Crazy non-profit board meetings and some advice for board volunteers

Dani Robbins is the Founder & Principal Strategist at Non Profit Evolution located in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve invited my good friend and fellow non-profit consultant to the first Wednesday of each month (or Thursday as is the case this month) about board development related topics. Dani also recently co-authored a book titled “Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives” that you can find on 

Board Meetings Gone Wrong

By Dani Robbins
regretsBoards meetings can quickly go from productive to destructive in any number of ways. The following are just a few lessons I’ve learned throughout the years and thought board volunteers might benefit from reading:
The morning after is too late
I cannot tell you the number of times in my career that a Board member has called me the morning after a board meeting appalled by something the Board voted to approve the night before, at a meeting they themselves attended. I can absolutely tell you the number of times those very same Board members have voiced their objections in the room: zero!
The next morning is too late. If you do not like the motion that is on the table, it is not only your right to object out loud and on the record, it’s your obligation.
Sometimes individual Board members come up with wacky (read: dangerous) ideas. When those ideas become motions that get seconded is when they go from wacky to possible. Motions that have no second die, and so do the ideas that spawned them.
Motions that are seconded prompt the chair to call for a discussion. If you are uncomfortable with the motion that is on the table, I implore you to speak. Silence is acquiesce. It is usually too late (and much harder) to address something after a vote has been concluded.
hell3When you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there
No written agenda — or an agenda that isn’t followed — practically guarantees a long, meandering meeting that will only serve to frustrate those in the room, but won’t accomplish much beyond that. It’s also likely that such a meeting will not produce formal votes or minutes that capture what the Board has committed to accomplishing.
No strategic plan works the same way. In the absence of a plan, you will have a lot of people working on a lot of things that may or may not align because the Board has not articulated and voted upon a formal direction.
If everyone’s in charge, no one’s in charge
Boards elect Chairs to be in charge (of the Board). It’s awkward and feels weird the first time you chair a meeting, but the weirdness will pass when you begin to lead. However, not leading guarantees the weirdness moves in and sets up shop.
It’s the forth Tuesday at 4; let’s meet!
Don’t have a Board meeting if you have nothing to talk about. If there are no committee reports and no business for the Board to address, cancel the meeting.
At the end of the day, there’s no accounting for crazy
The easiest way to avoid crazy in the board room is to not let crazy on the board. A Board Development plan and a formal process to elect board members will weed out inappropriate board prospects, before they become inappropriate board members.
meeting1Time of Death: 2 hours after we started talking about this
Discussion that seems to be spiraling can be stopped by two of my favorite phrases:

  1. Let’s call the question” which in Board speak means enough talking, let’s vote.
  2. Let’s send this back to committee.” This phrase, when used by the chair, is a declarative statement that the board meeting has devolved into a committee meeting. When used by anyone other than the chair, it is a prompt to the chair that the discussion has gone on too long. In either case, there should be a vote, reflected in minutes, that the motion was be tabled pending the committee’s review and consideration of the issues raised.

What’s the Executive Director’s role?
Good Execs do their homework before the meeting and usually know how people are going to vote before the meeting begins……which doesn’t ensure they will do so.
If a meeting goes off track, Execs can:

  • stall by whispering the potential negative impact to the Chair and hoping they agree;
  • offer to get more information and bring it back to the board at a future meeting; or
  • recommend the motion be sent back to committee prior to being voted upon.

If you have to, board volunteers can object out loud and on the record but be aware that doing so will spend significant political capital. It also may not help, which does not mean you should not do it.
As mentioned in a post titled “Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive,”

“worrying about keeping your job precludes you from doing your job. You have to do what you believe is best, based on your experience, information and training, within the boundaries of your role and the law. We all know that any day could be the day you quit or get fired. That can’t stop you from leading.”

What’s been your experience? Have you seen Board meetings go off track? What has gotten them back on track? As always, I welcome your insight and experience.
dani sig

Formula for a successful non-profit board volunteer

equationIt seems like I’ve been on the road a lot this month, and this allows me to interact with all sorts of talented and amazing non-profit professionals. In fact, just last night I was at dinner with another non-profit consultant who shared with me his “formula” for a successful board volunteer.
Just so you don’t think that I am stealing, I told this person that I planned to share his formula with the world this morning via the DonorDreams blog. Needless to say, I have his blessing.   😉
Here is his secret recipe that he shares in his board development and governance trainings with board volunteers on how to be good at their job:

12 + (3+1) + 3 + 1 + 1 + 70% + 100%

Let me decipher this formula for you:

  • Make 12 thank you (stewardship) calls per year
  • Take three donors on a tour of your facility and also invite a prospective new donor on a tour
  • Make three in-person solicitation calls as part of your agency’s fundraising program (preferably the annual campaign pledge drive, but it can be a major gift solicitation or special event sponsorship call)
  • Spend one hour per year volunteering on the front line in a program (so that you can be credible when talking to others about your agency)
  • Participate in one standing committee or task force of the board
  • Attend at least 70% of board meetings
  • Be an advocate of 100% of the board making a personal financial contribution to the agency

There you go . . . pretty simple. Of course, this is one person’s opinion about what it takes to be a good board volunteer.
In your opinion, is there anything missing? Would you modify this equation? If so, then how would you do it? Do you have an easily digestible equation like this that you like to share with new board prospects? 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

Do you know what it takes to build a GREAT non-profit board of directors?

You may remember that around the turn of the century there was a rash of failures when it came to the idea of “board governance“. These failures emanated from the for-profit sector — WorldComm, Enron, and Tyco — but it got people asking an important question: “Does a board governance model still work in the 21st Century?” This question logically lead to the next question, which was “What does it take to build a more effective board of directors?
I stumbled upon an old article 2002 article from Jeffrey Sonnenfeld in the Harvard Business Review titled “What Makes Great Boards Great“. OMG! If you haven’t read this article, it is a MUST READ! While I’m going to hit a few of the highlights in today’s blog post, please trust me when I say this is worth the click.
The usual suspects
How many times have you sat around a board development/governance committee table and talked about how to make your board work better?
I’ve been there more times than I care to admit, and it is almost as if Sonnenfeld was a fly on the wall in all of those meetings. In the first few pages of his article, he rattles off the list of things we’ve all talked about when discussing this issue.

  • Improving board attendance
  • Improving the committee system
  • Diversifying our board (esp. recruiting younger board members)
  • Focusing on board size and trying to right-size our board

We focus so much on structural best practices, and this never seems to get us any closer to a more functional board.
human elementThe human element
There is a pop-up quote in Sonnenfeld’s article that captures his thoughts on this subject perfectly:

“What distinguishes exemplary boards is that they are robust, effective social systems.”

Here are just a few suggestions he offers to those of you trying to build great boards:

  • Establish and use annual evaluation tools for both the organization and individual
  • Establish and use accountability tools
  • Encourage board members to constantly re-examine their roles
  • Foster a culture of open dissent
  • Create an organizational culture built on trust and candor

Each of these bullet points could be a blog post by itself. Luckily, Sonnenfeld does a nice job of elaborating on all of this in his article, which is why you really need to go read his article.
Rather than drill deeper, I’m going to throw it open to you and the other readers this morning. What are you doing to build a GREAT board? What do your evaluation and accountability tools look like? What are you doing to change organizational culture and foster respect, openness, trust, etc? What is working and what isn’t working at your agency? Please share your thoughts and experiences using the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Additionally, I strongly urge you to click-through and read the Sonnenfeld article in the Harvard Business Review. Sure, some of the for-profit stuff won’t apply to your non-profit agency, but much of it will. You won’t be disappointed.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Trends in non-profit governance?

great carnacI was reviewing some old non-profit board governance material this morning and came across a document talking about “trends in non-profit governance“. In other words, the person who wrote that paper thought s/he was able to predict the future. Of course, this document was written more than 10 years ago, which got me thinking it might be fun to review some of their trends and determine where they were right or wrong.

The following are just a few of the trends that I found interesting:

trends in nfp governance

As I review this list, there are a number of thoughts and questions running through my head. Let me spill those things out in the following bullet pointed list:

  • How many non-profit board have gotten smaller over the last decade? I wonder how that is going for them? Are they more effective or less effective?
  • Wow! They nailed the technology trend. I see many agencies conference calling people into meetings and doing some business via email polling and voting. (Not that I think it is very effective.)
  • Huh? The FROM-TO pertaining to fundraising is a little comical. I cannot tell you how many non-profit boards I’ve worked with who are very reluctant fundraising solicitors. 
  • Really? Once in a blue moon, I run into a non-profit board that has an annual performance evaluation process in place for their executive director. More often than not, I see boards doing everything in their power to NOT evaluate the CEO.

The following are a few interesting resources I dug up online pertaining to some of these trends:

While clicking around for these links, I came across another great document titled “Emerging Trends in Nonprofit Governance“. It looks like it was presented at the ASAE & The Center’s Annual Association Law Symposium in 2009. This document contains all sorts of best practices, and it is definitely worth the click.

I’m not sure if I would put any of these things under the classification of “trends“. I think most of the trends stuff that I’ve reviewed today can better be described as “best practices“.

So, let me go out on a limb this morning and identify what I see as a real trend in non-profit governance . . .

Serving on a non-profit board will
continue to be difficult and entail hard work!

Duh!   😉

I hope when non-profit bloggers revisit this post a decade from now they will be able to say, “That Erik Anderson really nailed that trend.”  LOL

When reviewing the initial list of “trends” that I shared at the beginning of this post, what questions and thoughts initially spring to mind? Has your agency made the “FROM-TO” transition on any of those trends? If so, which ones? Are you currently working on any of those changes in your non-profit governance? If so, which ones and what are you doing to facilitate the change?

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

Non-profit board and staff go together like chocolate and peanut butter

at each others throatOver the years, I’ve met non-profit board volunteers who didn’t see value or the need for staff. Likewise, I’ve met countless numbers of staff who complain about their board members. I’ve also met executive directors who deliberately do things to disengage their board volunteers (e.g. taking on fundraising responsibilities, reducing the number of board meetings, etc).

Why is it that these two very important stakeholder groups sometimes can’t get a long? I suspect the answer to this question is layered and complicated, but the following must be in the top three:

  • There is a blurry understanding of what each other’s roles are.
  • There is an unequal division of responsibilities.
  • No one is paying attention to what it takes to nurture a productive relationship.

Last week, I was on vacation in Michigan visiting friends. One of those visits was with someone who served on a local non-profit board. He served for more than a decade, and he was the board president for almost one-third of his tenure. When I asked him how things going, the news wasn’t good. He was burned out. His fellow board members were burned out. Things were falling apart. A merger with a neighboring agency was inevitable.

When I asked “What happened?” the answer was simply: “We don’t have any staff. It is an all-volunteer agency. It is us against the world.

I think it is an indisputable fact that . . .

Board need staff AND staff need the board!

So, what can be done to turn this relationship FROM something that looks like the scene at the end of the movie “War of the Roses” TO something like this vintage 80’s television commercial:


I’ve reached back into an old board development training manual and found the following characteristics of an effective board-staff partnership:

  • Common expectations
  • Cooperative planning
  • Open and honest communications
  • Respect
  • Mutual evaluation

If board and staff can accomplish these things, it will result in clarity around the following questions:

  • Where are we going?
  • Why?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • How will we know if we achieved what set out to do?

Have you ever worked for a non-profit agency where board and staff weren’t on the same page? How did it make you feel? What was the result? How does your current agency achieve some of the characteristics spelled out in the aforementioned bullet points? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

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

Non-profit governance: The work of the board, part 4

Dani Robbins is the Founder & Principal Strategist at Non Profit Evolution located in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve invited my good friend and fellow non-profit consultant to the first Wednesday of each month about board development related topics. Dani also recently co-authored a book titled “Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives” that you can find on 

Governance: The Work of the Board, part 4

Raising Money

By Dani Robbins

board fundraisingWelcome to part four of our five part series on Governance. We have already discussed the Board’s role in Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive, Acting as the Fiduciary Responsible Agent, and Setting Policy. Today, let’s discuss the Board’s role in raising money.

As previously mentioned, Boards are made up of appointed community leaders who are collectively responsible for governing an organization. As outlined in my favorite Board book Governance as Leadership and summarized in The Role of the Board, the Fiduciary Mode is where governance begins for all boards and ends for too many. I encourage you to also explore the Strategic and Generative Modes of Governance, which will greatly improve your board’s engagement, and also their enjoyment.

At a minimum, governance includes:

  • Setting the Mission, Vision and Strategic Plan
  • Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive Director
  • Acting as the Fiduciary Responsible Agent
  • Raising Money and
  • Setting Policy

One of my goals for this blog is to rectify the common practice in the field of people telling nonprofit executives and boards how things should be done without any instruction as to what that actually means or how to accomplish it.

What “Board members being responsible for raising money” means is:

The Board sets the fund raising (also called resource development) goal; embarks on the campaign; opens doors; introduces staff; “makes the ask” when they’re the most likely person to get a yes (regardless of title or ranking, you always send the person who is most likely to get a yes to a gift request); picks up the tab for lunch when possible; and thanks the donor. The Board is also responsible for setting the strategic plan which may include a goal to increase contributed income. Each Board member should be expected to make a significant gift, reflective of their personal circumstances, as well as raise additional money.

I do not recommend give or get policies.

Give or get policies allow Board members to avoid personally giving; and 100% Board giving is critical for a successful campaign. Potential donors will ask if there is 100% Board giving, and the answer must be “yes“. Why should anyone else support an organization whose Board members do not? Moreover, how can you ask for someone else to financially support an organization you do not financially support? I can hear someone out there saying “I give of my time,” and that is wonderful, but it’s not enough. Board members should also financially support the organizations they serve.

I also don’t recommend set giving requirements.

Set giving policies, intended to be minimum gifts, actually end up being the entire gift. Such policies alienate potential board members who may bring a lot to the table but cannot personally give at the set level. It also leaves money on the table for people who can give more. Finally, it eliminates the Resource Development Committee’s opportunity to seek out and personally ask each Board member for a specific (to their circumstances and level of engagement) gift. It takes away the chance to say thank you for your engagement, removes the possibility to steward Board members as donors and minimizes the chance of a larger gift. Any policy that works against your goals is not a good policy.

The Board cannot and is not expected to raise money alone.

The staff is responsible for training the Board; coordinating the assignments; preparing the askers with relevant donor information; drafting and supplying whatever written information will be left with the donor, including a case statement (also called case for support) and a letter asking for a specific dollar amount; attending the ask meetings as appropriate; documenting the meeting in the database; writing the formal thank you note; and creating a plan to steward (or circle back to) the donor going forward.

The executive director cannot raise money alone. The development director cannot raise money alone. Fundraising works best in a culture of philanthropy when both the staff and the Board are working together to increase contributed income.

What’s been your experience? As always, I welcome your insight and experience.
dani sig

What is your non-profit predicament?

predicament1Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “My Predicament Is Not My Problem,” John makes a distinction between things that are “problems” and things that are “predicaments“. In short, he talks about how predicaments are a special kind of problem that require different leadership skill sets and approaches.

Here is how John sums it up:

And, while predicaments are (of course) problems, they aren’t problems that can be solved in any ordinary problem solving way. And therein lies the problem. For when leaders treat predicaments like problems — analyzing the components, fast-acting on this part or slow-tweaking that part, they make their predicaments worse.”

predicament2I find this distinction really fascinating, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read this post. So, I’ve been focused on identifying some non-profit related “predicaments” and here is what I’ve come up with . . .

  • Over the last decade, donors’ needs have shifted. Investing in an organization’s mission isn’t enough anymore. They want to see results . . . outcomes . . . data. But wait! That stuff is boring and they want it all wrapped up in an engaging narrative that is spun by someone who is a good storyteller. Too much data or too much storytelling, and the whole experiment in philanthropy seems to fall short. 
  • The Great Recession started in 2007 with a stock market crash occurring in 2008. Before the crash, many non-profit agencies’ fundraising plans appeared to work well enough to get them what they needed to function. After the crash — what some people are calling ‘The New Normal’ — those same fundraising plans for some agencies don’t seem to work as well, but abandoning the plan and starting from scratch doesn’t appear practical or reasonable. 
  • In the middle part of the 20th Century, non-profit boards were composed of local business leaders who were CEOs and owners of local businesses. Fast forward to the end of the 20th Century and the early 2000’s, and big box stores have replaced locally owned businesses. CEOs and business owners are located in major cities and in some cases halfway around the world. Many non-profit boards are full of middle managers, and many people are left asking “Who will be the next generation of big time local philanthropists?

In John’s post, he talks about needing a special kind of skill set to solve “predicaments“. Specifically, he points to interpretative thinking skills, patience, and sustained attentiveness.

Heading into this Labor Day weekend, I’m asking you to scroll down to the comment box below and consider doing two things:

  1. Share your opinion on whether or not the three things I’ve identified above are “problems” or “predicaments” or neither. You are also welcome to talk about other “predicaments” you see in the non-profit sector or at home in your agency.
  2. Do you or others in your agency possess the special skill sets that are identified as being necessary to handle “predicaments“? Are there other skills you think are necessary? If you, your employees and your board don’t possess these skills, how are you planning to acquire them?

Enjoy the long weekend and please take a moment to contemplate and respond to these questions. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Engaging your non-profit board volunteers more effectively

engagementBoard member engagement is a common thread running through many of my blog posts. This isn’t because I’m a broken record. The fact of the matter is that so many of the things that plague non-profits are simply “symptoms” of a bigger problem. Yep, you guessed it . . . the root cause of many of our challenges in the can be traced back to our boards.

So, a few days ago I received an email from Suzanne Culhane. I don’t know Suzanne, but she is a fundraising consultant for Bob Carter Companies. Apparently, one of my posts hit her just right, and she took to heart my frequent rally cry at the end of many of my posts to “. . . please share your thoughts . . . we can all learn from each other . . .”

So, in the spirit of complying with my own point of view, I’m going to use my bully pulpit this morning to share Suzanne’s tips on “How to get your board members to be more effective advocates for your cause“.

Here is what she recommends:

  • Only elect board members who are passionate about the mission and rank the organization as number one or two in terms of their own volunteer and philanthropic priorities.
  • Implement an annual give/get requirement end enforce it!  This is best done through an annual commitment form which includes personal fundraising goals and volunteer responsibilities (e.g. committee and event involvement).  This keeps board members focused on giving personally and asking others to do so.
  • Conduct an annual commitment review session should be conducted with each board member.  In addition to personal giving and fundraising, this individual meeting should also offer the opportunity to discuss the board member’s experience of serving, any unfulfilled interests, challenges and concerns.  That is, the organization must regularly invite individual feedback from leaders.
  • For empowerment, periodic interactive workshops should be conducted and all board members should be fully support by the staff in their undertakings on behalf of the organization.
  • Celebrate all accomplishments and victories as a team!  Organizational impact and fundraising results should be regularly shared with the board.

For the record, I love all of these ideas (except I waffle on the give/get policy and only suggest it when a board’s culture is devoid of philanthropy). I’ve personally used all of these suggestions when I was on the front line and as a consultant. They are best practices, and they work!

So, let’s keep this going. Sharing is fun. What else do you do at your agency to engage your board volunteers? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Why? Yep, you guessed it . . . because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

What does the non-profit leader of tomorrow look like?

sleepless1Last week a dear non-profit friend of mine from California couldn’t sleep. She tossed and she turned. Ultimately, she got out of bed, turned on her computer and started talking into a microphone. When I woke up in the morning in my bed in Elgin, Illinois, there was an email sitting in my inbox with a voice file attachment. Her words have tumbled around in my head for a week, and I’ve decided to enlist your support in dissecting them.

The gist of her recording pertained to non-profit boards. Here is a synopsis of what she said:

  • There are too many non-profit boards that just don’t work.
  • Too many board members either don’t understand their roles/responsibilities or turn a blind eye to certain roles that make them feel uncomfortable (e.g fundraising and resource acquisition).
  • Are there occupations that are better suited for non-profit board leadership (e.g. finance people compared to artists)?
  • Should non-profit agencies incorporate personality testing into their board development process because certain personalities are better suited to serving on a non-profit board?

After a week of contemplative thought, I honestly don’t know how I feel about anything she said. I am looking forward to you weighing in with your thoughts using the comment box at the bottom of this blog.

Here is what I have concluded:

  • Boardroom diversity is important. We don’t need all of the same types of people sitting around a table in a simulated echo chamber. (I am not implying that was what she was saying, but I do worry that it could be an unintended consequence.)
  • Understanding roles/responsibilities and executing them are vital to non-profit health. The non-profit sector needs to get better at recruitment, management and evaluation or suffer the consequences.
  • The characteristics and traits of an effective non-profit executive director (aka CEO) are changing with the times, and hiring the right person might make all the difference in the world when it comes to board development, board governance and team cohesiveness from the front line to the boardroom.

sleepless2After listening to my friend’s recording, I started Googling around and searching for anything that anyone might have written about characteristics and traits of effective boards. I was especially intrigued by her question about incorporating personality testing into the board development process. After all, many workplaces are incorporating this type of assessment into their employee hiring process.

I didn’t really find much of anything that resonated, but there was some interesting stuff on Myers-Briggs personality testing that pertained to the non-profit sector. Here are some of the better links:

While I suspect you may find these links interesting, they still didn’t help me process what my sleepy California friend had ignited in my head. And then I came across an online post at Ivey Business Journal titled “Profiling the Non-Profit Leader of Tomorrow“.

This article focused on the executive director as the linchpin to what my friend had identified. They identified 15 “must-have” attributes that a non-profit leader must possess in order to be successful. Those attributes are as follows:


  • Strategic thinker
  • Relationship builder
  • Collaborative decision-maker
  • Entrepreneurial achiever
  • Effective communicator
  • Change leader
  • Inspiring motivator

Personality Traits

  • High integrity
  • Adaptable/Agile
  • Perseverant/Patient
  • Interpersonal sensitivity
  • Passionate about the mission


  • Financial acumen
  • Deep sector-specific knowledge
  • Understanding & valuing diversity

I suspect a number of these competencies and skill sets also can be applied to your board development process.

If I’ve piqued your curiosity — and I suspect that I have — then I encourage you to click-through to the Ivey Business Journal article and keep reading. Enjoy!

Take a good hard look in the mirror this morning. How many of these attributes do you possess? How do you know you possess them? Do you conduct 360 assessments asking for your employees’ feedback? If so, what do they say about you and these attributes? Does your board development process look for volunteers with these attributes? If so, what tools do you use to help identify these attributes?

In addition to sharing your thoughts about these questions in the comment box below, I welcome your thoughts about the question I asked earlier in this post about my friend’s online recording.

We can all learn from each other. Please take a minute out of your busy day to share with your fellow non-profit friends.

Here’s to your health!

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

Do your board members gather around the campfire?

campfireRecently, I’ve been doing a lot of what I consider “Nonprofit 101” trainings focused on board roles and responsibilities. After talking with board members about their fiduciary responsibilities, they often push back on their role in fundraising. I’m becoming really good at giving them the “sympathetic smile,” which communicates that I’m hearing their fear but not giving them permission to wash their hands of their role in resource development.

After my last training, I literally had three board volunteers standing around the room waiting for a private moment with me. Each one told me how much they appreciated the content, and sure enough each one made their way around to the subject of fundraising. My mouth hurt that evening from a lot of sympathetic smiling.  🙂

While driving home, I couldn’t stop thinking about each of those three board members. Their stories were all the same:

  • They are passionate about the organization.
  • They love serving on the board.
  • They were asked to serve because they brought a certain skill set or relationships (e.g. mostly access to their company).
  • They know there is more they to do.
  • They know how important fundraising is.
  • They see the organization’s need for money.
  • They are just very reluctant . . . it doesn’t feel right to ask their friends for money. They mention a few fears, and worse yet they say it feels like begging.
  • They promise to try harder.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this in the last few months. And in some strange way, I find it endearing which probably explains how I’ve mastered the art of the sympathetic smile.

Getting back to my drive home . . .

With nothing more than windshield time in front of me, my mind started wandering. I started thinking about a recent DVD purchase I made from 501 Videos of Tom Ahern talking about writing. As a bonus, they tossed in a 32 page mini-publication from Chris Davenport titled “Nonprofit Storytelling for Board members“.

As the blurry miles whizzed by me, a thought finally struck:

Stop pushing those reluctant board members into something they find
Instead, focus on something they will find less objectionable
like turning them into great storytellers.

fearAfter all, how scary can it be to “tell stories,” right?

And when you boil down a fundraising solicitation visit, isn’t it mostly a series of stories followed-up with an ask?

So, it stood to reason in my travel weary head that teaching reluctant board members how to tell stories is 90 percent of the battle.

After a few days of reflecting on this thought and a number of cups of coffee, I still think this is a great idea. So, I dusted off that “Nonprofit Storytelling for Board Members” book this morning in an effort to figure out where someone should start.

Luckily for me, the answer is easily found on page 4 where Chris Davenport says, “Here are three stories you need to concentrate on perfecting first . . .”

  1. Your Involvement Story
  2. An Impact Story
  3. A Thank You Story

So, there you have it folks . . . if you have board members who HATE fundraising, I think you should teach them how to be a good storyteller and start with the three stories identified above.

What? You think it isn’t as easy as that? There is more to storytelling than what meets the eye?

OK . . . you’re probably right, which is why Chris Davenport goes on in his mini-book to talk about:

  • The 4 C’s of Storytelling
  • Emotions vs Facts
  • Story Structure
  • Seven Story Triggers
  • And much, much more

I suggest that you go buy the book. It is only $7.95. Such as deal! Click here if you want to learn more and possibly order this amazing little pocketbook resource. (Disclaimer: I do not profit in any way from you purchasing that book. This is not a paid advertisement. I don’t even know Chris.

Do you have board members who are reluctant to fulfill their fundraising roles and responsibilities? How have you dealt with it effectively? Have you tried to teach your board volunteers how to be good storytellers? If so, how did that work for you and what lessons did you learn?

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