Ask and Train Your Board to be Powerful Messengers (Hands-On)

web3Andy Robinson provides training and consulting for nonprofits in fundraising, board development, marketing, earned income, planning, leadership development, and facilitation.  Along with training people to raise money,

Andrea Kihlstedt writes, speaks and coaches about campaign campaign fundraising.

Do you dream of a board composed of wealthy people with wealthy friends, people who are fearless about asking those friends for big gifts?

Unless you’re very lucky (and these types of boards come with their own challenges), that’s not your board. So, looking beyond that fantasy, what’s your Plan B?

How about a board filled with committed people who give as much as they can, and who tell your story in a deeply personal and compelling way?

We believe that all board members, regardless of social class, can participate in fundraising – and serve as powerful ambassadors. As ambassadors, they can (if asked, trained and supported) proudly represent your organization within their social and professional circles, finding potential allies and donors.

Then, when your board members tell the shared story of your mission—complemented by their personal stories of how they connect with your work—they become powerful advocates for your cause.

How to Help Your Board Members Find Their Own Stories

Our new guide, Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money, features proven storytelling exercises designed specifically for board members.

One of our favorite exercises, “Why Do You Care?,” was contributed by our colleague Gail Perry. It takes about 15 minutes, so is easy to incorporate in one of your regular board meetings. Here’s how to organize it:

1. Hand out paper and pens to your board members and ask the following questions:

  • What do you say when someone asks why you serve on our board?
  • What moves you about our organization and its work? How do you talk about that?

Tell them they will soon share their responses with four other board members, then give them a few minutes to make notes.

2. Then describe the next step as follows. “When I say begin, please stand up and find a partner. If you don’t know the person well, introduce yourself. Then take about 30 seconds each to tell your stories. When I ring the bell, move on to another person. We will do this four times.”

After four rounds, ask everyone to be seated.

3. Debrief the exercise using some combination of the following questions:

  • What was the experience like?
  • What did you hear from your colleagues?
  • What new ideas for talking about us and your work with us did you learn from others?
  • Did your language change with each new partner? If so, how?
  • Were you surprised by anything you said? Or anything you heard?

This exercise offers a powerful alternative to the canned elevator pitch, which many trustees request but is often ineffective. Which do you think is more powerful: a board member reciting five bullet points from memory, or a passionate trustee telling her own story?

Your board may never be the money board of your dreams. But each of your trustees can be a great ambassador. All you have to do is to help them get comfortable and effective at telling their stories. This exercise is a great place to start.

How do you help your board become strong messengers? If you’ve had trouble with this, what’s getting in the way? Please share your tips and frustrations here.

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Nancy Schwartz on August 20, 2014 in All-Org Marketing Team | 1 comment
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