 20 hours influencing (e.g. advocating for the agency with decision-makers and opinion-shapers such as city council members, United Way trustees, community leaders, business leaders, etc)
  • 20 hours reading and responding (e.g. meeting notices and materials, emails, surveys, etc)
  • 6 hours guiding and planning (e.g. attending an annual board retreat and follow-up planning work session)
  • 20 hours fundraising (e.g. making phone calls, writing letters, sitting down with donors, etc)

They end with this deal closing verbiage:

The 100-hour year comes down to less than two hours per week in support of an organization that is making a vital difference. The commitment we seek is modest, but it is time well spent.

I read and re-read this board development tool and found the following questions floating around my head:

  • How many board members actually volunteer 100 hours during the course of a year?
  • Does the average board member’s volunteer hours really breakout like this tool suggests? If not, I wonder how they spend their time?
  • The phrase “if properly utilized” in the second sentence of the handout sounds like a performance metric for executive directors. Should this be incorporated in some way into a non-profit CEO’s annual performance management plan?
  • Come on! I’ve been in countless board and committee meetings in my life and if there are only supposed to be 14 hours dedicated to those activities, then lots of people are doing something wrong. How many hours does the average board member spend in just board meetings every year?

I’m just getting warmed up with the number of questions that came to mind, but I’m going to stop here because I want to hear what you have to say.
What is your reaction to this board development tool? What questions came to your mind when you read some of this content? If you had to guess, how many hours do your board members give to your agency? If you were given an opportunity to re-distribute these hours and change this tool, what would you change and why?
Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below. It will only take a minute or two, and we can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

A basic truism about fundraising volunteers

horse to waterI believe it is a basic truism that you can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do. Every example I can think of ends up not working.
As a nation, we tried to force people to stop drinking (when they didn’t want to) by passing a constitutional amendment banning alcohol. The result? A black market and the rise of Al Capone.
Tell someone to stop smoking or lose weight (when they don’t want to) and it might result in short-term results, but the relapse rate in the long run is high.
While I’m sure there are exceptions to what I am calling a truism, I think I am more on the right track than the wrong track with this belief.
So, if you’re buying what I’m selling this morning, I have one simple question for you:

“Why do so many of us try to force non-profit board members to do fundraising when they tell us that they are strongly opposed to do it?”

I know, I know. We do it because many of our fundraising models need volunteers to be involved in order for it to work. Obviously, another basic truism in fundraising is that “people give to people.
However, I still go back to where I started . . . forcing people to do what they don’t want to do is a recipe for failure.
So, what is the solution?
In my opinion, the answer can be found in the old Texas two-step:

  1. Stop recruiting people to do things they don’t want to do
  2. Start engaging people in honest discussions about what they do want to do

birds of a featherBoard Development
There have been many blog posts written on this subject, but it is time to stop agreeing with what is written and start putting those thoughts into action.
Your board development and recruitment process must include honesty, transparency and a number of tools that set expectations before a volunteer is asked to say “YES” to joining your board.
If someone wants to join your board but doesn’t have the stomach for fundraising, then you need to find another role for them in your organization (e.g. program volunteer, committee work, etc).
This type of strategic focus in recruiting like-minded people when it comes to fundraising will help solve your problem because you’ll no longer be forcing people to do what they don’t want to do.
your seat on the busResource Development Plan
Unfortunately, this board development strategy won’t be enough to completely solve your problem.
Because not everyone around your boardroom table will be comfortable participating in every aspect of your fundraising program.
Some people are drawn to planning parties (e.g. special event fundraisers). Other people are attracted to your pledge drive and sitting down face-to-face with their friends to ask for money. There are also be a number of people who appear to disdain traditional fundraising activities, but who are open-minded to opening doors, going on donor solicitation visits (as long as you do the talking and asking), and various other stewardship activities.
The reality of the situation is that you need people to do all of these things in order for your fundraising program to be successful.
This is where involving everyone in writing your annual resource development plan comes into play.
Getting everyone involved in the planning process is akin to asking them to choose which seat on the bus they want to sit.  In doing so, you avoid the pitfall of arm twisting and making people do what they don’t want to do (which never works and is where we started in the first paragraph of this blog post)
So, there you have it! Your agency’s fundraising problem is solved.  😉
Good luck rolling out this two-part strategy and please circle back to this space to let me know how it works out for you.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Is your board fulfilling its role in fundraising?

roles responsibilitiesI’ve been doing a lot of “board roles and responsibilities” training sessions in the last year. The curriculum breaks out responsibilities into group obligations and individual duties; however, in both lists there is verbiage such as:

  • protect and grow assets
  • obtain resources
  • makes a personal financial contribution
  • seeks charitable gifts from others in their network

There is little question that resource development and fundraising are core responsibilities for non-profit board volunteers.
Of course, understanding this idea is very different from rolling up one’s sleeves and doing it. Right? And the bigger question for me has become:

Once the roles & responsibilities training is over, how should an agency go about assessing how well the board (as a group) is fulfilling its fundraising responsibilities? Because we won’t know what we need to work on if we don’t know what isn’t working.

Usually, when I mentally try to cross bridges like this for my clients, I turn to:

  • old books and training manuals on the bookshelf in my office
  • websites of national non-profit organizations that contain free white papers and videos
  • blogs run by thought-leaders in the field

In this instance, I came across a really cool assessment tool located on an intranet website for a large national organization for which I used to work. It was developed with the help of BoardSource, and there were copyright marks all over the document. In other words, I would copy/paste and share it with all of you, but my inner Jiminy Cricket is telling me not to do so.  🙂
fearless fundraising bookOf course, this doesn’t mean I can’t describe the tool for you, share a little bit (while giving credit where credit is due) and point you in the direction of how you can purchase similar materials.
The assessment tool is composed of 13 questions, and the user ranks their board on a scale of 1 to 4 for each question. Here are a few of the more interesting questions I found in this tool:

  • Are resource development responsibilities and personal giving included in the board member expectation agreement?
  • Do all or almost all board members make a yearly personal “stretch” gift to the agency’s annual fund?
  • Does the board president personally solicit board members annually to ensure appropriate board giving? Does the board president take time to personally cultivate and steward appropriate higher level prospects and donors?
  • Does the executive director take time to personally cultivate and steward appropriate higher level prospects and donors?
  • Beyond just reciting the agency’s mission statement, can at least 80 percent of board members convincingly articulate the case for support of the organization?

Did I do a good job of whetting your appetite?
If so, then there is more where that came from and you can purchase the 62 page book titled “Fearless Fundraising for Nonprofit Boards” by David Sternberg (published by BoardSource). It was from this book that the tool I referenced earlier was developed.
Some of you may be wondering, “Why is assessment important? I know that our board isn’t good at fundraising. Can’t I just skip the assessment to start working on fixing the problem?
My thoughts are simply . . . “NO.
The reason being is that there is a lot of factors involved in why your board may not be a very good group of fundraising volunteers, and you don’t want to waste time on things that aren’t broken.
For example, your organization might be doing a very good job with explaining roles and responsibilities via the board recruitment, orientation and training process. However, your resource development committee might be broken and doing too much and not planning enough, which has a “disengaging effect” on the rest of the board.
Or . . .
Your agency might be doing everything very well except you might just have the wrong people in the wrong seats on your organizational bus.
Or . . .
Your agency might be really doing everything right except there aren’t any accountability tools or urgency strategies being employed.
This is a complex question and assessment is an important part of getting you to the right answer.
Does your board understand its roles and responsibilities when it comes to resource development? How do you know that? What are you doing to make your board a better fundraising team? What’s in your toolbox. Please take 30 seconds to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Does this story sound like any of your non-profit board volunteers?

Board Disengagement in Four Scenes

Guest Blog Post
By Dani Robbins reprinted with permission from Nonprofit Evolution blog
disengagedI received a call from a old friend (we used to be real close 🙂 ) who served on the board of a very prominent organization. This is the story she told me. I share it with you to both illustrate how easy it is to disengage good board members and how important it is to institute and follow good process.
Scene 1: The Invitation
The call came inviting my friend to serve on a very high profile board. She was a little surprised yet also very excited. She asked about expectations; she asked about commitment; she asked about orientation. She received what she considered to be reasonable answers and was told that a lunch to answer all her questions would be set. She said yes.
The lunch was never set. She was voted on the Board. The orientation was never held. She attended a retreat that set committee goals for the year.
Scene 2:  Year 1, Chairmanship
My friend was asked to serve as a committee chair and began immediately working to build a committee and meet the goals from the retreat. Every suggestion she made was shot down by the executive director. Every recommendation the committee made, with the executive director in the room, was challenged — and sometimes later changed — by the executive director. My friend, who talked to the executive director every time it happened, got to the point that she realized she was spending significant political capital, and consistently alienating the executive director, who had also been a friend, to accomplish something that no one else wanted. She finished her one year term as chair and gave up the role.
She thought the executive director was so happy to have her out of the role that it never occurred to him to ask why. It’s possible the remainder of the executive committee felt the same way; they didn’t ask either.
Scene 3: Year 2, Gamesmanship
My friend continued to attend board meetings, missing only one or two, yet every suggestion she made in the room, usually based on best practices in the field, was challenged by members of the executive committee. The suggestions she offered were later introduced by other committees as their own work.
My friend felt alienated and disillusioned, and while she loved the organization, she didn’t love her experience in governing it.
Scene 4: Year 3, Disengagement
The next retreat was set and a board survey was sent out. She was honest with her concerns and her experience. She shared that she was troubled that the board didn’t have a strategic plan and hadn’t set any goals for the executive director. She shared that it felt like the organization was governed by a select few and the rest of the board were just in the room. She voiced her concerns within the bounds of the survey questions.
The retreat agenda came out; it didn’t reflect any of the issues she raised. My friend described it as a meeting to set strategies for goals that did not exist, or at a minimum had not been communicated.
She continued to attend meetings and participate marginally. A few months before her term expired she sent a note thanking the executive committee for the opportunity and asking to not be considered for a 2nd term.
She may be one of the few board members in the history of this high profile organization, with its high profile board, who declined a second term.
No one asked why.
The Scenes that Didn’t Happen
My friend didn’t share her frustrations outside of her conversations with the executive director when she was a committee chair and inside the boardroom. She did share her suggestions within the boardroom but (possibly inaccurately) felt from the responses she got to her ideas that there would be nothing to gain from sharing her frustrations.
The executive director, with whom she did meet occasionally, never asked her how she was enjoying her term.  There was no conversation about her goals for service and if those goals had been met.
The board chair never called to check-in. Neither did the board development chair.  There was no assessment of her service or to gauge her opinion of board process.
The Lessons for the Rest of Us
Board disengagement happens while good, dedicated, people are focused on other things. It’s rarely intentional, and it is usually quite detrimental. It’s what stands in the way of our boards, and therefore our agencies, fulfilling our missions, which would be more easily accomplished if everyone was on point, on the team and moving the organization forward.
There are a few ways to avoid it.
Talk to your board members –- the ones you serve with or serve! Check in with each of them individually to see how they are enjoying their experience. If they have goals, find out if you are meeting them?  If they’re frustrated, find out if there are things you can do to address their issues? Find out if there are opportunities to improve board process.
Information is information. Ask the questions. Get the answers. Once you have the information you can decide what to do with it. It’s what we do with the information presented to us that separates the good leaders from the great!
Have you served on a board where you felt marginalized and ineffective? What did you do? What would you have told my friend? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please offer your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.
dani sig

Can you have too many young people on your board? Ummmm, YES!

young professionalsEvery time I hear a donor from a community’s “old guard” lament about no one taking their place and wishing organizations would start recruiting younger, up-and-coming professionals, I can’t help be smile. Why? Because in my experience, it is usually the same crowd who laments that a board of young professionals:

  • lacks fundraising experience
  • doesn’t possess a good network
  • can’t write big checks

This is the classic definition of “You can’t win.” Which begs the question . . . “What should non-profits do about this?
Obviously, it is in every organization’s best interest to recruit young professionals and the leaders of tomorrow. The following are a few thoughts and suggestions that I’m sharing because I hope it will inspire additional discussion inside your board development/governance committee meetings.
Develop an Associates Board
Many organizations are currently trying to engage young professionals by developing structures like a junior board (aka associates board). If you’re interested in doing something similar, here are a few things I might suggest:

  • Be clear in defining roles & responsibilities by developing a committee charter and written volunteer job descriptions. It is important that your associates board knows that the corporate board is responsible for governance and not them.
  • Make sure the associates board has things to do. No one joins anything nowadays to do nothing. You’ll need activities to engage these individuals.
  • Incorporate networking opportunities into your associates board activities. Young professionals are looking to build their networks, and this will benefit your agency at a later date if they end up joining your board.
  • Design a mentor program where young volunteers are mentored by better connected and influential board members, donors and supporters of your organization. Again, this will only benefit your agency down the road if you ask them to join your board.

Embrace diversity
Not up for creating yet another organizational structure? I hear ya! If this is the case, then embrace the idea of diversity.
Usually, when I see situations like I described in the opening paragraph, it is because an organization went crazy and recruited lots and lots of young people to serve on their board.
It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing kind of proposition. Be smart about board development by identifying, targeting and recruiting a small handful of up-and-comers in your community.
Baby Boomer volunteers are at the top of their game (e.g. their life, their career, their earning potential, etc) and should compose the majority of your board. However, it would be healthy for your agency in my opinion to fill between 10% and 25% of your boardroom table with GenX and Millennial board members.
When bringing young board members onto a mature board, don’t just throw them to the wolves. Similar to my suggestions in the previous section:

  • establish a mentor program
  • make a point of introducing them to your donors
  • go with them on fundraising calls and teach them how to cultivate, solicit and steward

Is your organization struggling with this young versus old board volunteer dynamic? If so, how are you dealing with it? Do you  have advice for those agency’s who zealously recruited too many GenX and Millennial board members and now suffer criticism from their community’s old guard? We can all learn from each other. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival

May 2014 nonprofit carnival logoWelcome to the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. This month’s theme was “Letting the non-profit sector go to the dogs,” and we asked bloggers to focus on how non-profit agencies can build loyalty among any number of stakeholder groups such as donors, staff, board members, volunteers, etc.
Bloggers were given extra special bonus points if they were able to weave into their post something about dogs.
Why dogs?
I think the American author, Jack London, summed it up best when he said:

A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”

Is that quotation a bit esoteric for your tastes?
Then ask yourself this question: “Is there anything more loyal in this world than a dog?” If your answer is NO, then perhaps the non-profit sector can learn a thing or two about loyalty from our canine companions.
Enjoy this month’s carnival and please feel free to weigh-in with anything your agency is doing to build loyalty in the comment section below.
2011-12-25_22-08-07_863Donor loyalty & fundraising

  • Joanne Fritz talks about her granddogs, Mia and Sophie, in her post titled “Who’s bored? Probably not your donors” at Perhaps, Mia and Sophie can teach fundraising professionals a thing or two about the value of routine.
  • Ken Goldstein explains in The Nonprofit Consultant Blog that times have changed and donor loyalty isn’t as simplistic as a dog’s love of its owner. In his post “Are You Treating Your Cats Like Dogs?” he talks about information preferences, method preferences, and campaign preferences. As you may have guessed already, Ken is a “cat person.”
  • Claire Axelrad asks in her blog Clairification, “How to build donor loyalty and take puppy love to forever love?” in a post she titled “Just Puppy Love? 4 Ways Nothing Beats It When It Comes to Donors
  • Heather Stewart is a first time entrant to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival and is a blogger at Activate Fundraising in Scotland.  Her post — “What would Murdo do?” — has her 1-year-old Cockapoo take readers through the steps associated with building donor loyalty (e.g. clarity, relationship-building and engagement).
  • Arroyo Fundraising Fluency blog published “What I Learned From My Dog About Donor Loyalty.” This post lists 4 “lessons” from Kathie Kramer Ryan’s dog, Charles, and how these lessons can inform our work with donors. If we want donors to be loyal to our organizations, we need to be loyal to them.
  • Ann Greene’s Nonprofit Blog submission was “What Dogs Can Teach Us About Donor Loyalty.” Ann’s post is a little different from the others in this section. She suggests that we can learn something about donor loyalty from dogs, such as they are always excited to see us and provide unconditional love, but they also need a lot of attention and consistency.
  • Pamela Grow’s blog features an amazingly cute shepherd-poodle-terrier mix named Enzo. Her post is titled “Fundraising lessons from Enzo” and you need to read to the very end of the post to learn what the most effective fundraising professionals understand and practice every single day.
  • Lori Halley writes the always clever and informative Wild Apricot Blog (and she is hosting the June 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival). Her post — “The Low Down on Donor Loyalty” highlights her adorable dog, Teddy, and answers this interesting question: “What do loyalty programs and non-profits have in common?
  • Lance Leasure writes for Orange Gerbera blog and asked in a recent post “Are your donors as loyal as a dog?”  Lance includes his 13-year-old blind dog — Punch —  in his post. I just didn’t have the heart to exclude a geriatric blind dog from this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival. Besides, Lance offered a number of nice tips to non-profits on how to build donor loyalty. Nice job Punch (and Lance)!

BetrysStaff loyalty

  • Stephanie Arcella published “Don’t Forget Your Biggest Asset — Cultivating Loyalty in Your Employees” at Take Two blog.  Good, loyal, hardworking talent is difficult to find. With limited salary capacity, nonprofits are bound to lose their best talent if they don’t actively cultivate long term commitments from staff. Stephanie offers four awesome tips that you will likely find very manageable.

Your constituents and clients

2011-12-20_06-20-05_687Brand loyalty, marketing & social media

  • Our friends at Double the Donation blog wrote “Nonprofits — How to Use Social Media to Build Donor Loyalty.” This post focuses on how nonprofits can use social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to increase loyalty among their constituents (individual donors, corporate partners, and volunteers). Their suggestions include publicly recognizing donors, providing relevant stories, and asking questions!
  • J Campbell Social Media blog penned “10 Ways to Build Loyalty Among Your Online Community Members.” Julia Campbell writes that nonprofit social media campaigns are still focused on the numbers game (e.g. collecting the most Likes on Facebook, the most Twitter and Pinterest followers and the most views on YouTube). She poses the question: “Instead of focusing on growing your social media numbers, how about focusing on building loyalty – retaining engaging the fans/followers that you do have?
  • Douglas Gould and Company blogged recently “Media’s Best Friend (Communications Professionals)” and talked about pitching, fetching and blog outreach.
  • Joe Garecht wrote “How to Build Brand Loyalty for Your Nonprofit” at The Fundraising Authority blog. Towards the end of this post, Joe does an awesome job of highlighting brand loyalty fundamentals (e.g. consistent imagery, emotional connections, etc).

Stories from the front line

IMG_20140223_093758856At DonorDreams blog, I dedicated the entire month of May to this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme of loyalty.
Instead of pontificating like a consultant (it is an occupational hazard at times), I interviewed former clients and other non-profit friends about what they are doing to build loyalty with a variety of their different stakeholder groups.
Please click-through any of the following non-profit agencies’ stories and you might learn something from your peers:

I hope you enjoyed this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival submissions. I don’t know about you, but I think Saint Basil hit the nail on the head when he said:

Does not the gratitude of the dog put to shame any man who is ungrateful to his benefactors?

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other, which is what the Nonprofit Blog Carnival is all about.
Next month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival
Lori Halley at Wild Apricot blog will be next months host the next Nonprofit Blog Carnival. The theme will be “Nonprofit Inspiration and Innovation.” 
Click here for more details and how to submit your blog entry for consideration in June 2014.
As I say at the end of all my blog posts . . .

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


Programming changes at DonorDreams blog

changesWelcome to May! While this month represents lots of things to lots of people (e.g. rain, flowers, planting gardens, non-profit conferences, etc), May is an anniversary month for The Healthy Non-Profit LLC and DonorDreams blog. It was three years ago this month that the company and the blog were started. So, today we’re going to do a little celebrating in addition to announcing a few programming changes.
WooHoo . . . Let’s celebrate!
Over the last 36 months, you and I have accomplished the following things together including:

  • 725 blog posts
  • 332 direct blog subscribers
  • 1,839 individuals checking in from time-to-time via blog subscriptions, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest
  • 1,353 comments (not including the comments you’ve written on different social media sites pertaining to my posts)
  • 53,924 page views
  • Readers from 23 different countries around the world on all five continents

These bullet points just represent the accomplishments related to the DonorDreams blog. They don’t include business-related accomplishments associated with my non-profit consulting practice — The Healthy Non-Profit LLC — such as:

  • the number of clients we’ve been privileged to serve
  • the conferences we’ve attended
  • the trainings we’ve facilitated
  • the plans we’ve facilitated and helped develop
  • the organizational capacity we’ve helped grow.

Hip hip hooray!
Programming changes at DonorDreams blog
For the last three years, I’ve been able to write something almost every day, and I’m humbled by how many people have read and engage in conversations around these posts. I believe that my blogging helps me be a better consultant, facilitator, planner and trainer. For this, I am grateful!
I honestly believe that WE have grown this blog and The Healthy Non-Profit LLC together. I am indebted to you and your readership. Thank You!
Unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be), I cannot keep up with blogging every day and providing capacity building services through my firm. As a result and starting this month, DonorDreams blog will scale back its publishing schedule to two days per week — Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I’m currently looking at two options with regards to content:

  1. Focusing content around a monthly theme
  2. Focusing Tuesday content on board development and Thursday content on fundraising

If you have an opinion, I would love to hear your thoughts. As always, please share them using the comment box below.
With regard to the month of May, you may have noticed that we’re hosting the national Nonprofit Blog Carnival. In our April 29th post, we issued a “call for submissions” to the non-profit blogger community. This month’s theme centers on how non-profits can build LOYALTY among various stakeholder groups like donors, staff, volunteers, etc.
We will publish the Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. In the meantime, we will focus all of our DonorDreams posts in May (remember we’re now only publishing on Tuesdays & Thursdays) on the same topic of building loyalty.
Thanks again for your readership and continuing support! I look forward to working with you and seeing what you and I collectively accomplish here at DonorDreams blog in the upcoming months and years.
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Nonprofit Blog Carnival call for submissions: Letting the non-profit sector go to the dogs

Betrys3Approximately 14 years ago, I was a young and eager executive director of a non-profit organization in Elgin, Illinois. While I had already worked in a number of different capacities in the non-profit sector, it was the first time I had held the job of “executive director.” Thinking back to that time in my life is where I pull my inspiration for the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival.
As a new executive director, everything was new and there were days I found my head spinning, especially when I thought about which metrics and indicators I needed to watch with regard to my agency’s health.
However, I very clearly remember the day when all of that stopped. It happened after a Board Development committee meeting, and one of my board members pulled me aside. He asked me how things were going.
We talked about the organization’s health and how I knew what I thought I knew. It was at that moment he decided to play Oprah and pointed me in the direction of the following two books written by Frederick Reichheld:

Just to give you a small taste of what these two books are all about, here is a short quote from chapter one of “The Loyalty Effect“:

“. . . businesses that concentrate on finding and keeping good customers, productive employees, and supportive investors continue to generate superior results. Loyalty is by no means dead. It remains one of the great engines of business success. In fact, the principles of loyalty — and the business strategy we call loyalty-based management — are alive and well at the heart of every company with an enduring record of high productivity, solid profits, and steady expansion.”

Not to be too dramatic, but that informal book club assignment changed my point of view on all things pertaining to the non-profit sector. After reading those books, my personal non-profit management litmus test usually centered around this simple question:

“What would Betrys do?”

As you’ve probably guessed, Betrys is our 13-year-old Welch Terrier who is featured in all of the pictures you see in this blog post.
This brings me to the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival . . .
With all of the talk about donor loyalty in recent years, I thought dedicating an entire Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme to the broader idea of LOYALTY might be fun.
So, calling all bloggers!  Please write and submit a post this month focused on how non-profit organizations can and should be building loyalty among any of the following stakeholder groups:

  • donors
  • employees
  • volunteers
  • board members
  • social media networks

If you can identify another type of stakeholder group with which you believe a non-profit organization needs to build loyalty, then please feel free to blog about that, too. This is intentionally a broad topic. Feel free to get creative. All I ask is that you include in your blog post strategic or tactical suggestions on how to build loyalty so that our collective readership can walk away from our content with lots of new ideas.
To help get into the spirit, I will dedicate all of the content at DonorDreams blog in May 2014 to the idea of building loyalty.
Betrys1But wait . . . there is more!
If you couldn’t tell from the title of this post, I am a dog lover. Is there anyone or anything in this world that embodies LOYALTY more than dogs?
At the end of the month, there will be difficult decisions made about which submissions get published and which ones end up on the cutting room floor. If you can incorporate some reference to the canine community in your Nonprofit Blog Carnival submission, then you will get bonus points.  🙂
So, I’m sure some of you are wondering what I mean.  
A reference to the canine community could be as simple as working your dog (or someone else’s famous dog like Spuds MacKenzie, Snoopy or Lassie) into your post. It could be more complicated like the time when John Greco centered an entire organizational development blog post titled “Puppy Perspective” around his dogs.
Good luck and regardless of whether or not you get a dog into your post, please have some fun with this month’s carnival!

Betrys2How to submit your work for consideration?

You are welcome to write your blog post anytime during the month of May (or even submit a post you may have previously published); however, I must receive your submission by the end of the day on Monday, May 26, 2014:

How do you submit? Simply email the following information to nonprofitcarnival[at]gmail[dot]com:

  • Your name
  • The URL of your post
  • A two of three sentence summary of your post

We will publish the May 2014 Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 right here at DonorDreams blog.

Go visit April’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival

In April, the carnival was hosted by Nancy Schwartz at ” her blog — Getting Attention!”  The theme was “The Work Behind Your Work: Your Methods and Wants for Nonprofit Blog Carnival“. She asked bloggers to consider the following questions:

  • the methods and tools you use to stay focused, productive and happy on the job
  • or the barrier that keeps you from getting there

If you’re interested in reading what some very smart and talented bloggers had to say about this Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme, click here.

Betrys4Miscellaneous details?
Click here to learn more about the Nonprofit Blog Carnival. If you want to view the archives, then you want to click here.
Do you want to become a “Friend of the Carnival” and receive email blasts twice a month with reminders about the Carnival? Click here if you want to receive those reminders.
In a tip of my hat to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival that I hosted last May, I leave you with this Dr. Seuss-inspired quotation to inspire your much anticipated submission:

“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go . . .”

I am very much looking forward to see what you decide to do and where you decide to take this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Helping board members resign with dignity

first 90 daysOn Tuesday of this week, my blog post titled “The executive director’s first 90 days” focused on what the new CEOs and boards should do during those crucial first few months. That post took me for a walk down memory lane to when I was a new executive director embarking on new and exciting challenges.
While it isn’t always the case, sometimes a new executive director finds themselves walking into a challenging situation. After all, there are reasons why people leave their place of employment and those stories aren’t always ideal. In extremely challenging circumstances (e.g. someone ran out the door or they were chased out the door), I guarantee you that the issues don’t just reside with the person who left. There are typically board issues related to the resignation or termination.
For example, in the case of embezzlement . . . you usually can’t just point at the embezzler. There is likely issues with oversight and internal control policies.
One of the best practices I mentioned in Tuesday’s post was that new executive directors should meet individually with every board member within their first 90 days.
One of the more common issues with which many new executive directors are faced (especially when going to work for an agency with little organizational capacity) is having the “wrong people” sitting around the boardroom table. The challenging question many new CEO’s find themselves asking is:

How can we tactfully ask well-intentioned board volunteers
to find a different seat on the bus?

As I reflected back upon my first 90 days (more than 14 years ago), I remembered that my board had 20 volunteers on the day they hired me and within my first three months nine board members resigned.
easy way outNow this didn’t happen because I smelled bad or people disliked me (at least I don’t think so). It happened because of how I approached my individual meetings with board members. Here is what was on my agenda:

  1. Introduce myself and talk about my background
  2. Engage board member in discussion on the “state of the agency
  3. Ask board member on where they see the agency in 3 to 5 years
  4. Share with the board member where you think you will need their help (e.g. their board roles & responsibilities, their role in fundraising, etc)
  5. Ask them to get more involved and in specific projects

When I had these discussions, those board volunteers, who weren’t a good fit for serving on the board, saw the handwriting on the wall. I didn’t have to tell them to get off the board. A simple, straight-forward conversation centered around expectations and vision was more than enough.
In most situations, it was only a few weeks after our meeting that a resignation letter was inked. Reasons always varied. Here are a few that I remember:

  • Work responsibilities won’t permit commitment of time necessary to serve on the board
  • Not willing/able to commit to fundraising responsibilities
  • Time commitments in personal life (e.g. caring for a sick relative)

In each instance, we celebrated the volunteer’s service. We engaged them in a discussion about finding a different seat on the bus that might be a better fit for them. It was respectful and graceful.
Now this approach isn’t always effective, and sometimes it isn’t appropriate.
For new executive directors, are there other approaches you might suggest with regards to giving good people an easy way off the board? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and ideas. We can all learn from each other!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847