Saturday, June 20, 2009

Every board member's fund-raising role

If you've served one day on a nonprofit board - or ever been recruited to serve - the fact that these governing bodies have a role in the organization's fund-raising efforts should be well known. If you're like me, and so many others, the mere idea of having to "ask someone for money" probably raises more than a small sense of dread.

For the first 15 years-plus of my board service, I lived in fear that someone would hold me accountable for that responsibility. (Fortunately for me - and unfortunately for the organizations I served - that call never came.) It has been only in the last decade that I have come to understand that "asking" is only one way for a board member to participate in the process.

Recently, the blog "Advisor to Superheroes" published a short post on the topic, including a graphic representation of multiple ways in which board members can contribute to a nonprofit's fund-raising program. The post, found here, identified four such roles: Connector, Storyteller, Visionary, and Closer. Those categories fit my understanding and experiences of how we board members can participate in ways that are both comfortable for us as individuals and valuable for the organizations we serve.

Obviously, someone still needs to make the ask. A nonprofit needs leadership, board and staff, capable of bringing donor cultivation to a request for donation. But the rest of us can help facilitate the critical work that leads to that moment.

Personally, I am quite comfortable in the middle two roles. As a writer and public relations practitioner by training and trade, I can develop credible and creative descriptions of the work donors are being asked to support. That process is easier for me because I live my "mission first" credo: if I accept a position on your board, it's because I support completely and feel passionate about the organization's mission. That makes fulfilling the "visionary" role a natural one for me. The aspect of board work that I love most is collaborating with staff and fellow board members to dream big and then find ways to move the organization toward that dream. With a strong, colorful, compelling vision, making the case for fulfilling it is easy and enjoyable.

I'm interested in hearing from readers: Which of these four roles do you feel most comfortable fulfilling? Does your board have members willing and able to fulfill all four of these fund-raising responsibilities? How can you use this framework -- or an adaptation that fits your specific situation better -- in new member recruitment?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An important local learning opportunity

As you undoubtedly know from previous posts, one of my most cherished volunteer responsibilities is coordination of the annual Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute, held every August in Laramie. I'm putting on my SRNI hat this morning, long enough to share the details of this year's event with readers of this blog. Please join us at the Hilton Aug. 2-4 for what promises to be a rich opportunity to explore the ways in which our local nonprofits help to sustain and transform our community. Here's the release:

Articulating and building the nonprofit sector’s contributions and leadership in transforming Wyoming’s rural communities is the focus of the 8th annual Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute (SRNI), set for Aug. 2-4 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie.

SRNI’s 2009 theme is “The Nonprofit Sector in Context: Creative Approaches to Changing Lives and Transforming Communities.” Concurrent sessions will be offered in two tracks: “Lives in Context,” focusing on individual impacts on nonprofit clients, staff and volunteers; and “Communities in Context,” exploring impacts on and by the nonprofit organization.

Cornelia Butler Flora, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, will present the institute keynote. Following that session, Dr. Flora will lead an all-institute workshop designed to help participants explore and articulate the unique ways in which their organizations contribute to community capitals.
More information on Dr. Flora is available here. A good, general description of the Community Capitals Framework, the topic she'll be exploring, can be found here.

Among the concurrent session topics are: “The Nonprofit Sector in Energy-Impacted Communities,” “Understanding Change in Your Organization,” “Broad-Based Volunteer Recruitment,” and “Wyoming’s Nonprofit Economy.”

Two post-institute practicum sessions will offer participants an additional opportunity for hands-on, in-depth learning: “Managing Finances: A Guide to the Basics” and “Web 2.0: Utilizing Social Networks.”

Online registration for SRNI 2009 is here. A downloadable copy of the 2009 SRNI brochure is available here. A downloadable copy of the 2009 agenda is here.

SRNI is a project of the UW Cooperative Extension Service Community Development Education Initiative Team . ServeWyoming is SRNI’s presenting partner.

The Regis University Master of Nonprofit Management Program is this year’s opening conversation sponsor. The Parkman Family Foundation has provided a limited number of full-registration sponsorships to first-time attendees, made available on a first-registered, first-served basis.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A nonprofit 'tree'

I'm always looking for interesting ways to describe the scope and complexity of the nonprofit sector. This morning, I discovered one of the most intriguing in my in-box.

The Taxonomic Tree of Philanthropy, credited to George McCully, builds upon four primary branches: International, Nature, Human Services, and Culture. A full description of the taxonomy can be found here.

While I think it's one of the better visualizations of philanthropy, it's only one representation of the sector in which we work and volunteer. What are your initial impressions? Do you see your organization here, not only as a branch, but as a part of the larger body? What is added by this particular metaphor? What is McCully missing? I'm interested in your thoughts on this tool.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2009 SRNI registration open

Online registration for the 2009 Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute, scheduled for Aug. 2-4 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie, is now open.

Click here to access the online registration form.

PLEASE NOTE: The Parkman Family Foundation is providing a signficant opportunity for a limited number of first-time participants. Registration for the first 15 registrants who have never attended SRNI before will be waived. This is offered on a first-registered, first-served basis.

This year's institute theme is "The Nonprofit Sector in Context: Creative Approaches to Changing Lives and Transforming Communities." Two tracks, "Communities in Context" and "Lives in Context," will expand upon that theme.

Keynote speaker Cornelia Butler Flora will set the stage with a Monday morning talk, titled "Nonprofit Investment in Community Capitals: Transformation through Community Assets." She will follow up that talk with an all-institute workshop that will help participants apply the Community Capitals framework to the work of their organizations. For a brief overview of the Community Capitals framework, click here.

Click here to download a pdf version of the 2009 agenda.

For more information, please e-mail the SRNI curriculum team at