Making the Ask: Tips for Success - Part One

I was honored to speak along with Michelle Keegan, Chief Development Officer, CSIS, at the 9th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference about Making the Ask: Tips for Success. The impressive display of nonprofit talent at Gaylord National Hotel reminded me of how much I enjoy collaborating with nonprofit leaders.

If you were unable to attend the Bridge Conference, over the next couple of weeks I’ll post some of our most important advice from the interactive presentation Michelle and I gave at the conference. If you would like more detailed information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at mary@capacitypartners.com or Michelle at mkeegan@csis.org.

Think back to a time when you were told “no” by a prospect. Was it perhaps because you asked the wrong person for the wrong amount? Maybe the wrong person had the conversation with your donor? It is critical that the right person ask at the right time in the right place for the right amount.

Remember:

  • The right person is the one your prospect cannot say no to. Is that you? A board member? A volunteer? A special event committee member?
  • The right time is one that makes sense for your donor’s financial situation and readiness to hear what you say. The right time isn’t based on when your organization needs the money; it’s based on when your donor is ready to give the money.
  • The right place is where your prospect will be most comfortable having this conversation. This may not be what’s most convenient for you, but it’s essential that your meeting place is one where your donor can relax and feel at ease.
  • The right amount is one that is at the top of your prospect’s potential yet balanced by their passion and commitment toward your mission, relationship with your leaders, and involvement with your organization. It’s as critical not to under-ask as it is to over-ask. For one prospect, $10,000 is too much while $10,000 is far too little for another. Know your prospect’s level of commitment and involvement with your organization as well as his/her financial situation to reach the ideal amount of your ask.

Keep an eye out for Part Two in which I’ll discuss how to find your prospect’s sweet spot


5 More Tips for Running Efficient Board Meetings

The best board meetings engage board members, allowing for robust discussion and decisive action.

In a recent blog post, I shared five tips for improving your board meetings. Here are five more ways to make meetings efficient and effective.

1. Write an anticipated action for each agenda item.

This helps board members know what is expected for each agenda item so they can be better engaged and prepared. For example, “Investment Committee Report – Q & A, no action needed” or “Governance Committee Report – approve new committee charters.”

2. Include at least one of the most important issues facing the organization on the agenda.

What major issues is your organization facing? (e.g., economic downturn, funding, demographic changes, competitors?) Be sure to structure your agenda to include time to discuss one of these issues at each meeting.

3. Develop a culture of respectful dissent and authentic disagreements.

Find opportunities to promote this culture at each meeting by recognizing those board members who provide a different view. For example: “Roger, I appreciate that you disagreed with my opinion in the last discussion. Your perspective made the discussion much more valuable.”

4. Begin on time and finish on time.

Board members are busy people and you want to respect everyone’s time. Set the standard that the meetings start on time. If you are running late with the agenda, you can ask if everyone is able to stay an extra 15 minutes. If everyone agrees then extend; if not, move the most critical agenda items up on the agenda to be sure they are covered.

5. Encourage everyone to contribute at each meeting.

This is the responsibility of the board chair, but all board members can help. If someone is being quiet, you might ask a question, such as “Melissa, we haven’t heard form you on this issue, do you have anything to add to the discussion?” or “Steve, you made some great points at our last meeting about the strategic plan. Is there anything we are overlooking from a strategic standpoint in this discussion?

I know that these five tips – along with the first five – will help you improve your board meetings.

Do you have other tips for running efficient, effective board meetings? Share your thoughts in the comments!