Board Retreats – Do they need advanced planning?

Strong organizations are governed by outstanding leaders. Fueled with passion, experience, and commitment, the board members of non-profit organizations play vital roles in the direction, management and impact of these groups.

The strength of this leadership…and engagement…isn’t always immediately felt upon creating the board or recruiting the new board member. As with many great things, the strength of the board is developed over time, through active involvement, and organizational understanding. One proven method to mature leadership and, at the same time, create organizational opportunity is by conducting annual board retreats.

Board retreats are integral to each non-profit organization’s success. They present opportunities to plan for the future by blending the vast amount of leadership, experience, skills, and ideas of the board’s members. As a result, organizations run more smoothly, where board members are more connected, and the interpersonal relationships of board and staff are strong.

Retreats serve as great “starts” or re-freshers for both organizations and their leaders. The most successful retreats…those which set the stage for future success…follow four key steps.
1. Planning – defining the purpose; planning meetings; self-assessment; presentation materials
2. Engagement – clear agenda; board “buy in”; interactive and fun
3. Strategy – creating goals and action steps; measurable results
4. Follow-Through – developed through committee meetings; presented/reviewed at board meetings

A successful retreat hinges on the work of a well-focused team (board and staff), an interested and skilled facilitator, and a proactive agenda. Its success relies on the “buy in” and active involvement of its board members. This enables the board to openly challenge assumptions, address issues, foster interpersonal relationships, improve productivity, understand and clearly represent the mission/message, and develop strategies.

Have you scheduled your next board retreat? Whether it’s to address your organization’s board development, mission/vision, messaging/public relations, fund development, and/or strategic planning, now is the time to invest in your non-profit’s future.

Seven tips for fundraising success

 

Raising funds for charitable organizations can be difficult; certainly time-consuming. It’s a patient process, requiring considerable research, planning, and organization. The word “development” is a perfect fit to the process an organization goes through to generate a meaningful contribution.

When it comes to raising funds for your organizations, here’s a handful of tips to consider adding to your overall fund development strategy. They have represented the centerpiece of our success. They’re not listed in any specific order, but you’ll quickly recognize where and how they fit in your strategy.
   
Identify strengths and weaknesses

Understand the organization – from operations to personnel to policies to financial management. Recognize the causes and implement solutions to each. Be sure to dot every “I” and cross every “t”.

Offer innovative giving

The one constant between most non-profit organizations is the ability to accept cash contributions. Every donor knows this. However, savvy donors (charitable investors) seek greater information, transparency, accountability, and results from their contributions. A strong percentage of them seek unique and innovative giving methods.

Create solicitation strategies

Know your constituents. An engaged leader is a gem and, as nonprofit leaders, it’s our obligation to strive for their full potential. One great way to really get to know supporters is to design solicitation (or engagement) strategies for each. Start by creating a Prospect/Donor Profile for each, used to document their interest, involvement, willingness, and capability. Mapping a solicitation strategy will force you to be strategic about cultivating each constituent’s involvement. This one act involves and is influenced by the other six tips offered here.

Engage constituents

From prospect identification to board leadership to donor stewardship, your benefactors are your organization’s greatest vehicles of success. Engage them through key steps of the fund development process. You’ll be amazed at their ideas, insight, and perseverance.

Generate active awareness

Tell your story to the world. Shout it regularly through local media and through your social media avenues. Be sure you focus on strengths and opportunities and that any weaknesses are addressed. Distribute clear messages and keep your messaging timely. Encourage staff, volunteers, and donors to share the messages through personal, personable, and electronic means.

Network

It’s a seven-letter word that, for many non-profit leaders, is more like a four-letter word – work. There’s no better way to prospect new supporters, whether they’re future volunteer or donor leaders. It involves stepping out of your routine, forces you to fine-tune your 30-second elevator speech, and smile even if you’re having a difficult day. Ask any business leader, networking produces results. Get out there and make friends and share your organization’s story, needs, and opportunities.

Steward donors

Perhaps the most detrimental cause of recent organizational failure might not have been solely the economic crash. Is your organization at fault for not properly recognizing donations and, more importantly, developing strong relationships with its donors? Stewarding donors strengthens the lifeblood of non-profit organizations. Pick up the phone, send an email, direct a tweet, say hello in the store, high-five at a ballgame, and send a card. These are the little ways that magnify the “engage constituents” tip into truly rewarding alliances. Make each donor feel as if he/she is in the middle of the game.

 

Perhaps one that should be listed is “have fun”…development and non-profit leadership should be exciting, rewarding, meaningful, challenging, and fun. Make the most of it!

 

Survey instrument a primer for ideal board strategic planning

Assessment solution

Conducting annual board evaluations is an ideal solution to strengthening charitable boards and their organizations. For some organizations, they can be difficult to plan, cumbersome to coordinate, and last minute activities. To ease the burden and, more importantly, deliver a clear understanding of board leadership, we’ve designed a board analysis survey tool entitled BoardCheck.

BoardCheck targets a non-profit organization’s growth through the voices of its board leaders. The instrument takes a snapshot of the organization’s makeup and activity by identifying its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. The data then forms the foundation of strategic planning initiatives.

BoardCheck is designed to serve as a tool for non-profit growth through the voices of board leaders. Best utilized prior to board retreats and strategic planning processes, BoardCheck is an instrument which takes a snapshot of a non-profit’s current organizational makeup and activity, analyzes it, and identifies strengths and weaknesses…all stemming from their own board members. All analytical information is derived from a 30+ question survey completed by board members.

workshop-boardcheck-screen

The survey captures information in the following areas.

  • Mission and vision
  • Board development
  • Marketing, messaging, and community interaction
  • Board culture
  • Leadership and involvement
  • Organizational health
  • Board activity
  • Personal involvement
  • Expertise and skills

 

Particularly advantageous to an upcoming board retreat, strategic planning process, or annual review, the BoardCheck survey features questions to identify key topics, board/organization priorities, recommendations and vision…in written-form from each board member.

BoardCheck is an ideal tool for boards of non-profit organizations of all sizes.

The value of BoardCheck is found in the third-party nature of the assessment. The tool allows board members to rate, rank, and share personal comments about the organization at their convenience and in the comfortable setting of their own home or office. The analysis provided through the survey and, any review/recommendation shared by NPcatalyst is conducted in an unbiased fashion.

Designed as solution for 501c3 organizations, BoardCheck is easily applicable membership, school PTA, and fraternal organizations. All data is held in strict confidence and is property of the participating organization. The information is not released, traded, or sold.

Click here to learn more about the BoardCheck board assessment tool.