Ensuring Happily Ever After: Successfully Managing the Ties That Bind Boards and Executive Teams

One of the most important functions of Nonprofit Boards is, of course, fundraising. Board members want to be set up for success when they join a Board, and generally, all is well and good when Board members are financially able to make donations, are comfortable talking about money and their charity, confidence in management is high, the organization’s mission is relevant, and other key factors are present. Sometimes, however, over time, other circumstances intervene, and a communication breakdown develops among Board members and the Executive team.

Perhaps fundraising expectations were not fully clear when Board members joined, or comfort levels with the fundraising component of the role were overestimated, or personal financial priorities shifted over time, time available changed, organizations’ financial needs changed, or financial requests made of Boards – articulated as “give or get” – changed. Lots of things can happen; that’s just life.

When they do, it is mission-critical to attend to them immediately to keep the lines of communication open and execute a fast return to productivity. Delaying this important step puts the positive relationships everyone has worked so hard to build at risk. The first step? Identify precisely what is happening so you have the ability to put in place a plan to cure it. Here are a couple of examples.

  • Is there an opportunity to align in more detail your specific “give or get” needs to the experience and professional roles of your Board? If this is a Board member’s first round of solicitation on behalf of an organization, it may be extremely helpful to let them know the specific types of corporate relationships or in-kind donations that are priorities in the moment to your organization.
  • Would building a “Board-level” custom fundraising story be appropriate and helpful? It may be that the “pitch” that works so well for your experienced development team just isn’t what feels right for your Board as they have conversations and send emails – and they may not be comfortable asking for what they need, not wanting to burden an already busy staff.
  • Is there an opportunity for Board and Executive team skill development around fundraising that could also serve the function of fostering deeper relationships and more open communication about the development challenges every organization faces?

Frustration often leads to finger pointing. That’s completely natural. Recognizing the frustration as an opportunity for improvement, moving past frustration stage, fast, and acknowledging the commitment that Board and Executive team members are making by supporting one another is a great way to get things back on track effectively. If you feel a frustration coming on, let us know, we’re happy to talk through an approach to resolving it that is specific to your team and your organization.

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