No, no. This is not about me. It is most definitely about you.
One of the things I hear a lot from development directors is, “They don’t understand what I do.” They, of course, are the board, the boss, the program staff. Heck, most likely they include your spouse. No one seems to get what development directors do. And here’s a news flash: You have no one to blame but yourselves.
When was the last time you explained to anyone why you were always complaining about being too busy to get whatever it was done? When did you show them—without the complaining—all that you do? And show it in a way that made them think: Wow! She or he adds value.
Yes, value. That, after all, is what development really is about.
Years ago, I worked with a very large board who meet very infrequently—four times a year for a breakfast meeting that, honestly, was more social than anything else. When, at an early (in my tenure) Board meeting, I talked about the Board’s fundraising responsibilities, I got lots of evil eye looks.
“That’s your job,” they told me with the tone of people who really didn’t believe I was actually doing anything at all.
Rather than argue with them, I decided it would be in my best interest to make sure they knew exactly what I did. So I started sending them bi-monthly emails, which I called “Board Briefs.” In it, I told them about the meetings I had with prospects—and asked if anyone knew anyone at the company I had visited, the foundation I was approaching or the individual I was speaking with. Did they have suggestions about others I could meet with? And hey—I’m going to give you each a call before the next Board Brief and pick your brain. Then, the first time someone actually made a suggestion, I thanked them loudly in the next Brief and chatted up how much it had helped.
I also used the Board Briefs to tell my Board about things that were going on in my organization and started suggesting how they might use some of these to bring their friends closer to us. Pretty soon I had more things to report out on—the lecture that my Board President’s colleague attended; the tour we arranged for 10 of one of our members’ friends, the gift that came as a result of a concert heard by a music-lover friend of another Board member.
I also used Board Briefs to tell my Board about the gifts that came in—and the fact that yours truly was entering them on the database and making sure that acknowledgment letters went out. And while I had long been asking my executive committee to write thank you notes to our donors, I suggested that to the rest of my Board that they make sure they thank the donors they knew. Not all did, but enough followed through that it made a difference in how these donors related to us.
Board Briefs also reminded members of upcoming meetings. And I knew it was working when a Board member complained about not hearing about something and several other Board members responded: “You would know if you read your Board Briefs.”
Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to build their resource development capacity and be more productive. To learn more, go to http://janetlevineconsulting.com.