Clarity of vision, purpose, and accountability - three traits of a board that when identified and refined can produce excellence.
Some interesting notes I took and then expounded on after hearing Carol Weismann at the DFW AFP Philanthropy Conference in Fort Worth. Quite entertaining – in fact absolutely hysterical, we all were as quiet as mice while we watched her vivaciously deliver her presentation.
1 - A board needs to have clarity of vision. Do you thoroughly understand your purpose? Why are you here? Whom do you serve? What are your expectations? You all need to know this by memory and able to tell it – write it backwards and forwards. So the staff needs to make all of this simple – maybe one page – fold it up – keep it in your wallet and read it every day til you know it by heart. Then, with this clarity you will invite respect and buy in by donors. Create buy – in and consensus on the board.
2 - Engage your board.
- Clarifying Expectations and Minimizing Stress
- Help your board members find their perfect niche by finding their passion. Once you identify your passion, you can become active and involved. The case of the blonde bombshell who went on a board that her husband put on the board. She was not exactly executive committee material, but she knew the head of SAKS – and she lined up all the events for the organization. She was the first Event Chairman and made a fortune every year with her fashion luncheon.
3 - A board should be fiscally responsible. There are the Cultivators, the Askers, and the Stewards…..
- Every board member is a living 24/7 poster board for your organization – so act accordingly
- Every board member is a fundraiser. Each board member absolutely should contribute.
– The board should be made up of both sexes, and all nationalities.
(As a foundation member, I insisted on this before I would consider proposing to our board a gift.
Carol explained, “Sometimes teachers come from the strangest places. She remembered the story of Judy who is a perfect example of helping an anxious board member find their bliss. Judy was inspirational…and different. She had been a resident at her local battered women’s shelter about 7 years ago when, as a 14 year old pregnant girl, she woke up and decided to take charge of her life. She worked hard, left and never forgot the kindness she had received there, so she volunteered to go on the board. The board was made up of a group of most conservative folks who at first had no idea what to do with her. You see, she had done well, married a very wealthy man, and was dying to do something good with the millions she had access to.
Judy was different, totally into fashion and shopping – she dressed in tight stretch pants, rhinestones, and stiletto heels. When she offered to accompany them to call on a corporation where she did business, they agreed….reluctantly, but they agreed. They were going after at least $10,000.
Sure enough, she showed up outside the appointed meeting place at the corporation at 2PM dressed in rhinestones, bright pink lycra pants and lime green stilettos. They swallowed and walked into the corporation. The executive eyed them up and down, especially Judy. The “lead ask” gave the pitch. And the executive politely said great, we would like to give you $5,000. They were disappointed, but smiled and thanked him.
At this moment Judy joined the conversation and said, “Is $5,000 a lot for your company?” To this the man sat up straight and said actually, this is a small contribution for us. But because we do have limited funds, we consider this is a most special grant, as we are already committed this year. To this Judy replied, “Sir, I was thinking that you could give us $10,000 this year”.
She got up and leaned over his desk and showed him something on a sheet of paper. Only she and he knew what it was until later. And it was something quite intriguing….a copy of an article in the local business journal that listed his salary.
She backed off from he desk and said, “This is an important gift to make to our shelter because…..thanks to this shelter, you aren’t supporting me any more. I am on my own…recovered and contributing to society.” And what do you think happened? Yes – Judy got the check before she left!
So as Carol pointed out, “Give yourselves options and you will find a way to help your board bloom. The staff does not want to make you walk the plank!”
After that meeting Judy was a hero – she brought in $10,000 on her first visit. After that the shelter asked Judy to help them organize a fashion show. She did do that and it is still going on and grossing huge dollars.
Your board should go through a self appraisal process. Once you see clearly, your board can achieve a heightened sense of purpose and elevated energy level. An excited and positive board member who is sold on his product (the mission of the organization) is captivating and contagious. Who wouldn’t want to contribute to a win-win situation?