Love/hate. I’m always torn whether I feel better when it’s a lovefest after a board retreat or when there is angst, anxiety, and they end up not liking me very much. On a personal level, the former is much much better. But on a professional level I sometimes find that the latter is much more transformational.
About 6 months ago, I did a retreat for an organization whose formerly robust government funding had gone the way all government funding seems to be going. Consequently, the Executive Director correctly surmised they needed to start looking toward individuals for support. I was brought in to talk with the board about fundraising.
I’m not sure what it is about that word, but it seems to be very scary for most—often to the point where listening is impossible. Clearly, it was that way for this board. First they all informed me that they donated their time, consequently, I was smoking something funny if I thought they would also donate their money. Secondly, as one of the people told me—through very clenched teeth—“I didn’t sign up to be a begger.”
The next four hours were a long, hard slog—but it is work that needs to be done and there were words that needed to be said. By the end, I was nobody’s favorite. Or, as one of the board members told the ED, “I don’t like her and I don’t like her message.”
Over the next several months, the ED and I stayed in touch. I would send articles, ideas, and we would talk about the things she could say to keep the message I had given alive without getting the negative feedback. Within three months, there were definitely signs of early spring.
Today, 100% of the board has made a significant gift and all have committed to making a similar size gift every year. More amazingly, I’ve been invited back to help them practice how they will talk with others and not beg, but offer them an opportunity to also support this amazing organization.
For results like this, I can handle a little hate!
Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity and energize their boards. Learn how she can help your organization at http://janetlevineconsulting.com or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org