Here’s a call to action for all board chairs!

You have a big job. Especially these days.  Many organizations are facing major decisions – about funding, staffing, service delivery – and everything else.

As we said two weeks ago, a small vision and a small goal won’t cut it in this environment.  If your board needs a wakeup call, here’s a format that will work!

Board Chairs: It’s Time to Rally the Troops.

If you need to motivate your board members and challenge them to take action, try following these guidelines. Here’s how to marshal your forces, encourage everyone to pull together, and inspire action.

1. Take the First Step Yourself

Be the first to step up to the plate. Board chairs need to personally take the first action that you are asking of your board members. Ask them to follow you.

Remind your board members that it’s really up to them. They also have a responsibility to lead by example.

2. Professional and Business-Like Tone

If you are writing to your board members, watch your tone when you ask them to take action. It’s easy to sound like you are lecturing or complaining.

Make a request that is professional and business-like –  no pleading or manipulating. Just make a request plainly and succinctly. Above all, treat your board members as the capable professionals they all are.

3. Call Them to a Higher Purpose

Rally your board members with inspirational thoughts. What’s the ultimate vision that everyone is trying to achieve?

Always remind them of their higher purpose and what they want to accomplish – in the biggest sense possible.

4. Clear Set of Actions to Take

Lay the problem out clearly. Then, point out possible solutions or steps the board can take to move forward.

By all means, give everyone clear actions they can take – and a choice of actions.

5. Ask Board Members to Personally Respond Back to You

When you write your board members, here’s a way to get their attention. Ask them to respond back to you directly – not to respond to someone else.

When you do that, you let them know that this is a direct and personal request from you, the board chair. And you can keep tabs on who is doing what.

6. A Deadline!

Absolutely, everyone performs better with a deadline. Why? Because it provides a clear time frame, and accountability to take action.

Board Chairs Can Make It Happen:

Once, our local AFP chapter needed an intervention. We were facing a major event – our National Philanthropy Day celebration, and everyone needed to jump into action.

Fortunately our chair was a skilled leader. She wrote us a Call to Action email, asking us all to step it up. With only a part-time staff person, we had to rely on our board volunteers to make it happen.  So, if we didn’t pull through, we wouldn’t even have an event.

Take a look at this professional and very specific note to her board members:

Good morning,

Our event committees have been working diligently to make this occasion a great success. I’m proud of their efforts and the incredible creativity they have brought to the event planning.

However, the ultimate success of our event will depend on the community’s response and we, as board members, must lead by example.

This week, I am asking each of you to consider how you personally (and your organization) can participate. Please consider these 3 opportunities to help your donors, volunteers, your cause, and AFP shine:

* Commit to a table of 10 at the non-profit, special rate of $400 to honor an outstanding volunteer.

*Nominate one, two or more donors and volunteers for an award.  It’s so easy and you can do it online.  My organization is nominating in two categories this year.

* Help secure a sponsor at the $500 or $1000 levels.  We have turn-key packets for you to personalize for your prospect.

I would like to ask each person to either reply to all or send me an e-mail indicating to what extent you are able to commit to one, two or all three of the above.  It will boost our “ask” to others to step up. It will also help us get an early snap shot of what our board participation will be.

I appreciate all that you do to make our chapter excellent and look forward to hearing back from you by the end of the week.

Warm regards, 

Bottom Line: Board Chairs – Try this Approach When You Need to Rally Everyone.

These difficult times need us all to pull together and make it happen.  If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If you are planning a capital campaign and would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, let us know. 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Okay, forewarning – this is a bit of a rant. Prepare yourself for some tough love, some hard truths, and some tangible takeaways to keep your organization on the right track during this pandemic! Trust me, a small vision won’t cut it.

Nonprofits are living in a difficult environment. That is a fact. How many various challenges have been thrown our way this year? The pandemic, societal injustice, a divisive election – and serious economic challenges for many nonprofits. 

The only way to flourish is to tackle challenges head on. You and your board have to choose to focus on the hard stuff. The difficult decisions. The scary risks. 

There are too many organizations simply hunkering down and muddling along, trying to make it through in survival mode. Will they make it? We doubt it. 

Instead, we want to see you take a strong stand for a new, expanded vision. If you want to flourish in the world to come, you need an even bigger goal – both financially and programmatically. Are you inventing new ways of serving your people? Are you inspiring your donors with an exciting vision of the future?

If your nonprofit wants to make it in the world to come – here are our do’s and don’ts for maxing the benefits of this challenging time:

1. Do expand. Don’t contract

Believe in yourselves and in your organization! This is not the time to doubt yourself, your mission, or your colleagues. Don’t stick to a small vision. Nonprofit professionals are a special breed. They fight when the going gets tough and their passion fuels their energy. 

Think outside the box, challenge yourselves, try the impossible. This is the time to expand together, not contract alone.

2. Do encourage your board to prioritize. Don’t get sidetracked by non-critical topics.

We see this every day, the larger issues looming are so frightening and confusing that board members are more comfortable talking about sideline issues. The organization’s future may be at stake, and the board is off discussing zoom meeting formats. 

Time with the board together is precious and fleeting, use it! There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s your organization’s financial future. 

3. Do reinvent. Don’t retreat. 

Do you need to revamp your business model to shift away from some types of earned revenue?  It’s a time to think big and be bold. 

Where’s your opportunity and creativity? Your board can’t get away with the same old ideas and view of the world. Wake them up with a bold challenge.  

Now is the time to create a big new vision for the future. Nothing is going back to “normal,” so do not stay tied to previous years’ plans. 

4. Do invest in fundraising. Don’t cut your revenue streams.

If you cut fundraising here is what will happen: 

    1. You will lose contact with your staunchest donor supporters 
    2. The donor newsletter that you cancelled to save money no longer keeps donors informed and feeling connected 
    3. Your thank you letters are going out late and your donors feel you no longer appreciate them 
    4. Your donors will desert you because they aren’t hearing from you 

This is brutal, but true. Remember, if you have more money, you can do more good. More money takes investing in fundraising revenue streams.

5. Do tap your reserve funds if absolutely necessary. Don’t jeopardize your organization’s future in the name of fiscal responsibility. 

“But the reserve fund is for an emergency.” This IS an emergency!

This may be the rainy day you saved for, and if you cut back too severely there might not be anything left of your staff, donors, or services to save for. 

Invest if you need to invest. Retool if you need to retool. The priority right now is to stay afloat and continue fundraising to do your work. Remember major donors are stepping up to the plate these days. 

BOTTOM LINE: There’s too much at stake right now. It’s time to step up to the plate. PRIORITIZE, COMMUNICATE, and ACT BOLDLY.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

Planning a capital campaign? If you would like to learn about our innovative Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach – that brings in campaigns over goal and under the timeline, let us know. 

If you’re a board member serving an institution or organization, you are probably dealing with many challenging decisions in this time of crisis.

This is a difficult time for everyone and board decision-making is not easy. Your organization may be facing serious financial issues.  Or, the pandemic may require shutting down parts of your work. Even more, your hardworking staff may need to reinvent your programming and services. 

With everything now upended, many boards face decisions that involve major restructuring of programs and initiatives.  In these times, boards are creating new strategies and policies that can have major long term impact. 

How is your board approaching decision-making in times of crisis?

We’re currently seeing some boards step up to the plate and make bold strategic moves. Because of wise decisions now, they are setting their institutions up for a successful post-pandemic future. 

Other boards are taking a slash and burn approach – cutting staff, programming and revenue streams in an effort to save the organization. Other, less bold boards are simply withdrawing from their roles, leaving their organizations adrift.

Here are three ways that brave, committed board members can approach the current crisis:

1. Step up to the plate and deal with the difficult decisions.

Board members, your time is now! Of all times, this is the time to pay deep attention. When there is a crisis, it’s urgent that the board step up and face the issues frankly.

Renew your personal commitment to your organization to support its mission, no matter what effort it takes. Educate yourself thoroughly on what’s happening.  Explore options. Look at the deeper issues thoughtfully. 

This is absolutely not a time to step aside. Bring the best of yourself to your work and your role. Thoughtful decisions take time. So, put in the time you need to ponder the implications of these difficult decisions.  

2. Commit yourself to the long-range overall health of your organization. 

Make sure that you keep the bigger picture in mind. Once the current crisis passes, then how will your organization fare? Will your nonprofit be in a position to move forward vigorously? 

Or will it be crippled with a lack of trained staff or decreased fundraising revenue? If board decision-making considers only the short term and not your long term positioning, then your organization may not make it on the other side.

3. Consider your organization’s long-term financial health.

Above all, don’t cut your fundraising program. And, don’t layoff your fundraising team. Remember the revenue relationship:  your fundraisers are responsible for a significant part of your revenue stream. 

If you cut back fundraising right now, you are cutting off major sources of current cash flow. 

And think outside the box, the pandemic has really provided some unique opportunities for fundraising!

Cutting fundraising programs right now will irrevocably hamper long-term cash flow. This is because you will lose vitally important donor relationships that you have already invested so much in. 

When your donors are no longer hearing from you or their regular fundraising staffer, they will gradually drift away to other organizations, ones who are fundraising. 

What will be the result?  Your organization will be poorly positioned to grow and flourish when times move forward.  You may have even more severe financial challenges, because your revenue streams have been irrevocably damaged.

It may be wise to consider pulling reserves out of your endowment to cover short-term cash flow issues, rather than cutting so severely that your organization is crippled when the pandemic is over. 

Bottom Line: The key decisions you make now will have long-term impact.

Adapting to this changing environment is not easy. But there are many resources out there, such as blog posts and trainings, that will help your board, and your organization, understand how to quickly pivot fundraising strategies in order to keep operating. Use these resources, and dig deep. Now is the time to move forward boldly and make key decisions.

Make these decisions carefully, considering all options – and keep the endgame in mind. 


As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you.  We hope you will continue to capitalize on our years of experience by joining us Wednesdays at noon ET on Facebook Live and following us on social media. 

Planning a capital campaign? If you would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, let us know. You can also join our INSIDERS community for more fundraising training and content. We would love to have you! 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

What would you MOST love your board members to do?

Many nonprofit ED’s tell me that  – of all possible things – they wish their board members would simply open doors. That’s all.

Just open doors.

But what happens when you ask board members to make introductions and open the door to prospects?

They shy away from it. They just don’t like it.

Lots of times they say they will help and then what happens?  Nothing!

They chicken out at the last minute!

SOOOO how do you get your wonderful board members to help in this ALL-IMPORTANT area?

You have to help them learn how to open the door happily and successfully.

My workshops in November are all about this topic: “Fire Up Your Board for Fundraising: How To Turn Their Passion into Action!”

Bring your board members and find out more here!

Here are my 4 steps to help your board members learn how to open the door.

These 4 steps WORK!

Board members tell me that this approach is easy and very doable.

Even enjoyable!

So give them a try with your own board and let me know how they like it too!

What we are doing is teaching them how to use their elevator speech to start a conversation with the prospect about the cause, and then create a followup next step.

Presto the door is open!

1. Develop their elevator speech/personal message.

Board members all need a personal message that is inviting and inspiring.

They need practice with an elevator speech – but it can’t be learned or memorized.

It has to be their OWN PERSONAL STORY of why they care.Gail Perry 2 and the Central Ohio Symphony

Here’s a powerful morale-boosting exercise/game you can play with your board members to help them create and rehearse their personal story.

It is one of the most powerful activities you can ever do with your board.

It inspires them with their own personal passion for the cause and WHY THE CAUSE IS SO IMPORTANT.

2. Create contagious energy by removing the fear of soliciting.

Your board members have to be happy, fired up and passionate.  You have to get their mind-set right before they can make anything happen in the world.

If they are like that, then they’ll be engaging.  To anyone!

If they are embarrassed about what they are up to, then they put people off.

Energy is, in fact, contagious. (as we all know!)victoria symphony copy

Great energy is catching – and awful energy is catching too.

Be sure your board members are excited, and totally standing in their passion for the cause.

If you take the emphasis AWAY from soliciting, then they will relax and be amazing.

3. Create a conversation.

Once your board members learn how to share the wonderful story of your organization’s work with their friends, they need to learn how to create a conversation.

They need to learn how to “shut up” and let the other person react and comment.

I teach board members to ask my favorite fundraising question: 

“What are your impressions? . . . ”

They need to learn listening skills and how to develop their prospect’s interest by staying quiet and asking questions.

This is NOT intuitive, but board members welcome the training!

4. Invitation to followup for a next step.

Say your wonderful board member has inspired a friend with her passionate story about what you are up to.

She has contagious energy and an enthusiastic attitude.IMG_2568

All this is wasted unless she can say,

  • “Can you come down for a tour?”
  • Or “I”m having a small group over to my house next week to meet the new director, can you come?”
  • Or “Can I take you out for coffee and get your own ideas on how we tackle this huge community problem?”

That’s how you follow up. You have to show your board members how to conclude their elevator speech with an invitation.

Somehow, someway, they need to get the door open for a second conversation.

Then you’ll be on your way.

And if you want encouraging help with your board, register for my workshops this month that will share my secret, motivational tools that create happy board members willing and ready to get those doors open!

Find out more about the Board Member Workshops here.

What is your own biggest problem helping board members understand how to open the door?

Leave a comment and tell me!

Wouldn’t you love to enlist the right team of people who can catapult your organization to a whole new level?

The Holy Grail: Dream Team Board Member

Yes, that’s the Holy Grail for lots of nonprofits. Getting the boards we need and deserve. Getting the leadership, the skill sets, and the connections.

Then, we just might be able to change the world.

How do you do it?

Creating a great board may seem like an impossible dream. But it’s not.

If you decide that you want to have a high performing board, one that has talented, effective and passionate members who work smoothly together, guess what:  it is entirely possible.

We all know it is not an easy job.

Who is on the board matters of course, as well as how all the members work together.  Lots of the time, it all starts with recruitment: How they are recruited can set up high expectations or lead to failure.

How we enlist our boards has everything to do with their ultimate success, not only in fundraising but in the leadership they offer our organization as well.

Your approach makes all the difference!

The approach you use to enlist new board members can set up your board to be a dynamic team that tackles its charge with energy, responsibility, and heart—or not.

A high-quality, formal, organized enlistment and orientation process will set you apart from other organizations and will ready you and your organization to win.

I’ve created a free workbook: Enlist Your Dream Team Board! to guide you through a step-by-step process to determine what kind of board members you need and give you the right kind of process for recruiting them. If you click on the link, you can download the pdf of the workbook.

I’m giving you charts and checklists for identifying the attributes you want in new board members you seek so they’ll compliment your current board.

Most importantly, I’m showing you how to set expectations properly with a sample Board Member Job Description and Board Member Information Form. And how to discuss these expectations with your board member candidates.

Here’s the link again for the workbook: Enlist Your Dream Team Board!

Use this tool to help your Nominating Committee get organized, productive, and help them enlist the best possible leaders to join your board team.

Let me know what you think – I’d love to hear your comments!

Download the workbook

10 basic responsibilities of nonprofit board members responsibilities | Gail Perry GroupThere’s so much confusion about the appropriate job of a nonprofit board member.

Lots of boards ask me to help them understand what their work really is.  I often refer to a list that BoardSource created a few years ago that has become a reference in our sector.

Here’s the list.  I’ll be discussing these responsibilities in my upcoming blog posts. There’s lots to talk about here! What do they really mean? How do you implement them?

10 Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards Members From BoardSource

  1. Determine the organization’s mission and purpose. It is the board’s responsibility to create and review a statement of mission and purpose that articulates the organization’s goals, means, and primary constituents served.
  2. Select the chief executive. Boards must reach consensus on the chief executive’s responsibilities and undertake a careful search to find the most qualified individual for the position.
  3. Provide proper financial oversight. The board must assist in developing the annual budget and ensuring that proper financial controls are in place.
  4. Ensure adequate resources. One of the board’s foremost responsibilities is to provide adequate resources for the organization to fulfill its mission.
  5. Ensure legal and ethical integrity and maintain accountability. The board is ultimately responsible for ensuring adherence to legal standards and ethical norms.
  6. Ensure effective organizational planning. Boards must actively participate in an overall planning process and assist in implementing and monitoring the plan’s goals.
  7. Recruit and orient new board members and assess board performance. All boards have a responsibility to articulate prerequisites for candidates, orient new members, and periodically and comprehensively evaluate its own performance.
  8. Enhance the organization’s public standing. The board should clearly articulate the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and goals to the public and garner support from the community.
  9. Determine, monitor, and strengthen the organization’s programs and services. The board’s responsibility is to determine which programs are consistent with the organization’s mission and to monitor their effectiveness.
  10. Support the chief executive and assess his or her performance. The board should ensure that the chief executive has the moral and professional support he or she needs to further the goals of the organization.

Used with permission from Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, Second Edition by Richard T. Ingram, a publication of BoardSource. For more information about BoardSource, call 800-883-6262 or visit BoardSource © 2008. Content may not be reproduced or used for any purpose other than that which is specifically requested without written permission from BoardSource.