A Weirdly Useful Column. Various tidbits.

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Just a warning…this is a weird column. No overall theme. Just a collection of tidbits and miscellaneous thoughts that I wanted to share with you.

Here goes:

Donor profiles in your database

I focused on building donor loyalty while presenting in Canada in March. Audience members and I talked about learning about donors and collecting what we know about them.

Then we began talking about donor profiles. You know that your donor can ask to see her profile, so you’d best be careful what you include. Honesty and integrity and the right information, but also comfortable for the donor to see.

Donor profiles need to include the donor’s interests and aspirations, motivations and dreams. How about including the key emotional triggers that work with that donor? Consider things like anger, fear, greed, guilt, flattery, exclusivity, and salvation—the seven top emotional triggers from direct marketing.

Then one fundraiser in the audience had a brilliant idea: Let’s invite the donor to write her own profile to include in the database. I know what I’d write about myself…what I want the organization to always remember.

Isn’t that a great idea?! Sure, of course, you’ll collect your own information. But words from the donor? Insights about myself to share with you? How great that could be. How very useful.

An organization’s responsibilities to the board and its members

Certainly you’ve heard me rant and rave about board member performance expectations. What the organization should expect of each board member. What the organization has a right to demand—and enforce. Just read the performance expectations in the Free Download Library on my website. And read my various NPQ columns and my blogs in Simone Uncensored.

But let’s turn this around. What expectations do you and I have of the organization when we serve as board members? What can we rightfully expect—even demand—that the organization provide to us?

Consider these ideas. And begin with this phrase: As I board member, I have the right to expect the following from the organization that I serve…and I expect the staff and Governance Committee to ensure that I receive the following:

  1. To be effectively enabled so that I am able to do my work and fulfill my obligations. I expect staff to be good enablers! Read my enabling column at NPQ. Check out the enabling handout in the Free Download Library on my website. And read the detailed explanation in my book, Strategic Fund Development, 3rd edition. Don’t complain about me if you don’t enable me well!
  2. To receive critical and useful information in a timely fashion. I expect staff to ensure that I receive information for board and committee meetings at least one week in advance, so I have time to prepare for the meeting. I expect this information to be translated into trends and implications.
  3. To participate in an orientation when I first join the board. I expect this orientation to include background information about the organization and the board. I expect the orientation to provide opportunities for conversation and questions.
  4. To participate in strategic conversation at committee and board meetings. I expect staff to help board members engage in meaningful conversation and learn together.
  5. To experience the heart and soul of our mission. I expect staff to share stories and reveal insights that help me experience our mission and impact.
  6. To experience good governance. I expect staff to be governance experts, distinguishing between the role of the board (the group) and the individual board members (my colleagues and me). I expect staff to ensure that the board fulfills its obligations as defined in the board job description, posted in the Free Download Library on my website.
  7. To evaluate effectiveness. As a board member, I expect to participate in the performance evaluation of the CEO/Executive Director. I also expect to participate in the evaluation of board performance and my own individual performance.

Yes, I expect a lot as a board member. What do you expect? And do you receive what you expect?

Your mission statement

Your organization’s mission statement documents your purpose. The mission statement typically answers questions like these:

  • What is your organization’s intended impact?
  • How does your organization carry out its intended impact?
  • Why does your organization matter?
  • Who are your targeted audiences and what is your geographic reach?

Typically, an organization’s mission statement is not written in a way that communicates effectively. The mission statement is an internal product, not a public communications document.

So stop printing your mission statement everywhere. You aren’t obligated to do so. You aren’t necessarily communicating effectively when you do.

For the purpose of public communications, tell me why you matter. Tell me what will happen if you go away. Describe your impact in storytelling mode.

Remember the key points of good communications. Remember that storytelling matters. Face it: Your mission statement typically is not written that way. That’s okay! Your mission statement is not intended as a public communications document.

Instead, your mission statement is an internal purpose tool. Just distinguish between the two purposes and ways of writing, and do what is appropriate for which audience at the right time.

P.S. Here is an interesting mission statement – that combines purpose and values. If you’re in Michigan, stop by this place. The pie and the other desserts (but most especially the pie, since I’m a pie fanatic!) are simply marvelously, wonderfully special.

“Sweetie-licious Bakery Café’s mission is to celebrate love, tradition and people through good food; to make our friends (customers) feel revered; to offer delicious, homemade pies, baked goods, preserves and comfort foods, specialty merchandise and cooking classes in a happy, loving and nostalgic ambience; to honor tradition by means of honoring our elderly through community service projects and contributions.”

  • Pam Wilcox

    Your comments on an organization’s responsibility to the board are interesting but contain a thread that in practice can be quite harmful and consume the time of a most precious nonproift resource – CEO and staff…it is not the staff’s responsiblity to ensure good governance, it is the board’s, just as the board is not responsible for good staff or management performance. Each supports the other, but accountablity for good governance must rest with the board chair and board as a whole.

  • Siimone Joyaux

    I disagree with you, Pam. I believe it is the CEO’s responsibility to be an expert in governance – and the enable the board to do governance well. Board members don’t necessarily understand governance – and are not going to read the books and go to the workshops, etc. etc. Staff leadership (not command and control) but leadership – enables the board to do good governance. Just like the CEO is responsible for enabling his/her staff to manage well.

    Indeed, the CEO is a previous resource. And that resource is responsible for leading / for enabling all sorts of things to happen … from financial sustainability to effective fund development to quality program to good governance. In my experience, too many CEOs think the limit of their job is program. Or they add in finance and personnel to program. But too many CEOs just “wash their hands” of good governance or “throw up their hands” and claim the board is responsible.

    The most effective governance I’ve ever seen is when the CEO understands what governance is, accepts her responsibility enable that to happen, and then partners with board members to make good governance happen.