Today’s guests Kim Horton and Greg Giles discuss how to build a board that is excited about fundraising, community engagement, and community outreach.
Kim Horton is Director of Marketing and Communications at The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library (The Friends), and Greg Giles us the organization’s Vice President of Development and Community together, this dynamic duo demonstrates that connecting communication, money, and mission is essential for building an engaged fundraising board.
(4:30) Greg and Kim share how they built their team
(6:00) Getting your board and advocates on the same page
(7:19) The importance of sharing success stories in board meetings
(9:45) A multi-part orientation – key to board introduction and engagement
(13:45) Kim and Greg’s 50-member board
(14:52) Deadwood board members
(17:15) Maybe one person of contact isn’t great
(19:00) Gather around the table, everyone!
(22:45) Making board members comfortable
(24:00) How to involve former board members
(26:29) Greg and Kim’s favorite books!
Dolph Goldenburg: Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits™ Podcast. I’m your host Dolph Goldenburg with another great conversation that will help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment. Nearly every development director and executive director I know wishes that their board would raise just a bit more money. Okay. That’s a lie. Nearly every development director and executive director I know which is their board would raise a lot more money. So, at last year’s Association of Fundraising Professionals Conference, Greg Giles and Kim Horton presented on how to make your board and engaged fundraising machine together. They are the dynamic duo that connects communication money and mission at the Friends of the St Paul Public Library that are known as The Friends, and let me say, I think they got their URL back in 1993 when no one had a URL because the URL is www.thefriends.org.
Greg is the vice president of development and community engagement for the friends. He has over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and is actually completed five capital campaigns. Every single one was $10,000,000 or more. So, if anyone knows how to make your board and engaged fundraising machine, I’m guessing it’s probably Greg, and of course, the other half of this dynamic duo is Kim and Kim is the director of marketing and communications for The Friends. She has worked in the communications industry for 15 years and decided several years ago to use your powers for good. So, she threw on the nonprofit cape and has been helping nonprofits ever since. Kim also presents workshops for nonprofits on effective marketing. Oh, I forgot to mention that she lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children, and just to share something personal about Greg, he lives in St Paul and is actually a published playwright and I’d be willing to bet that the St Paul Public Library probably has a copy of that place somewhere and it stacks. I was not able to attend their AFP conference last year, so let me just say, dear listeners, I am going to be learning from them right along with you. So let’s roll the music and welcome Kim and Greg.
Hey, Greg Giles and Kim Horton. How are you all doing today?
Kim and Greg: Great. Good, good.
Dolph Goldenburg: Welcome to the podcast. We are thrilled that you joined us. Our listeners can’t see, but I can see that you’re in one of the libraries conference rooms right now with papers spread out all over the table and amazing, great natural light. So, apparently, it’s a newer building and pretty modern. Is that one of the five capital campaigns, Greg?
Greg Giles: So, we’re in our own standalone building, which is nice. And we moved in about a year and a half ago and yeah, lots of natural light, which, you know, in the midst of a Minnesota winter, we need every bit of light we can get.
Dolph Goldenburg: One of my best friends and I are doing a man-cation de St Paul, Minneapolis and a couple of weeks just so we can be part of the “frozen chosen” and really get cold.
Kim and Greg: Impressive.
Dolph Goldenburg: So, share with me a little bit about your presentation at AFP.
Greg Giles: The way we approached it was kind of combining the fundraising approach with the communications approach and you know, oftentimes in my experience, those two areas, they’re on their own planet’s almost. We didn’t do it as a, you know, development is from Mars, communications from Venus type of thing. But we really wanted to see how share, how we worked together, you know, to make this really important relationship happen.
Dolph Goldenburg: So, Kim, how did you all work together?
Kim Horton: Well, I think it makes it easy when we have a smaller office, and our offices are literally just a few feet apart, but one of the things that we do is just simply communicate before every interaction. And we always ask the question, “What’s the development piece of this? Then what’s the communications piece of this and do the board members have what they need in order to communicate effectively about this, how do we do that?” And so Greg and I make it a point to bring our teams together prior to every meeting to really get on the same page.
Dolph Goldenburg: Can you share with me how do you break those duties upon? So you said to our board members have what they need to communicate effectively?
Greg Giles: No, it’s really the key to me. I think in development we fall into a lot of traps. We have a point of view where we treat the board as kind of this either a monolithic creature or worse or some sort of adversary, you know, and, “Oh, the board, if only you know so much better if they only did this,” and it’s always, you know, the proper noun becomes the board. You know, one of the really key things that I’ve found, and it’s so obvious when you realize it, is that your board is made up of individuals. You know, there are people, they bring different strengths to bring different skills, different foibles, different ways that they want to do things. So it’s really, it’s kind of breaking it down to approach them as individuals while at the same time they are a constituency group. And that’s the thing is with marketing communications, it’s all about what’s your constituent group, who’s that persona behind that constituent group. So, you find that meeting in the middle of those two things and using the work that Kim and her team are doing to be able to reach our audiences and take that and kind of rediscover that into that special relationship that we have with the board and move that relationship forward.
Kim Horton: One of the things we work really hard at is to just be careful to not assume that the board knows as much about our organization as we know about it. We’ve been working here for a long time. We’d get into this mission every single day. But just because someone is a fan of your organization and your mission doesn’t mean they completely understand it. And so we try and back up a little bit when people start with us and just start the story from the beginning. We talk about why we exist, not just the good work that we’re doing right now, but our purpose and really try and bring them closer to understanding why it is that we exist. We try and share with them the success stories of people who are being impacted by this work every day and really actually bring them closer to the mission so that they can feel a part of it. That way they can be better advocates for it.
Dolph Goldenburg: So Kim, let’s unpack that. How do you share the success stories of people that are using the library every day?
Kim Horton: First we have a new, a new board orientation every year, and so, we bring them in, and we have meeting and we talk through it all and we give them, you know, all the tools that they’re going to need for the year. I will actually give them a packet. I’ll write up stories with pictures and things like that and actually talk through it, so that they have that information at their fingertips and then we reinforce that at meetings. When they’re actually in person, we can talk through those stories as well, and if possible, we try and bring them as close to the mission as we can. We’ll have the actual board meetings in the libraries so that they can leave the meeting and actually see all the kids funneling in for the homework help and things like that.
Dolph Goldenburg: So, does that mean you’re doing your board meetings like midafternoon when kids are there to do homework or how do you structure that?
Greg Giles: That’s one of the real key. We’ve got a great product. The risk of diminishing what we do to the top, but yeah, I always tell people, “If you’re having a bad day, come down to the Rondo Neighborhood Library branch at about 3:30 and see hundreds of kids signing up on the waiting list to sit down with a tutor and get fed because it’s maybe the last meal they’re going to have during the day and just feel that energy and excitement.” There’s no one I want more to feel that energy and excitement that our board, you know, we just had the second meeting of our, of our new board member orientation was at Rondo. Rondo is the traditional African-American neighborhood here, although it’s now mostly Asian immigrants here in St Paul and we made sure that part of that orientation meeting was to wander over to the homework center, stop by the small business center… all of those things that are, that are there. That orientation that can talk about is actually a three-stage orientation and I’ve been with organizations that the just [blast] through that orientation, just give them the nuts and bolts, give them a committee assignment now show up and we actually break that into three separate meetings and one is just with our executive director to kind of go through and it’s real casual, one-on-one, real informal. Go through, here’s what’s going on, here’s what we’re about, why are you interested in as here’s what we think you could bring. And here’s the first iteration of our story. The second one, we’d bring the perspective class together. So, this is before they’ve actually signed on and agreed that, that they’re on and say, “Here is what we’re going to walk through,” and we walked through the history of your walk through some of these stories and we walked through expectations. I’m in the room for that, you know, because I definitely hit that expectations of fundraising both in terms of what we expect you to give and where you can feed in on fundraising.
One of the things that I’ve realized in that, you know, board members come in with all sorts of interesting ideas of what fundraising is – and the listeners can’t see the little air quotes I just put around fundraising – they have visions of being locked in a basement, a phone and you know, we’re not gonna let you out until you called 100 people and gotten guests from them, or “Oh, I’m going to have to hit up all my friends for a million dollars each.” To really break it down for them of hey, this is what we mean when we say fundraising. And there’s a lot of different ways you can do that and you know, what some of them don’t involve you putting a dollar figure in front of a potential donor, um, and making sure that they see that and they understand that so that by the time the second orientation comes, which is after they’ve been elected onto the board, then we can walk through kind of here’s a menu and we actually have a menu that we actually split into two separate forms this year.
So, we rolled that out just this year. Here’s my financial contribution and why that matters. And we actually put in there the why it matters because again, we’re members, we take them for granted and here’s your pledge work, fill it out. And so, we actually said, hey, here’s why it matters. Here are the different ways you can participate. Then page two is, here’s how you can get involved with us and help us fundraise. And we break it out into these very, you know, easy to understand, easier to digest, hopefully non-threatening ways, um, and tie it directly back to the board expectation sheet that you signed that orientation that you agreed to do. \These are the different ways you can do it and it’s everything from “come to one of our cultural programs” and “thank people for coming to that program” all the way up to I’m going to go solicit this company and it’s this full range of options. What’s incumbent on us at that point is we follow it through. If they’ve checked the box, we darn well better get back to them. Unfortunately, the first year we did this, we didn’t have our follow through mechanisms in place. And so those forms got filled out and went into garbage. That is not acceptable, not good, you know. So now we’ve learned, “Okay, we’ve got to make sure we’ve done our plans in place before we go and give them the form.”
Dolph Goldenburg: So let me ask you this, because I do something similar with a number of my clients were, how about we call it an individual philanthropy plan and you know, we get all board members to first, you know, stay with their annual contribution will be and how they’re going to do it. Check stock, you know, goats whenever and when and uh, you know, and then also, you know, you lay out all the fundraising opportunities for the organization. One of the things that I also suggest organizations do, then, is to provide a periodic scorecard to board members so they can see how they’re doing along the way. Is that what you’re doing now?
Greg Giles: That’s the go forward plan, and that’s something that we haven’t really done as. One of the tricks with that and our systems is we have a board of 50 individuals. So it’s a small little intimate board, you know. So, making sure that whatever system we actually have we can follow through on. But that to me it’s even more important that we individualize them and keep those relationships because in a 50-person board it’s so easy to lose someone.
Dolph Goldenburg: So, let me just make sure I understand. So you have a 50 person governing board?
Greg Giles: Yes.
Dolph Goldenburg: How long have you had a board that large?
Greg Giles: Well over a decade. I mean we have had a very large board actually as I think about it, probably since the mid-eighties, very large board. Part of the reason for that is one of the big things that we do as an organization is advocacy and also capital campaigns. In both of those the more voices you have there, even more effective, the bigger your reach and an amazingly this board actually works. I mean it’s actually a working board. There’s actually a lower percentage of deadwood here than at any other organization I’ve been involved in, and I think that it speaks to the real need to be proactive and engaging them.
Dolph Goldenburg: So, let’s talk about what it takes to be qualified as not deadwood. Is there a give-get, is there an attendance requirement? When you say we’ve got active board members, what does that mean?
Greg Giles: We don’t have a formal dollar amount. We asked the requirements phase, but you make a gift that is personally significant to you. We want our board to be reflective of our city. I mean that’s the advocacy piece. We have some very young people on our board. We have board members in their twenties. We have board members from a lot of different constituency groups and show a $100 gift to one person is going to be personally significant. Um, we have another board member that I think last year gave us $80,000 in operating funds. So the huge range, how do you put a dollar amount down as to what you should do? You can’t; if you do, you’re gonna eliminate board members right up front because the reach of some of those board members is far greater than whatever check…
I want that woman on our board who is in her twenties, does not have a high paying job, lives on the east side of St. Paul and is a fabulous board member; we would be a far weaker organization not having her. Her personal gift is $100. I mean, you know, this is not a solo show by any stretch, but it’s up to us to really make sure that she stays active with us, stays engaged. So, deadwood for me is somebody that, you know, even if they just write a minimal check and check the box, that’s not enough. We’ve got big fundraising goals every year. I need them to help out. I need them to be enthusiastic cheerleaders out in the community. I need them to be making connections for us so that we can go out and talk to people. We do have an attendance requirement. We have four board meetings a year. We request that you go to at least three of those. The expectations that you’re on at least one committee and you attend 75 percent of the committee meetings in the year.
Kim Horton: A lot of it comes down to personal connection though too, even with a large part of 50 members. It is our president and Greg and people sitting and looking at the list and saying, “Okay, who haven’t we seen her? Whose voices haven’t we heard?” And it’s reaching out to those people and it’s taking them to class or its noticing and paying attention.
Greg Giles: We really make it a point to get a large amount of our staff to have more contact. I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make is insisting that all board contact runs through a single source, whether it’s your executive director, president, chief development officer or whatever, and that the rest of your staff is cut off from your board. You’ve got to coordinate it. Obviously, you can’t have a board member gets six different phone calls in one day, uh, but that way then their connections are deep. And then our director of programming knows absolutely that the people who are involved with programming, she can pick up the phone and say, “Hey, I’ve got a question for you. I need your help with this.” And that board member knows who Elaine is. When she calls, it’s not a surprise. Um, you know, at the orientations we have, our staff introduced all the new board members at one of the board meetings each year we have our entire staff show up at that board meeting, be introduced, talk about what they’re doing.
And then after that board meeting, there’s a dinner with the board with our staff, and all former board are invited. It’s a really telling thing because our new president came in, heard about that and said, “Oh my gosh, we’re spending how much money on this one board meeting. That’s crazy!” because it’s that the local big local, a town and country golf club, and it’s a full dinner with wine and everything, and it’s an ungodly amount of money.
And then she saw it happen and she saw all the connections that. She saw these former board members who haven’t been on the board for 10 years, come up and hug our staff members and just the wonderful connection that’s there. She’s like, “Oh, that staying under budget, well, cut that money from somewhere else, but that’s a keeper,” and I had a similar reaction when I first started by we’re spending that much money on a board meeting. It’s that connection, and it’s a signal to our current board members that, hey, we’re not just going to drop you in your terms done because I mean that’s another big, big issue that every nonprofit has. Somebody goes off the board, they’re giving a lot of money, they’re really engaged, and then “whammo!” you’ll never hear from them again, and that’s just great grade. Simple, somewhat expensive, but simple way to really keep those connections there.
Dolph Goldenburg: We are going to take a short break, and when we come back, I’d like for us to talk about at least two more things. I would love for us to find out what tools you give to board members after the orientation that helps them fundraise, and then I’d also like to find out more about how you keep your prior board members involved as fundraisers and ambassadors.
The Successful Nonprofits™ Podcast is produced by the Goldenburg Group as part of our mission to provide board development, strategic planning, and interim leadership to help nonprofits thrive in a competitive environment. Today’s episode is all about board fundraising, and I want to remind you of a resource for board development and fundraising, and that’s my book Successful Nonprofits Build Supercharged Boards. It offers a 10-step system for reenergizing and reengaging your board of directors, and not surprisingly, it talks about some of the things that we did today. Things like think about how you communicate expectations and orientation and how you prepare people in orientation to be great fundraisers. Think about how you use an individual philanthropy plan and a scorecard to help keep your board on track with those expectations. Now, of course, you can get my book at all typical online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
It’s also available by special order from your local bookstore, but do you know where else she can get it? Since we have people that are a part of a friends of the library on, I would be remised today if I did not say that I think there’s like two or three dozen library systems in the country where you can walk into your local library, slap your plastic card down on the table and say, “This is the book I want to check out,” so you don’t actually even have to spend any money or give me any royalty on it. But if you do decide to do that, keep in mind that we take all of the proceeds from this book to support the production of this podcast. We don’t have advertise undies or cured meat of the club or anything like that on this podcast. If you’re a podcast listener, you know there’s a lot of online stamp ads. So we don’t really commoditize the podcast. So if you don’t feel like going down to your library – although it’s a good option, and keep in mind there’s interlibrary loans. You can have it delivered to the library closes to you. – if you don’t feel like doing that, go online and get the book.
So, Kim and Greg, I was joking a little bit about the library, but I was also kind of serious. I still have one of those plastic cards. I live. I live in the heart of Atlanta, so the library is two blocks from my house, and I order stuff on interlibrary loan all the time.
Kim and Greg: It’s the best.
Dolph Goldenburg: It is almost as good as Amazon in part because for me, where I live, the concierge is like about a block away, and the library is about a block and a half away. So, you know, I’m like, well I can walk a block and a half and get it for free, or I could pay Amazon have delivered a block away.
Exactly. We always appreciate the library plug, and I’m impressed that you know about interlibrary loans, but a lot of people do.
Dolph Goldenburg: Hi, I’m a nerd and even more so I’m a cheap nerd so you know, if I can get it for free without having to spend gas money to get somewhere, I’m all about it.
I promised listeners that I would not nerd out about a library system, but that I would nerd out about what tools that you give to your board after the orientation so they can be effective fundraisers.
Kim Horton: One of the things that we didn’t talk about earlier is giving them, giving them your messaging strategy. So that’s first and foremost is helping them, arming them with a way to talk about your organization that they can put it into their own words, of course, but really understanding your key talking points. So that’s first you can’t sell the story if you can’t tell it. We make sure that they’re comfortable doing that for a site, for the impact stories. Um, the second piece is sitting with board members and understanding what part of the mission matters to them and how do they feel comfortable going out and advocating on behalf of your organization. Some people, as Greg mentioned, are just, they’re not salespeople. They would never describe themselves as that, and so they feel uncomfortable at the prospect of calling someone and asking for money. We make sure to understand what things you feel comfortable doing and then how do they tailor that to what they’re passionate about. The library is for everyone, but that also means that people have very different reasons for getting involved with it. Some people just absolutely love reading and want to talk to people about books and why library with books is still relevant.
Dolph Goldenburg: Thanks, Kim. Those are some great tools for board members to have in their back pocket and in their hands when they’re looking at fundraising on behalf of the organization. But how does the friends of the library keep its former board members involved? I would imagine if you’ve got 50 board members, you probably have a few hundred former board members.
Greg Giles: We have quite the list of former board members. That’s true. Like I mentioned, the annual meeting that we do or we have them all back and really celebrate them is one big way that we do it. Um, we also do what we call breakfast with Beth. Beth Burns is our president here, and we have small group, usually, 10 to 12 former board members come in about once every six weeks or so just really to sit down with her and it’s a substantive conversation. It’s not puffery, it’s not just an update. It’s, hey, here’s something we’re wrestling with now. Can you help us out on this? We encourage former board members to stay active on committees. So we have several of our committees were where they stay active there. And then, if you treat them with love while they’re on the board for their nine year, three terms, they want to stick around and, they want to stay engaged. So, I’m building on the work of what a lot of people did before.
Dolph Goldenburg: I think it’s so critical, is that access to leadership, making sure that even though you’re not on the board, you still feel like you’re a part of the leadership circle.
Kim Horton: I know we asked them questions as opposed to just reporting. We’re not just keeping them updated on what’s going on. We’re saying, “Hey, what do you think about these issues that we’re facing right now?” and give them a chance to participate in solving challenges.
Dolph Goldenburg: Now we’re running out of time, but before I let you all go, I must ask the Off-the-Map question. Early on when we first started this podcast, I only had one or two in my back pocket and now it’s almost always a different question. The one I used to ask is what is the book you’ve gifted the most? So, I’ve got a derivative of that question, but it’s unique to you two. What book have each of you checked out of the library the most and why?
Greg Giles: Well, for me, the one that I’ve checked out of the library the most is actually a History of Theater in the Twin Cities that was written in the late fifties and I was using it actually to do research on, on hey, I was writing, and I was flying for work. I had the book with me for work, and I did not make sure I checked my seat back pocket and my surroundings before leaving the plant. I left that book on the plane, and I was mortified because this is a rare out of print book and my fine was five bucks. And then I found out they actually had two copies of this book in the system, so I went back and checked out the other cop and it never left my house and tell her. Went back to the library.
Kim Horton: I’m a geeky person for all the novels that I love. I love a good nonfiction, and I think it’s that one book, but I keep checking out books by Jonathan Haidt. He is a sociologist and just talks about how we all think and why we all think differently and that is just something that fascinates me all the time. Those are books that I go to over and over again.
Dolph Goldenburg: If some of our listeners where to walk or drive to their local library, which Jonathan Haidt book, would you recommend, Kim?
Kim Horton: The subheading is Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.
Dolph Goldenburg: OOH. That seems like a good one for our times.
Kim Horton: Good. It’s so good. It’s absolutely fascinating. I believe that the. That’s the answer to how we all come together, so yes, it’s called The Righteous Mind.
Dolph Goldenburg: The Righteous Mind. Got It. We will link that in the show notes. Greg, if you send me the name of a book that you refer to will also link into the show notes.
People might have to get it through interlibrary loan and maybe only through your library system. We’ll see.
So, thank you again so much for joining us on the podcast today. I absolutely want to make sure that people know how they can reach out to you for two reasons. First, everyone should be involved with their own Friends of the Library program and you all have an amazing URL which is www.thefriends.org, but also if we have any librarians, friends of the library supporters who’ve been really intrigued by what Kim and Greg have talked about today and thought, “Wow, you know, my library system could use this,” this Friends of the Library group in St Paul also has a consulting practice which is called www.librarystrategiesconsulting.org, so you can go to that URL and you can find out about how to engage them for strategic planning, for board development, for fundraising, planning, et Cetera. So, if you feel like the Friends of the Library of St Paul is light years ahead of your friends of the library group, reach out to Greg and Kim and make sure you get in touch. Hey, thank you again so much for being on the podcast.
Kim and Greg: Absolutely. Thanks for having us.
Dolph Goldenburg: If you are busy sharpening your pencil, when I gave those two URLs, no need to worry because you can put the pencil away, all you’ve got to do is go to our website, www.successfulnonprofits.com, and check out the show notes, and in those show notes you will find links to the two books we just discussed. You will also find the friends.org, not that hard if you are out to remember, and also the consulting practice URL. Now, I always like to close the show asking people to make sure that they subscribe, rate, and review the podcast, and they try to find us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We’re pretty easy to find. You can google Successful Nonprofits™ podcast or you can google me Dolph Goldenburg. That’s our show for this week. I hope you have gained some insight that will help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.
(Disclaimer) I’m not an accountant or attorney, and neither I nor the Successful Nonprofits™ provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been providing for informational purposes only and is not intended or should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified licensed professional about such matters.