Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary

By Mary Kaufman-Cranney, CFRE, Vice President

During my tenure as the head of development with the YMCA of Greater Seattle, I was lucky enough to be there for the organization’s 125th anniversary.

As the 120th year of the YMCA of Greater Seattle loomed ahead, I asked our public relations volunteers if we should start getting ready to celebrate. Their reply? A resounding, “No! Save it for the big one at 125 – but start planning now.”

“Five years out?” I thought to myself. “That  seems crazy!” But as we started to explore the significance of the 125th and realize that no update had been done on our history timeline since the 100th – not to mention electronically capturing our history and thousands of photos dating back to the late 1800s – we had lots to do. Continue reading “Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary”

Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary

By Mary Kaufman-Cranney, CFRE, Vice President

During my tenure as the head of development with the YMCA of Greater Seattle, I was lucky enough to be there for the organization’s 125th anniversary.

As the 120th year of the YMCA of Greater Seattle loomed ahead, I asked our public relations volunteers if we should start getting ready to celebrate. Their reply? A resounding, “No! Save it for the big one at 125 – but start planning now.”

“Five years out?” I thought to myself. “That  seems crazy!” But as we started to explore the significance of the 125th and realize that no update had been done on our history timeline since the 100th – not to mention electronically capturing our history and thousands of photos dating back to the late 1800s – we had lots to do. Continue reading “Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary”

Five Tips: Engage Your Board in Major Gifts Fundraising

Practical Ideas and Tools

By Mary Kaufman-Cranney, CFRE, Vice President

While presenting at a recent AFP lunch meeting, I asked the audience, “How many of you have at least a few board members engaged in your major gift fundraising efforts?” Not to my surprise, only a handful of the more than 100 fundraisers in the room raised their hands. Then I asked, “How many of your board members are passionate about your mission?” As you would imagine, everyone in the room raised their hand! So, how do we turn that passion into fundraising action? Here are a handful of tips and tools to get results: Continue reading “Five Tips: Engage Your Board in Major Gifts Fundraising”

Three Failings in Forming and Sustaining Partnerships

The secret to a successful corporate/social sector partnership is for each partner to be simultaneously self-centered and other-focused. In this video post, Diane Knoepke talks about the three ways we are failing to live up to what we know about what makes these partnerships work.

Multiply Your Impact: Enlist Key Donors to Create a Meaningful Stewardship Plan

By Wendy Hatch, CFRE, Vice President and JoAnn Yoshimoto, CFRE, Senior Consultant

Don’t we all agree that the most precious things in life are worthy of our best attention, effort and care? In the fundraising world, the most precious “things” are our donors and their philanthropic dollars.

Who among us has the luxury of a daily schedule that is just waiting to be filled with new ideas and activities? Nobody that we know! So let’s take 15 minutes – only one percent of our day – to ponder ways to work smarter and multiply the impact of our efforts, and benefit the most precious “things” – our donors!

How do you make sure that your donor stewardship is intentional, timely and effective? You need to plan for it! Wonderful ideas for individual stewardship activities, timelines and plans abound on the internet, so we aren’t going to reiterate them here. The idea we are offering is a strategy for multiplying the impact of your stewardship planning process by also using it as an engagement opportunity for key donors, staff and board members. Continue reading “Multiply Your Impact: Enlist Key Donors to Create a Meaningful Stewardship Plan”

Please be our next board chair

By Molly Hansen, Vice President, The Alford Group

“Please be our next board chair. Joe, Sarah, and Ben have all turned us down and Andrew doesn’t want to stay on for another term.”

Has this ever happened to you or in your organization? With thoughtful planning and leadership development you can create a reality where begging for board officers and committee leaders just doesn’t happen.

In a 2015 BoardSource survey, only 49% of nonprofit CEOs agreed that their organizations had an effective process in place for officer succession. CEOs often navigate (survive?) multiple chair transitions, and cited building a board leadership pipeline as being among the most important area for board improvement.

A recent Board Effect blog post cites the report Succession Planning for the Non-profit Board Chair that finds:

“Most organizations can survive the successful election to the Board of an individual or two whose group participation skills and leadership attributes are less than stellar, as other stronger members of the Board will generally neutralize any adverse consequences to the organization. However, placing Board members into the organization’s highest leadership positions is a much higher-stakes proposition. Persons in elected leadership positions with mediocre leadership skills will, at best, do no harm, but might cause the association to miss strategic advantageous opportunities. Persons with poor leadership skills may create organization dysfunctions that may take years from which to recover, if ever.” Continue reading “Please be our next board chair”

Making the Most of Volunteers

Are your volunteers worth their weight in gold, or are they simply weighing you down?

By Laura Edman, Vice President, The Alford Group   Read Laura’s Bio

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why do I bother with volunteers? It would be so much easier if I just do this myself.”

I admit it; over my 30-plus years as a fundraising professional, that thought has crossed my mind more than once. Yet whenever that happens, I think about the many times during my career when volunteers have made the critical difference between success and failure, between reaching that stretch campaign goal and falling short, or between successfully recruiting that key board member and having them turn down the opportunity.

So, how can you make sure that your volunteers really are worth their weight in gold, instead of being too much trouble to bother with? Here are some tips that might help you and some resources for more information. Continue reading “Making the Most of Volunteers”

Three Corporate/Social Sector Partnership Conversations I’m Having Right Now

By Diane Knoepke, Vice President, The Alford Group

Over just the past few months, we have been the beneficiaries of an absolute embarrassment of riches in terms of high-powered convenings and insight-filled reports related to corporate/social sector collaboration and investment. I dare say we are seeing an unprecedented level of research and conversation about the role of companies in driving social sector outcomes and vice versa. While digesting it all can feel like sipping from a firehose, I’m finding that so many of my partnership conversations right now are coming back to three themes, all of which are supported and driven by these great insights coming from all corners of the corporate social innovation and philanthropic worlds.

#1 Heightened consumer expectations, and how companies are responding

Sixty percent (60%) of Americans now expect companies to play a greater role in society, particularly given the new administration. Tina-Marie Adams, Midwest Managing Director of APCO Worldwide, shared this data point at last month’s Social Innovation Summit, drawn from research her firm had recently completed. This is further borne out by data from Cone Communications’ 2017 CSR Study, which found that “millennials are putting their faith in companies to ignite change,” with 71% of millennials hopeful that business will take the lead (compared to U.S. average of 63%). Continue reading “Three Corporate/Social Sector Partnership Conversations I’m Having Right Now”

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. Continue reading “Nonprofit Board Leaders and CEOs: Find excellent board members with these simple tips”

Exploring the Benefits of Hiring Interim Staff Leadership

by Tafara Pulse

When it comes to experience, Maree Bullock has done it all during her nonprofit career.   She was Executive Director of the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation for 29 years before joining The Alford Group, and has served as a board member for many of Chicago’s esteemed not-for-profit institutions. Given her leadership skills, her extensive time as a CEO, and more recently her time as an interim executive director, I was eager to hear her perspective on how interim leadership can help strengthen an organization in transition.  I took the opportunity to sit down with her and ask a few questions about her time as Interim Executive Director for The Lake County Community Foundation (LCCF).

Maree Bullock

Continue reading “Exploring the Benefits of Hiring Interim Staff Leadership”

The Unfortunate Lure of Small Not-For-Profit Governing Boards

pic_Committees1Over the past several years, many not-for-profits have begun to shrink their boards to sizes ranging from 9 to 12 people.  Both board and staff leaders have argued that a smaller board is more productive and easier to manage.  This model seems to be coming from the for-profit board where smaller boards are the norm (comparably) and chief executives are also the board chair (though this trend is changing as more corporate boards are choosing an independent director to be the chair of the board).

I would contend that the size of the board should be based on the amount of community engagement the organization wishes to have.  If a not-for-profit organization does not require significant community engagement then it does not need to structure itself with a large amount of community interaction.  However, if philanthropy is to play a role in the organization, then community engagement at the volunteer leadership level is essential.

Continue reading “The Unfortunate Lure of Small Not-For-Profit Governing Boards”

The Role of the Board: What Board members should be thinking and doing

Last week, I wrote on how staff should be working to support the efforts of their not-for-profit board members.  A few days later I received a comment from a reader encouraging me to write about the board members’ responsibilities.  Over the years, I have kept a list of board member responsibilities that I have used during training sessions and board retreats, and I’ve allowed board members to offer comments and suggestions to edit, revise, and clarify their roles.  Here are several points from that document for your review and comment:

First, I believe boards have two functions: one, to “guard the mission” of the organization; and two, to hire, advise, and if necessary, replace the executive director (or CEO).

Roles for Boards to “Guard the Mission”:

  • Provide leadership to and approve a strategic plan for the organization
  • Assure that programming and financial allocations are focused on fulfilling the mission (guarding against “mission creep”)
  • Assure that proper financial stewardship is maintained
  • Contribute financially to the organization according to your means
  • Advocate for the organization to secure community and financial support
  • Open doors for staff who are seeking support from others
  • Continue to expand your knowledge of the community needs that the mission of the organization is addressing, and your knowledge of best practices to meet those needs
  • Participate in board meetings, demanding quality presentations from staff, and providing equal quality on your part during board and committee discussions
  • Offer your talents and time to serve on committees and/or as a committee chair or officer; when accepting an assignment, fulfill it to the best of your ability

Roles for Boards to “Hire, Advise and/or Replace” the Executive Director:

  • Annually set expectation goals for the executive staff leader that parallel and/or complement the goals in the strategic plan
  • Annually evaluate the executive staff leader on his/her performance toward fulfilling their goals and the organization’s strategic plan
  • Be available to offer expertise and counsel to the executive staff leader when called upon to do so
  • Hold executive sessions of the board that include the executive staff leader, and some sessions that do not include the executive staff leader, to discuss strategic direction of the organization and operational issues that need to be addressed by the board
  • Develop a succession plan that has both emergency implementation guidelines as well as strategic implementation for retirements and natural transitions
  • Hold the executive staff leader accountable for results, and when results are not consistently met, replace the executive staff leader

Recently I was conducting a board retreat and as we were discussing board roles and responsibilities, two comments from board members present were quite memorable.  First, as a board member, you are part of a team – so be a good teammate and team player.  Second, a board member should be willing to accept any role, including board chair, without aspiring to have that role.  The second quality speaks to servant leadership and the importance it has for the success of a quality board and a quality organization.

So what have been your experiences and observations, and what else do you know about board roles and responsibilities?  I look forward to your comments and insights.

All the best and happy holidays,

Tom