I like John Fulwider. His energy, optimism, and experience make a powerful force for helping nonprofits. I suppose this is in part because of his expertise with Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. He knows every organization and every leader has strengths and he’s skilled at building on them. His new book Better Together: How Top Nonprofit CEOs and Board Chairs Get Happy, Fall in Love, and Change Their World is a great example of that! In this post, I’ve asked him to share some ideas from his research for the book. You can find out more about John at his site www.JohnFulwider.com and you can reach him on Twitter @johnmfulwider.

4 Fundraising Questions for Your Board Chair

John Fulwider

John’s at his wit’s end with his board. He can’t get them engaged in fundraising strategy or tactics. Every board meeting he reports the revenue numbers and the latest sexy fundraising ideas he’s come across. Why won’t they get engaged? Why won’t they think strategically?

Jami’s overflowing with gratitude for her board. She pinches herself at least once per meeting as board members dive deep into strategic thinking about funding her organization’s future. She hears enthusiastic “Yes, and” statements so much she’s forgotten the bad old “No, because” days. Her board members generate good ideas and gladly take personal action.

Jami engaged her board chair first as her leadership partner. She carefully planned meaty strategic fundraising questions guaranteed to intrigue, not bore, her smart and accomplished chair so the chair could in turn engage the board.

John tried to engage his entire board at once. He should have started with his chair and let the strategic engagement goodness flow down from that leadership partnership, and then circulate down and back up through the board like a gooey chocolate fountain.

Don’t be like John. He doesn’t even like chocolate. (Weird.) Be like Jami, and start a strategic conversation with your board chair using these four provocative questions:

1. Asking Styles

What are our fundraising asking styles? How can we complement each other? What are the asking styles of other board and staff members?

These questions are so handy because you learn something new about yourself and your leadership partner, and you gain a common language for discussing your similarities and differences.

First take the free Asking Matters assessment at askingmatters.com. In three minutes you’ll find how your personal interaction style and thinking style combine into your fundraising asking style.

I’m extroverted and intuitive, so I’m a Go-Getter. Those who are extroverted and analytical are Rainmakers. Introverted and intuitive people are Kindred Spirits, while introverted and analytic people are Mission Controllers.

2. Superstar Board Member: Worth It?

Is Superstar X worth having on our board? Are we her/his top giving priority?

Sometimes nonprofit organizations recruit big-name, wealthy donors for the connections and cash they presumably can bring to the organization. But every other organization in town recruits Superstar X as well, and Superstar X says yes to many of them.

That’s a problem if your organization isn’t Superstar X’s top giving priority. You’ll get Superstar’s board giving minimum, but you could be getting more from someone who loves you more than Superstar. Someone who makes your organization her/his top giving priority, so you get a $10,000 gift instead of the $1,000 board minimum.

3. Four Fundraising Success Conditions

How should we focus this year on one of the four fundraising success conditions?

According to CompassPoint’s report Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, these four conditions predict a nonprofit’s fundraising success:

  • The nonprofit invests in its fundraising capacity and in the technologies and other fund development systems it needs;
  • The staff, the executive director, and the board are deeply engaged in fundraising as ambassadors and in many cases as solicitors;
  • Fund development and philanthropy are understood and valued across the organization; and
  • The development director is viewed as a key leader and partner in the organization and is integrally involved in organizational planning and strategy.

4. What’s Your Best Question?

What other questions should you ask your board chair to draw upon her/his unique talents and interests so she/he feels fulfilled and successful leading the board?

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress,” Indira Gandhi said.

What’s your best question for your leadership partner? Tell me, and your peers, in the comments section or on Twitter. Be sure to tag @johnmfulwider and @marcapitman!

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