Major Donor Has Remorse — Nonprofit Board/CEO Failed to Meaningfully Engage Him?

Major Donor Has Remorse — Nonprofit Board/CEO Failed to Meaningfully Engage Him?

After the gift is received, announced and celebrated, where does a nonprofit board and its management go from there? And whose job is it to see that the donor remains engaged and involved in the organization? These are questions that I have been thinking about after a friend brought facts of his donor experience to my attention.

A sad donor story begins with this friend who had been a longtime participant on the board of a nonprofit, eventually serving as board chair; he was also a modest contributor to the organization. During his tenure on the board, he developed a close professional relationship with the very innovative chief operating executive. Even after his term of board service had ended, the friendship between the two continued — as did the former director’s modest gifts to the nonprofit. In a decision to more generously support the organization’s innovative mission the now ex-board member made a substantial financial pledge — unrestricted — to be paid over several years. During the second year of the sustainable pledge the CEO left the organization and moved on to another job; the donor, unfortunately, was never contacted by the CEO’s successor. The donor’s calls to request phone appointments were returned weeks later and abruptly terminated. A staff member was delegated to service the donor, and other than letters of thanks for his annual contribution and copies of routine communications, there was no personal contact.

End of story. My friend, a business consultant, was suffering from donor’s remorse, more formally known as cognitive dissonance. He has not remained in touch with the nonprofit and knows little about any innovative activities. No surprise ending here — his strong support is now welcomed at a number of other nonprofits.

Whose job is it anyway??

After a major grant or gift has been received, many nonprofit delegate relations with the donors to the CEO, other senior officers or a development director. But there’s many a slip between cup and lip — and nonprofit boards have to be sure that future funding is not jeopardized. My thought is that a plan of board oversight might be a solution to unusual situations such as the one described above where the necessity of donor meaningful engagement probably slipped through the cracks. Here are my further thoughts on the subject:

• Since it is widely known that “people give to people, not causes,” the board should have policies or guidelines relating to interpersonal contacts with major donors. Who in management and/or board should be responsible for these contacts? How frequently should the contacts take place? And whose problem is it if things go wrong?

• The topic of major givers should be on the board agenda every three or six months at which time the contact person can update the board on the interaction or any problems that might occur.

• If the contact is a board member, he/she must be thoroughly briefed on the mission and management challenges. If it is a development director, he/she must be articulate on every subject relating to the organization.

• The CEO needs to make qualitative assessments of contact progress. When there is a change in executive leadership, the new CEO must immediately be briefed on the interpersonal status of relations with all major donors.

Donor Remorse should be nonexistent in nonprofit organizations — it can affect both current and future funding. In my opinion, the board should take a more active strategic and policy oversight role in this area. I recommend inclusion of the topic on your upcoming agenda.

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Unwritten Protocols for Directors Can Boost Nonprofits’ Effectiveness

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Unwritten Protocols for Directors Can Boost Nonprofits’ Effectiveness

By:  Eugene Fram                                        Free Digital Photo

Nonprofit boards are governed by a series of obligations —some are clearly defined as legal responsibilities such as financial actions. Others, however, are less clearly defined and relate to people who are, in some way, associated with the organization. Guidelines to these diverse interactions are not typically archived in policies but are important to the overall professionalism of the board. They include consideration of its: board structure, internal operations, recruitment methods and leadership style. (more…)

How Prepared Are Directors for the Challenges of the Nonprofit Culture?

How Prepared Are Directors for the Challenges of the Nonprofit Culture?

By: Eugene Fram     Free Digital Image

Given that the typical tenure of a new board member is six years. And assuming that a new director’s intention is to make his/her unique contribution to the organization’s progress before he/S rotates off the board and is supplanted by another “new” director. With these factors in mind, I estimate that many volunteers enter the boardroom with little understanding of nonprofit culture. Even those who have served previously on business boards may initially spend valuable time in accommodating to the nuances of nonprofit practices and priorities before being poised to make contributions to the “greater good” that nonprofit create. Following are some areas that are endemic to nonprofits: (more…)

Should Mature Nonprofits Allow Board Micromanagement?

Should Mature Nonprofits Allow Board Micromanagement?

By: Eugene Fram              Free Digital Image

Accepted View of Micromanagement: “…Directors spend more time with the details of the operations instead of planning its short-term and long-term growth strategies. …
(http://linkd.in/1q84pMm)

The Need for a Micromanaging Board
Board micromanagement is an appropriate approach when a nonprofit is in a start-up stage. Financial and human resources are modest, and the volunteer directors must assume some responsibilities normally executed by compensated staff. The chief executive often has managerial responsibilities as well as a list of clients to service. It is not unusual to promote a person who is only familiar with direct service to become the first chief executive of the organization. In turn , this neophyte manager has to depend on board members for managerial counsel and direction. A culture of board dependency is created out of necessity. (more…)

Once Again! Nonprofit CEO: Board Peer – Not A Powerhouse

Once Again! Nonprofit CEO: Board Peer – Not A Powerhouse

By: Eugene Fram

Some nonprofit CEOs make a fetish out of describing their boards and/or board chairs as their “bosses.” Others, for example, can see the description, as a parent-child relationship by funders. The parent, the board, may be strong, but can the child, the CEO, implement a grant or donation? Some CEOs openly like to perpetuate this type of relationship because when bad decisions come to roost, they can use the old refrain: the board made me do it.

My preference is that the board-CEO relationship be a partnership among peers focusing on achieving desired outcomes and impacts for the nonprofit. (I, with others, would make and have made CEOs, who deserve the position, voting members of their boards!) (more…)

Do Today’s Business Leaders Make Effective Nonprofit Directors?

Do Today’s Business Leaders Make Effective Nonprofit Directors?

By: Eugene H. Fram

The names of the new board nominees have been announced. They include several outstanding recruits from the business community. Will these new formidable directors perform well in the nonprofit environment? William G. Bowen, a veteran director in both the for-profit and nonprofit environments, raised the following questions about such beginnings in a 1994 article:* Is it true that well-regarded representatives of the business world are often surprisingly ineffective as members of nonprofit boards? Do they seem to have checked their analytical skills and their “toughness” at the door? If this is true in some considerable number of cases, what is the explanation? (more…)

How Seriously Does Your Nonprofit Board Take the Matter of Ethics?

How Seriously Does Your Nonprofit Board Take the Matter of Ethics?

By Eugene Fram                           Free Digital Photo

Most board members are aware of their obligation to ensure their nonprofit’s compliance with certain standard regulations e.g. making tax payments, submitting IRS Form 990s and/or avoiding potential fraud. But what I have found missing in the nonprofit environment is a sense of board member responsibility to provide for and sustain a viable ethics program. (more…)