Tag Archives: growth

Nonprofit Board Leaders and CEOs: Find excellent board members with these simple tips

By Molly Hansen, Vice President, The Alford Group   Read Molly’s Bio

How to find great, or even good, nonprofit board members is an ongoing challenge. For many nonprofit organizations the board development issue feels especially urgent right now. The competition for good board members is increasing.

The philanthropic environment has nearly recovered from the Great Recession, but many philanthropists are still very cautious about where to invest their dollars, time and energy. Organizations who have been largely supported by government grants and contracts, their long-held intention to diversify their revenue through board members with financial capacity and connections, are now faced with the reality that it’s harder than they thought to find strong board members.

Regardless of the type of nonprofit you serve, its size, or the nature of your board and organizational funding, the following tips will help you get started on a productive path of board development.

One of the primary questions The Alford Group hears from both CEOs and board members is:

Where and how can we find the best board members? We keep asking our current board members to bring us names and either they say they don’t have connections to the ‘right people’ or they bring a list of names of the highest profile people in town that are on everyone’s list. Help!”

The first place to start is by asking yourself: What do we need from our board?

You may say, “We need people with money! We need corporate CEOs! We need connectors, people who have influence!”

Of course you do!

Let’s start with the characteristics that every nonprofit institution should have as their top priorities in seeking new board members. This strategic focus may lead you to those with affluence and influence.

5 key characteristics of excellent nonprofit board member candidates

#1 Passion

Your top board candidates will have genuine passion for your organization and its purpose – or at least an affinity for what your organization does or the population you serve. In some cases, excellent board members started as individuals who may not yet have this passion, but have the desire to learn more about what the organization does and the willingness to become involved and ultimately develop passion.

#2 Time AND treasure

Both time and treasure to help your organization fulfill its mission is key to engagement. Excellent board candidates are interested in fully participating – attending meetings regularly, actively serving on committees, etc. They are supportive, yet ready to ask the tough questions. And they have the capacity and willingness to make a personal contribution and engage in fundraising activities.

#3 Nonprofit board experience

Top candidates will understand good business practices and ideally have nonprofit board experience. Without specific experience, candidates should be able to embrace that nonprofit boards are governance boards and not management boards.

#4 Strategic thinking capabilities

He/she should be a strategic thinker with the ability to internalize the long-term vision of your work and an interest in ongoing learning in the organization’s field of service.

#5 Integrity

You should look for integrity – plain and simple. In nonprofit board candidates, integrity means a personal and public commitment to transparency in the organization’s finances and business practices, as well as the capacity and ability to follow through on board responsibilities.

4 places to look for excellent board members

#1 Current volunteers and/or major donors

Stop looking for new faces – the best candidates may be right in front of you! Take a look at your organization’s current volunteers and/or major donors. These are the people who are already sold on who you are and are passionate about your mission and vision. Even if the key volunteers and donors you meet with are not interested in joining your board, ask them for ideas and connections. Find those that have two degrees of separation to key board prospects.

#2 Relationships with your board and staff

One important activity to conduct is relationship mapping with your board and staff. Set aside time to brainstorm connections that your board members and staff members may have through their professional associations, alumni group, faith community, personal “vendors”, friends and neighbors. In addition to looking for specific board prospects within those groups, look also for people who can connect to others that may fill board roles. Remember, you are looking for the two degrees of separation!

#3 LinkedIn and VolunteerMatch.org

LinkedIn is a great resource for finding excellent board members. You can search by skills or even post a board opportunity. Check out LinkedIn Board Connect. Another great online resource is Volunteer Match.

#4 In the news

As you read the news to stay updated on topics and changes in your sector, keep an eye out for who is quoted in the articles and who is involved in the projects. Up and comers are often highlighted in business journals and magazines. Read their bios and be sure to look for affinities and connections.

Excellent board members are out there! The most important step you can take in finding them for your organization is to commit to taking action. Create a basic plan, gather your most engaged board members and get going. Here are three specific action steps to take right away.

Three Action Steps: 

1. Create a board matrix that indicates the demographics, professional skills and characteristics of your current board. Then identify where your gaps are that would be important to your organization.

2. Build your pipeline of board prospects based on the gaps you want to fill and the potential candidates that surfaced through your research.

3. Have a courtship before marriage. Recruiting board members needs to be a thoughtful and strategic vetting and cultivation practice.  

One of the easiest steps to take is to check out The Alford Group’s Board Member Toolkit.

The following are also a few excellent online sites that often provide free tools, webinars, and information.

BoardSource

GuideStar

National Council of Nonprofits

Good luck in recruiting your next excellent board member!

Giving USA Numbers and Beyond

TAG group photo2Photo: Alford Group staff at As Good as It Gives: America’s Philanthropy Today on June 17, 2016 at Mesirow Financial in Chicago.

 

The Alford Group co-sponsored As Good as It Gives: America’s Philanthropy Today with Mesirow Financial in Chicago to share this year’s Giving USA numbers and discuss what the numbers mean for not-for-profit organizations.

Here are the main takeaways:

  1. Giving is on the rise

The Alford Group’s Executive Vice President Sharon Tiknis and Senior Consultant Diane Knoepke presented to the room and reported that 2015 was America’s most generous year ever, as donors collectively gave over $373 billion. Slide 7Giving is on a two-year increase, as 2014 was previously charted as the most generous year of giving. Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, giving has increased by 23 percent. Individuals continue to represent the majority of giving in America at 71 percent of total giving in 2015.

 

  1. Today’s donor looks less like Ned Flanders and more like Montgomery Burns
Flanders-Burns

Dr. Daniel Hungerman from the University of Notre Dame spoke to us about long term giving trends. Even though giving to religion-affiliated organizations currently makes up approximately one-third (32 percent) of all giving, the trend is that as religion declines in the U.S. so does giving to religious organizations (fewer Ned Flanders donors).

[Simpsons characters Ned Flanders (left) and Montgomery Burns (right).]

At the same time, there is a rise in the inequality of giving. Dr. Hungerman reviewed the findings in his research showing what has long been the 80/20 rule now looks more like a 90/10 rule in philanthropic giving where 90% of the funds raised come from just 10% of donors (more Montgomery Burns donors).

Disheartened by this news? Don’t be. Despite this fact, philanthropy continues to be quite democratic in the United States, according to Dr. Patrick Rooney at the Lilly School, and when you consider that there are more American donors than American voters, those small gifts add up to make a meaningful difference.

  1. The way forward is through mission alignment

What does this all mean for you and your organization? The most effective way forward is to think strategically about mission alignment. This means aligning your operations with the outcome-focused vision from which your organization was built.

Specifically, this means aligning your strategy and tactics with your mission to ensure you are efficient and effective. This also means aligning your impact measurement with your mission to measure the outcomes of your work versus the outputs of your work. Finally, this means aligning donor messaging with your mission so that you are appealing to the donors’ passions rather than only the organization’s needs. The key is to always have your mission and your donors in mind.

To go even deeper and tackle these topics and more, please join us for The Alford Group Summer Webinar Series where we will explore bold strategies to advance philanthropy. We hope you can join us!

Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy is the seminal publication reporting on the sources and uses of charitable giving in the United States. The production and release of Giving USA is the result of the collaborative efforts of Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute, and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The Alford Group is a founding member of the Giving Institute.

A New Year….and New Unknowns

This is a fun time of the year when you get to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.  Over the holidays I read article after article summarizing the growth made during 2010, taking our country out of recession (ever so slowly) and into more future opportunities.  And then there were the articles projecting economic growth for 2011, offering both positive and not so positive views of what the future might hold.

One has to consider what this all means for the not-for-profit world and the prospects for the organizations and institutions that serve our communities every day, day in and day out.

Here are a few economic tidbits for your consideration:

  • The DJIA increased 11% during 2010 hitting 11,577 on December 31st.
  • The DJIA first closed at the 11,577 mark on January 7, 2000, 11 years ago
  • The S&P 500 increased 12.8% during 2010 hitting 1,258 on December 31st
  • The S&P 500 first  closed above the 1,258 mark on January 6, 1999 nearly 12 years ago

Since the first of the year, three weeks ago, the market has had some nice gains with the DJIA over 11,800 and the S&P 500 at 1,280.  Above I mention an 11 and 12 year difference in the numbers.  Now it is down to a 5 year difference as both indexes first hit this mark in 2006.  Because of the market recovery toward its all time high of 14,167, we are returning to a period of more investor confidence which will be important for contributions in the sector going forward.

Another factor is the savings rate.  Since the 4th quarter of 2008 the savings rate has been above 5% for 8 consecutive quarters.  Rather than being a nation of spenders we are becoming a nation of savers.  As savings assets increase we may also see an increase in the stock market.  Money market funds which are earning approximately .25% (yes, a quarter of one percent) have grown to nearly $3 trillion.  This does not count checking accounts, savings accounts and short term CDs which would add to the cash available for investing and/or spending.  Prior to the previous 8 quarters, the savings rate during all of 2006, 2007 and most of 2008 was in the 1% to 2% range.  This is a significant shift for America.

Though I do not have the complete statistics here, Americans are also paying down credit card debt, which is also at its lowest levels since 2008.  For the past 18 months, consumer credit card debt has continued to decline easing the burden on American families.  The amount of debt over that period has fallen from $975 Billion to $852 Billion.  Still a lot of money that is owed, but a significant drop none the less since the debt was growing up until that time.

Americans are still being cautious with their resources – but there is room for them to become optimistic.  What messages are you sending your donors and constituents about the needs your organization is meeting every day, day in and day out?  With the gains during 2010 and anticipated gains for 2011, there is reason to believe things will continue to improve across the nation and for the not-for-profit sector.  However, one item looms large for many not-for-profits – and I will write about it next week – the impact of state government cutbacks as nearly 40 states may be on the brink of bankruptcy and thus unable to meet their financial obligations.

As always, I look forward to any additional insights and comments you may have on this topic.

All the best,

Tom