Events – Smaller is Better

When planning events, most nonprofits think “big.”  How can we get more people to attend and spend more money to net more revenue? But that kind of thinking often results in spending more money, using more labor, and having less quality interaction with event participants.

When it comes to events, smaller is often better.  A small dinner with 10 guests can provide more personal involvement and greater investment in your organization over time.

These events are likely to be much less expensive and much less labor-intensive. But, most importantly, they provide a better opportunity for personal interaction with guests that can lead to a strong connection to the Executive Director and current Board members (your true believers) — and a clear mission connection to the organization.

These smaller events are much more valuable to the organization than big “fundraisers” for building relationships that can lead to sustaining, unrestricted funding and meaningful involvement over time.

Supporting Boards to Succeed in Fundraising

On Sunday my family brought home a 10 week old puppy and one thing is very clear:  the training that is going on right now is as much (or more) about training us as it is about training the puppy. If we do the right things, it is much more likely that he will succeed. And success breeds (ahem!) success.

This makes me think of boards and fundraising. (No surprise to anyone.) I offer training programs to help board members to get comfortable with the fundraising process so they can engage in friend-raising and fundraising without awkwardness. But I’ve noticed that, to be effective, much of what I suggest requires effort on the part of the nonprofit staff.

A Chronicle of Philanthropy blog by Rick Moyers ( reinforces this point.  Rick references a new report called The Board Paradox issued by CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation. The report claims that the majority of nonprofit executive directors surveyed are spending less than 6% of their time supporting their boards. And those nonprofit leaders that spend comparatively more time working with their boards are also much happier with their board’s performance than those that spend less time.

To get the fundraising behavior we want from the board, here are five things the executive director and staff should do to support the board in fundraising. 

1. Before a special event where you’d like your board to help “work the room,” compile and share information about who is going to be in the room, specific individuals you’d like each board member to connect with, and talking points to help prepare board members to engage in successful conversations.

2. Provide a form to collect information learned by board members in event situations and give them an opportunity to debrief with staff at the end of the event. No question the staff members are exhausted and just want to go home, but it is much easier to find out all the valuable information board members learned in their interactions with donor prospects if you ask them right away.

3. Provide data about potential donors for board members to screen.  If you ask board members to name names of people they plan to introduce to the organization, more often than not you’ll get little or no response.  But if you can engage the board in a discussion about individuals they may know in the community — touching on what you know of them and how you think you may be able to open the door and get a visit, board members will want to help you problem solve these approaches.  In the process, they’ll get a sense of what you’re looking for and how prospects are likely to be approached and they’ll be much more likely to suggest additional names for the list.

4. Establish a process for following up with a board member who offers to help make a connection. Rather than waiting for them to call you with the results, call them to ask about their progress and offer assistance. Some concern or fear may be stopping them from making the call.  If we assume that they fully intend to follow through and routinely offer support and assistance, we are more likely to engender their success.

5. Offer to go along with board members on introductory visits with their peer connections. In my experience, board members often lack confidence that they can competently discuss the purpose and needs of the organization. But once they’ve been on a visit or two with the executive director, director of development, or another knowledgeable staff member,  they’ll know your spiel and feel much better about doing these visits on their own.

As Rick Moyers’ blog says, the “neglect and grumble” approach just doesn’t work.  More support from nonprofit leaders will enable board members to achieve more success in friend-raising and fundraising, helping you raise More Money for Mission.