In helping a healthcare foundation evaluate the degree of readiness their board of trustees currently exhibits for the coming campaign, I expressed some thoughts that may have application elsewhere.
Right outta the shoot I got asked who we are and what we believe. My response: we help organizations and leaders adapt and change. We believe that philanthropy is a lever for change and an expression of collective will and impact.
My turn to ask the group some questions before we dug in deeper. First, other than the millions of dollars sought, what do you want more of for the foundation? Second, what will that (answer to question 1) produce with and for the community? Third, what’s in the way of you fully achieving those ideals (their answer to #2)? That got our conversation about readiness started!
I believe that boards can be the growth engines of foundations during times of change and transformation. Campaigns are “moments in time” where organizations invite the community of stakeholders to share and shape a vision of great possibilities. The campaign is a sustained alignment of the organization’s intention and its attention. Fundraising is a disciplined process of invitation with resolve. The champions of that invitation process are board members. Each board prepare for campaigns rich with history and past achievement AND with potentially disabling blind spots and vulnerabilities.
The question becomes: do you have the courage to address these issues—not in a “fix it” manner, but born of an authentic desire to prepare a board for its highest and best purpose? If we want more major gifts focus, participation, and productivity from our boards, we have to see their work in full context—not just in “collection” mode. The Advisory Board Company’s research (2007) points to 14 best practices*, all of which are grounded in common sense but too often ignored during “the chase.” We reap what we sow with our boards. If we sense that “they’re” not ready for campaign it foolishly suggests a we/they environment that becomes insidious and it’s still up to professional staff to have the hard conversations and provide the support and direction in order to get high-value results.
*If you’re interested in having your board members do some self-assessment against the Advisory Board’s best practices, contact me and I can provide you a set of survey questions adapted from their research findings. Could be a good way to get a new conversation started with your board.