Clear Expectations for Board Members

Dear Kim:

My biggest ongoing issue with fundraising is how to build a sense of competency and comfort with board members for making introductory calls, attending meet and greet meetings and making thank you calls. When it comes to these three simple tasks I am unable to get more than a handful of board members to help. The stock answer is for me as a development director to do all this, which is never as effective.

Maybe the problem is my presentation to the board and I need to change that.  Any suggestions?

~New Song?  New Dance?  New outfit?

Dear New:

Sounds like what you need is a new board recruitment policy, and, in the short term, some help from your executive director and board chair.

You say that you want the board to do a number of different things, most of which just are not that hard.  Most board members love to make thank you calls.  Being a friendly person at a meet-and-greet is about the minimum we should expect from any board member.  Making introductory calls is a little harder but still it sounds like your board members have it pretty easy.  They don’t seem to have to ask for money directly, which is usually the task that board members shy away from.  It is not just that you are not as effective as your board members—in fact I imagine you are more effective than most of them, but you alone can only make so many thank you calls, or meet-and greet so many people.  Personalizing your contact with donors requires more people to do it. And, you have any number of other tasks to do that you haven’t listed here.

I suggest reviewing what people are told is their job when they come on the board.  If the tasks you ask them to do are not part of what they have been told, most people won’t do them.  In that case, you, your executive director and board chair (hoping that he or she isn’t one of the recalcitrant board members) will need to figure out how to introduce this new set of expectations to the current board.  If the board already knows they should be doing this, but simply are not, then the ED and board chair need to talk to each board member individually and see what is holding them back.  It may be your presentation, not because you are an ineffective presenter, but because everyone knows you.  It is always better to have an outsider come to your board and train them.  You will have much more authority with another organization’s board.

Failure to define expectations upfront or failure to hold people accountable to agreements they have made are the two biggest reasons board members don’t participate in fundraising.

Good luck!

~Kim Klein