Need to recruit more board members? Read a transcription of a podcast produced by The Fund Raising School, narrated by Bill Stanczykiewicz, assistant dean for external relations and director of The Fund Raising School, and Dr. Gene Tempel, founding dean emeritus of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Bill Stanczykiewicz (BS): Where does fundraising start? We’ll talk about that today and give you some practical tips to have a great beginning toward successful fundraising.
I’m Bill Stanczykiewicz, and I’m joined today by Dr. Gene Tempel. He’s the dean emeritus of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and it is because of Gene that The Fund Raising School came to Indianapolis, which the Center on Philanthropy was then built around, which then became the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
And that came from a gift from Dr. Henry Rosso, the inventor of The Fund Raising School. Gene, Dr. Rosso said that we should not fundraise with apology. The same thing can be said about our board of directors. We should not recruit to our board with apology: our board is a special place, and our board of directors is where fundraising starts.
Dr. Gene Tempel (GT): I think that’s correct Bill. Hank preached this. He said that we should not do fundraising with apology. Instead, substitute pride for apology in the way that we talk about fundraising. A lot of research shows that we should take pride in it because it’s a prideful experience for the people who contribute. Same is true for board service.
We should recruit people to our boards from a position of strength. Our organization is doing good work in the community. Our organization has the opportunity to offer people satisfaction from service on our board, and therefore, people should honor and appreciate and respect that. So when we recruit people to our board, we should use the same approach that we do in fundraising. We should look for people who have a passion for the organization. We should look for people who can fill a commitment to the expectations we have of our board members and recruit them from a position of strength.
If we do, we will have people who are more energized who will participate more fully in our board of directors.
BS: So there are responsibilities that board members have, in terms of setting the strategy, overseeing the financials, making sure the nonprofit stays legal, coming to meetings, donating, finding other funders to the organization, etc.
What advice do you have for fundraisers when it comes to setting expectations before joining the board?
GT: The research about setting expectations in all aspects of our lives is pretty clear. If we set expectations in grade school, high school, amongst our employees, people will try to live up to those expectations.
The problem is when we don’t set expectations, we try to impose expectations on them anyway after they join the board. And then we’re disappointed when they don’t fulfill the expectations. And they might be disappointed themselves and feel awkward that they’re on the board and not fulfilling the expectations. You need to lay those expectations out ahead of time.
If they need to attend every board meeting or four out of five meetings, whatever that level is, then we should let people know in the beginning. Because if they can’t make that number of board meetings, then they shouldn’t accept the position. Everybody who sits on the board takes up valuable space for the organization and for the community. And when they’re simply there and not functioning well, they’re occupying real estate that has both internal and external value.
So we should make sure that we set those expectations. We all expect people to make a gift. We need to put that on that list of expectations. If we don’t put that that out there and then expect it, it becomes awkward.
Then, we’re afraid to ask then to get them involved in fundraising. If we don’t ask them to get involved in one way or another and don’t set that expectation, we should not be surprised or disappointed if they don’t do that.
BS: So we don’t recruit to our board with apology. Our nonprofits are special places, making the world a better place. You’re inviting people to come in and help govern and oversee the organization. That is a significant responsibility. So set your expectations up front. If someone can’t meet those expectations, they can still be a friend of your organization, we just wouldn’t recommend them for board service.
Thinking about diversity, when we think about the practicality of fundraising and board service, where does diversity fit in?
GT: I think diversity is important for two aspects. It’s the ethical thing to do to have a board that represents the community at large. Most boards are underrepresented in terms of gender. Almost all boards are underrepresented when it comes to people of color.
Society changes, and philanthropy changes with society. People of color have always been philanthropic. At times, they’ve committed more informal support and have supported organizations that fit with their ethnic background. But they’re becoming more philanthropic with mainstream organizations. Our boards need to change with that. This can be a very difficult thing for organizations to undertake. If organizations haven’t experienced or aren’t working with diversity efforts, they end up recruiting people who look more like themselves. They don’t get out of that cycle they’re in.
So we need to make special efforts. Who can we talk to in the community who has connections to the people we want to recruit for our board.
BS: Look for people who care about our cause; not looking to check a box.
GT: People who come from different backgrounds will have different perspectives on the development of policy for the organization, etc.
I recommend that organizations develop a grid, with the board names down one side and in vertical columns, list the characteristics that they seek in board members: include ethnicity, age, gender. Also look for different skills that the organization needs to have. We’re not just checking boxes, but we’re bringing in different voices and perspectives to our board.
Ann Updegraff Spleth
We have found it helpful to do an annual Skills Matrix of our board members, determining the skills and expertise we need and comparing that with the self-identified top 3 skills of our board members. That shows us the gaps that we need to seek to fill the next time a new class of board members is nominated.
Ann Updegraff Spleth