Monday, September 29, 2014

Board Member Getting: It’s Time to Demystify Fundraising


In my last blog, “Board Member Giving: 4 Types,” I launched a two-part discussion prompted by the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey (watch for the Executive Summary this fall). The survey said there’s a big gap between board giving and the training of board members in fundraising and stewardship.

The Gap. The survey reports that “less than 42 percent of their organizations provide training to equip and inspire board members on the ‘how to’ of inviting others to give.” So there’s a big gap between expectations and equipping.

The Fix. (Actually, as you know, there is no “quick fix,” but there are best practices.) Here are some thoughts: 

First, leverage passion and giftedness.  Every Christ-follower does not have every spiritual gift. Yet, many leaders expect every board member to be competent fundraisers. Some are gifted in inspiring others to give; some aren’t. 

“Fundraising” is not a spiritual gift, of course, but I’ve noticed that some board members, with training and inspiration, can leverage their giftedness in leadership, administration, evangelism, even mercy and exhortation—to the benefit of kingdom resource development.

Next, let’s demystify fundraising. I was asked to discuss this subject with a board recently and so I started the session with a simple exercise. I asked the group to divide up into groups of two and answer this question:

“Describe a time when you experienced great joy
upon giving a financial gift to an organization, a church, or a friend.”

The stories were amazing! Smiles boomeranged around the room! The conversations were joy-filled. 

In that teachable moment many board members realized that generous giving is both God-honoring and personally uplifting. Many realized—almost an epiphany—that inviting another person to give generously is inviting them to experience the kind of joy that they had experienced. 

Inviting others into the joy of giving is a natural, friend-to-friend thing to do. It’s only unnatural when we allow Satan to cloud the purity of generosity with bad theology. 

So…rather than blame, shame, cajole or pressure your board members into being reluctant fundraisers, go slow. Invite reflection. Focus on joy, not obligation.

I know. It’s much easier to blog about fundraising than to actually do it. In R. Scott Rodin’s thin little novelette, The Third Conversion, he cautions Christian development professionals (and board members):
"This is a bad time to get good at doing old things. The new wine of this biblical way of raising ministry resources requires new wineskins."


QUESTIONS: Has your board or CEO created a “one size fits all” herd mentality that demands every board member must be a fundraiser—without thoughtfully leveraging the passions and spiritual giftedness of each board member? If so, how are you going change this? Could you individualize expectations so you’re aligning board work with the way God has uniquely made each person around the table?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Board Member Giving: 4 Types


According to the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey (watch for the Executive Summary this fall) there’s a big gap between board giving and the training of board members in fundraising and stewardship.


“CEOs and board members agree that all board members should be givers and encourage others to give, but…while a healthy 87 percent to 91 percent agree that board members should be annual givers—less than 42 percent of their organizations provide training to equip and inspire board members on the ‘how to’ of inviting others to give.”

This is a two-part issue—and so I’ll address it in a two-part blog. Here’s part one—to help your board assess and address board member giving.

As Max De Pree recommends, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality,” so I’m always on the hunt for precise labeling of strategic issues. Mark Dillon hit pay dirt with his descriptions of four types of givers in his book, Giving & Getting in the Kingdom: A Field Guide

Where are your board members—and where do you want them to be?

THE GIFTED GIVER (2-5% of givers) will show up at the dedication of a new building and ask, “What’s next?” Dillon says “the gifted giver seldom needs to be asked.”

THE THOUGHTFUL GIVER (15-25% of givers) tends to calibrate giving to current income “and rarely involves lowering their net worth to fund what they care about.” And, “They have joy in giving, to be sure, but often lack unbridled delight in investing resources for kingdom purposes.”

THE CASUAL GIVER (35-50% of givers) “possesses a vague understanding of their obligation to be faithful and generous stewards of their resources, but rarely seek out opportunities to give. They usually give in response to a specific request.”

THE RELUCTANT GIVER (perhaps 33% of givers) may be “an overly generous description, because many in this category give very little of their resources for any charitable purpose.” Easy to offend, they’ve had few, if any generosity mentors in their lives. Their parents were unlikely to be kingdom stewards either.

Dillon suggests specific and biblical ways to engage these four types of donors. In the section, “Big Ideas Attract Big Gifts,” he urges CEOs, pastors and fundraisers to engage givers at the front end of a project. “Big ideas are mission-centered.” He quotes one gifted giver,
“Please don’t come to me with an ‘order list’ already thought out,
where my only decision is how much to give!”


So…perhaps your board chair, your CEO and your senior development officer should thoughtfully (and confidentially) look at individual board member giving over the last two to three years—and “define reality” by slotting them into these four giving segments.  Then, prayerfully, make a plan if your reality check reveals you need to move board members into higher levels of commitment.

Caution! This is not a discussion about wealth—it’s a discussion about generosity and commitment. Board members will lack authenticity in inspiring others to give—if they, themselves, are not personally committed at a high level.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and so many organizations invite people to serve on the board only if they are already in the generous givers circle. 

Many ministries define “generous” this way: As a board member, I will prioritize my giving so our organization is in the Top-3 of my annual giving. 

Again, this is not about wealth. Board members at all income levels can be generous with what God has given them. (That’s the brilliant premise of the biblical tithe.) Note: For more help on this, order the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members.

QUESTIONS: What kind of a giver are you? Does your board have written or unwritten guidelines on board giving expectations—that focus on priority (example: Top-3) versus an annual dollar amount? What’s your board’s next step in this area?

Friday, September 5, 2014

“Retirement Is Not in the Bible” – Or Is It?

This is not a theological blog, so I may be venturing above my pay grade here…but there’s a niche trend in evangelical circles that is expressed in a variety of ways. I’m not sure it’s biblical or Christ-centered. Some leaders write or speak (even pontificate):
  •  “There’s nothing in the Bible about retirement, so I don’t plan to retire."
  • “I’d rather burn out than rust out."
  • “My organization/board still needs me. There’s no obvious person to replace me.”

 Contrast these views with these scriptures:
  • “And the [instructions] which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust [as a deposit] to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2, Amplified Bible)
  • After Elijah “retired” to heaven, there was common agreement that “The spirit of Elijah lives in Elisha!” (2 Kings 2:15)

In my Bible, the relevant themes are:  coach, mentor, disciple, give away, prepare, empower, inspire the next generation, be God-honoring. There’s not much about: hold on, hold tight, protect your position [or your board seat], stay as long as you can, tell those younger leaders to learn patience.

I hope you’re talking about it. Some nonprofit CEOs (and pastors) hold on way too long and boards don’t have the guts to address the succession elephant in the room. It’s not an age issue, it’s a spiritual issue.
When will we allow the next generation
to be the leaders that God has called them to be?


Ditto many board members. Harry has been disengaged for three years—but no one’s having the difficult conversation with him.

The ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey (to be released this fall), with responses from almost 2,500 CEOs, board chairs and board members of ECFA-accredited organizations, addressed these issues with three questions:

Question: Does your board have a strategy for recruiting younger board members?
     Yes: 32.8%      No: 67.2%

Question: Do you have 1 or more board members age 35 or under?
     Yes: 36.5%      No: 63.5%

Question: Does your board have a written succession plan in the event of the CEO’s death, long-term illness or unexpected resignation?
     Yes: 34.5%      No: 65.5%

Benchmark your board’s practices against other ECFA-accredited organizations. What are you discerning from God about your CEO’s exit plan; and your aging board members?

Here are several resources:
   --New Voices at the Table: Welcoming the Next Generation of Board Leaders: A BoardSource Toolkit (PDF).

   --ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1 - Recruiting Board Members: Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment - Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement (view the introductory video)

QUESTIONS: Is “retirement” in the Bible? What is your board’s succession plan—and what is your specific plan for recruiting and inspiring the next generation of staff and board leaders?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

CEO Overassurance: “Far Rosier Than Reality”


I’ve asked dozens and dozens of seasoned CEOs and board chairs, “If you could get a do-over, what would you do differently in your early years of board leadership?”  


Here’s a collection of their thoughts—and insights from the governance literature:

A CEO told me: “I wouldn’t lie to my board!” (On the expressive side of the four social styles, this leader painted a picture far rosier than reality.)

The co-authors of Boards That Lead caution directors, “Most chief executives are constitutionally optimistic, and since by definition their role is to surmount challenges, the tenor they bring into the boardroom is likely to be relentlessly upbeat. Taking executive overassurance into account will aid directors in detecting nascent troubles ahead, but it is only one piece of a very complicated puzzle.” (Boards That Lead: When to Take Charge, When to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way, by Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem)

Another CEO, wishing she could revisit missed opportunities, responded, “I would spend more time with individual board members.”

“When asked what they would do differently, retired CEOs most often say, ‘I would give more time to developing the board,’” writes David L. McKenna in Stewards of a Sacred Trust: CEO Selection, Transition and Development for Boards of Christ-centered Organizations.

And here’s my answer to the re-do question: “I would have been more intentional in mentoring and inspiring board members with niche books. That would have created greater ownership of our vision and mission.”

“Avoid Management-by-Bestseller Syndrome that requires everyone to read this month’s trendy book. Instead, build a management library in your office and recommend specific titles to specific people for specific problems or opportunities.” (See The Book Bucket chapter in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets.)

You can create a life-long learning culture on your board by inspiring at least one board member, per meeting, to give a five to seven-minute book review on a key topic: governance, spiritual discernment, leadership, trends, risk, finance—whatever your need is.  Leaders are readers!

Carl Bard said, “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” (Wow. That’s the Good News!)

QUESTION: If you could get a do-over, what would you do differently in your early years of board leadership? What will you do in the next 90 days?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rooting Out Boardroom Dysfunction

Board leaders “can anticipate at least one major crisis during their tenures,” predict the co-authors of the excellent book, Boards That Lead: When to Take Charge, When to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way, by Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem.

Can you prepare for your next crisis? Yes. The first step is to “Root Out Dysfunction,” which is also the title of the fourth chapter. The authors explain:

 “In our experience, as many as half of Fortune 500 companies have one or two dysfunctional directors.” They identify three types:
     • “Some see themselves as the smartest person in the room.
     • Others seek recognition.
     • Others are frustrated would-be CEOs.”

They add, “Whatever their personal motives, they tend to micromanage or take boardroom discussions down dark alleys. We have seen a director interrupt the first five minutes of a CEO’s boardroom presentation and sour the mood of both board and management for the remainder of the day. The result is to impair, even negate, a board’s capacity to lead the firm. As in any group, a dysfunctional member can sabotage the entire team.”

The book cites a study of board members in Australia which summarized dysfunctional directors into these colorful categories:

  • Nonstop talkers: board members who “sought to demonstrate their exceptional knowledge”
  • Hobbyhorse jockeys: directors who are “overly focused on the one topic they knew well”
  • Hand-grenade throwers: board colleagues who “were contentious and obstructive”
  • Captives of compliance: this group “stressed rules over judgment”
  • Egocentrics: the “self-referential” types on your board
  • In over their heads: those directors who “simply did not understand their firms challenges”

Charan, Carey and Useem add, “That such excesses emerge in even the bluest of the blue-chip boardrooms is not surprising. Directors bring the same array of human foibles to the boardroom as do people to any room, though one would expect that the oddest of the oddballs would have been screened out.  What is more surprising is that so few steps are taken to limit the damage.”

So what should Christ-centered boards do when dysfunction is alive and well? First, read this chapter. It’s excellent. Next, ask your board chair to address the issue with the offender in a one-on-one conversation. According to corporate coach Marshall Goldsmith, every leader has blind spots and it’s possible your dysfunctional board member has never been graced with frank feedback.

"Love should always make us tell the truth.
Then we will grow in every way
and be more like Christ, the head."
(Eph. 4:15, CEV)

QUESTION: The authors suggest that “a boardroom norm on acceptable discussion and personal behavior can be of special value here, guiding directors on where their leadership ends and management begins.” Do you have a boardroom norm that every board member has affirmed?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Resigning from the Board: The Tipping Points

Is there a tipping point in board service when it’s time to exit the board?

How should board members spiritually discern if their engagement is inadequate (or even mediocre) and a resignation might be in order? How do you know when it’s time to free up space for new board blood and new energy?

Attorney Jon Ruybalid says there are “thought patterns and questions that can help a board member determine if the time has come to resign.” In his August/September 2014 column, “In the Name of the Law,” in InSite® magazine, published by Christian Camp and Conference Association, he gives five poke-in-the-rib statements to consider:

  • You have stopped reading the board meeting materials in advance.
  • You realize that you use board meeting discussions to challenge other directors, find errors in their thinking, criticize decisions and try to gain negative support.
  • You do not recognize names of staff members or programs that are brought up at a board meeting.
  • You wonder to yourself if board membership is worth it because you are not getting much out of it.
  • You are not able to support board decisions that are inconsistent with your preferences.

If you’re not getting much out of board service, says Ruybalid, who has represented nonprofits for almost 20 years and serves as CCCA’s legal counsel, he adds,
“Board service may have become [more] about your personal benefit rather than the benefit and service to the organization,
staff and those impacted by its ministry.”


Are you at the tipping point yet? Is there someone on your board who needs a God-honoring nudge (or wake-up call)? According to the ECFA 2012 Governance Survey, with responses from 1,600 CEOs, board chairs and board members of ECFA-accredited organizations, asking under-performing board members to exit was the “most challenging problem” of 20 effectiveness indicators.

Heed King David’s aspirations for his son in 1 Chronicles 29:19 (The Message):
“And give my son Solomon an uncluttered and focused heart so that he can obey what you command, live by your directions and counsel, and carry through with building The Temple for which I have provided.”

QUESTION: Are you fully engaged—with an uncluttered and focused heart—in your role as a board member? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don’t Be Overwhelmed!


This summer I’m featuring several “re-runs” of past blogs.  Last year on April 27, I related a story about “The Board and the Bachelor Farmer,” and I included this powerful verse from Matthew 10:42 (The Message):


Jesus said,
“This is a large work I’ve called you into,
but don’t be overwhelmed by it.
It’s best to start small.
Give a cool cup of water to someone
who is thirsty, for instance.
The smallest act of giving or receiving
makes you a true apprentice.
You won’t lose out on a thing.”


To read the encouraging story about the bachelor farmer and a board's faithfulness, click here.

QUESTION: Discuss these three words from Matthew 10:42: large, small, called.