This is the final post of our four-part series of frank talks on social fundraising and its effect on the future of your non-profit with Managing Partners Todd Levy and Paul Ghiz of Global Cloud, the makers of DonorDrive Social Fundraising software. Part 4 covers overcoming opposition from your executive board.
How to talk to a board member.
So what’s the real reason that executive boards are reluctant to adopt vital technologies like social fundraising? Many executive directors assume it’s a fear of change or that noses are being turned up at anything new. But actually the hesitation might be rooted deeper in issues like losing power and saving face. Approaching your crusade with that realization can make adopting social fundraising a lot easier to champion.
Paul: “A good way to get better cooperation from an executive board is to change the focus: Get them to see that it’s not about what’s good for them, it’s about what’s good for the mission of your organization. I’ve been on many boards that have older generation thinkers and a lot of it has to do with helping them understand that you’re building on what they’ve put into place. Those traditional fundraising channels are not going away: social fundraising is simply augmenting them. That eases a lot of the anxiety that comes with that mindset.”
Todd: “In order to succeed with change, you need to build a consensus on your board and through your organization as a whole. Get back to the strategic vision of the organization. If your cause is to grow, I think you need to identify where you’re going to get your dollars from tomorrow. We can’t rely on yesterday’s donor, because those people may not be here tomorrow. I suggest that reluctant board members should own the responsibility of maintaining the traditional donation channels while the organization builds social fundraising to bring new constituents and dollars in.”
Paul: “You also have to deal with these members respectfully. Put yourself in their shoes and understand where they’ve been, where they’re coming from and what challenges they’re thinking about. That gives you a perspective that allows you to present the argument for adopting social fundraising. You present data in a way that doesn’t threaten, but instead makes them ultimately look like the hero and it becomes obvious to them that your cause needs to make a switch.”
They already know something is up.
If you feel your board is looking nowhere but backward, it may surprise you that they’re likely to be more aware of the changing technological climate than you think.
Todd: “Most non-profits that have relied on grants or foundations to give them dollars have probably realized, in the last three years, that grant money isn’t always going to be there. I believe a lion’s share of organizations realize that they have to do things differently. I think almost every non-profit can benefit from social fundraising. Your board should already be well aware that if they want the organization to be around tomorrow and beyond, they’ve got to change.”
Advocating new blood.
A current trend we’re seeing happen across the non-profit sector is boards adding advisory positions.
Paul: “This is a separate board or a few seats on the main board specifically for the purpose of bringing in new ideas and instituting change. Executive directors who are handcuffed have created these so they don’t destroy the executive board’s power, but still pump new blood into an organization. Initially we were seeing this as a sub-panel that the board can say no to.”
Todd: “I’ve seen many organizations start what they call a Young Professional Board which are positioned as future full board members. This allows you to leverage those current board members who bring in the traditional funds, yet build the bench. In essence, add more people to the board. The reality of this situation is that you have to realize that a longstanding board member may be ineffective, but they’re in love with being on the board. I think that’s where a savvy executive director or leader of the organization comes in. They’re able to set expectations for the board. Even though they report to the board, expectations are a two way street. If someone on the board is not cutting it, then you need to network within the board for change. ”
“But a key point I keep hearing is that these young professionals don’t just want to be minor players. They want to feel like they’re contributing. We’re starting to see these sub-boards become equal in power to the main board. It goes back to the mission, with the board knowing that it has to grow the next group of leaders.”
Succession is not a four-letter word.
No one lives forever. It’s a touchy subject, but often board members are at a stage of their life where they realize their own mortality.
Todd: “What if that person gets hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow? They would want the organization to go on and know that they’ve left the organization with some aspirational goals. I also think it’s incumbent on any board to deal with the question of succession. ‘What’s your role in bringing on the next generation?’ So actually assign them the responsibility to replace themselves so that they leave the cause in good hands. ”
“The idea of succession may really hit home with these board members since succession is such a respected tradition on most long-established boards. This is also the time to relate the idea to donor succession.”
Paul: “When you get into a discussion about donor succession planning, it becomes obvious to a board that they know where their kids and grandkids are congregating. As soon as you start talking about how to bring younger generations into the fold and about grooming them as the next generation of board members, volunteer or donors—they seem to start warming up to that notion. They start to see social fundraising as guaranteeing their legacy with tomorrow’s donors.”
Social fundraising is not just successful, it’s the proven successor.
Dollars raised online are already replacing offline donations for many of our DonorDrive customers. Social fundraising is a necessity if your non-profit is to grow new donors, increase donations and better spread word of your mission from person to person.
Todd: “The board needs to understand that social fundraising is not just growing in the number of dollars it raises, but also is advancing fundraising technologically. We’re constantly innovating new features into DonorDrive. For instance, personal fundraising is a trend that can’t be ignored. How is it changing fundraising? Your supporters can create their own third-party campaign around just about anything and raise money on your behalf.”
“For the fundraiser, Personal Campaigns are something they have ownership in. ‘It’s all about me. It’s what I’m doing for the organization. I get all the benefit of the organization: the branding, the clout and the tools for my Personal Campaign.’ The beauty is that the organization benefits without having to do a thing. You’re truly getting the dollars over the transom. That personal involvement that the software makes possible is a huge benefit to your cause in both dollars and awareness. That’s why we’re building features like Personal Campaigns into DonorDrive. It’s technology that makes new ways to fundraise possible.”
Paul: “While technology can be intimidating, when you can relate it directly to getting more dollars—it can be irresistible. We know from our customers that new ways to raise donations, like Personal Campaigns in DonorDrive, are turning heads on a lot of boards.”
Todd: “We may assume a board is not ready to hear the message that the organization must get into social fundraising. But it’s possible that’s what they’ve been waiting to hear.”