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How to Communicate with Donors & Supporters

IMAG2832Do you know Ron Barb? Chances are you don’t, unless you’re from Logan County Kentucky or you work in the plastics industry. I didn’t know about Ron until today, when I read an article on newsdemocratleader.com that referenced him and the great work that he’s leading in Logan County. I was so impressed that I decided to share the article with the world – particularly those that work or volunteer in the Not-for-Profit, Independent Sector.

You may be wondering what can not-for-profits learn from a plant manager in the plastics industry. More than you realize my friends, more than you realize. You see Ron is the chairperson for the allocation committee for the United Way in Logan County. This isn’t his full time job – it’s a volunteer position that he assumes, like many others across the country, that are committed to doing what they can do to positively impact their local communities.

There are a few things that Ron and the entire team at the United Way of Southern Kentucky got right with this article that I think needs to be highlighted for the benefit of others in the sector – and not just United Ways, but anyone that’s attempting to communicate their value to stakeholders:

  1. The messenger is just as important as the message. Notice, the article isn’t referencing the CEO of the United Way or the other staff. They’re talking about Rob Barb, the volunteer committee chairperson, who has a full-time job as a plant manager. Sure the CEO could have been featured, but there are times when all organizations need to be strategic about whom the message is coming from. Last time I checked, plant managers are pretty busy people and the fact that Ron Barb devotes a portion of his valuable time to the United Way’s efforts speaks volumes to others regarding the importance of servant leadership.
  1. Thank donors/supporters in a meaningful manner. Ron does a phenomenal job thanking them and connecting them to the work of the United Way and their partner agencies. Consider this line from the article, “Your contributions have helped reach 7,956 individuals in Logan County last year alone, out of a little over 27,000 people in the county. You should be proud of yourselves.”  His message is directed to the Fiscal Court – a public body within the county – and Ron is thanking them and showing the impact of their contribution in a public forum. This is a meaningful “thank you” because public bodies get their fair share of public disgruntlement and disagreement, therefore it’s nice to appreciate them in public and give them a space to show the good they do.
  1. Quantify the good that was done. In this article, Ron is giving an update to the Logan County Fiscal Court on the impact that the United Way and their partner agencies are making through the supported allocated via the Fiscal Court. He’s telling a story where their involvement extends beyond a contribution; they are part of a solution, a story, and can be proud of their efforts.   He doesn’t just give them abstract statements like, “you made a difference” or “you helped change a life” or “the community is a better place” – he quantifies the difference, the better and the change.   Some examples include:
    1. 1,040 youth in Logan County received sexual assault prevention education services through United Way partner agency Hope Harbor.
    2. 293 nursing home residents received visits and complaint resolution services from the Barren River Long Term Care Ombudsman program resulting in improved quality of life, quality of personal care, interpersonal skills, and socialization.

Thanks to Ron Barb and the entire United Way of Southern Kentucky family for reminding us of how to communicate with our donors and supporters – great lessons and reminders for all of us. I suggest you read the full article at the link below – you may find some additional lessons.

http://www.newsdemocratleader.com/news/home_top-news/150192541/Ron-Barb-tells-United-Way-impact-on-Logan-County-thanks-fiscal-court

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Don’t Bother the Board

I recall a meeting with a Board Chair in preparation for a project.  Part of the project involved the deliberate engagement of the Board.  Individually and collectively the Board had to  commit the time that this effort demanded if it was to be successful.

The Board Chair had a concern – The Board members time.  I realize I’ve heard this before from other Board Chairs and CEO’s that wanted to protect their Board’s time.  Here are some common things I’ve heard:

“The Board is busy, we don’t need to bother them with this.”

“Our Board doesn’t have time, they’re just volunteers.”

“I’m trying to make it easy for my board.”

“The Board has better things to do.”

“Can’t we just do it and bring it to the Board.”

“My Board is full of busy people, they don’t have time.”

“Let’s not trouble the Board with this.”

Though I appreciate the fact that someone is protecting the Board’s time (by the way, a resource worth protecting), I’m concerned that in many instances  we are robbing the board of the opportunity to exercise their responsibilities and perform their duties.  Let me be clear, I’m  not for wasting time, I’m not for “meeting just to meet”, and I’m definitely not for engaging the Board in matters that don’t pertain to their roles, responsibilities, or expectations.  I am for the Board fulfilling their duties of Obedience, Loyalty, and Care.   I am for the Board providing proper over-site.  I am for the Board being engaged.

So what does this mean?? The Board is there to be bothered.  The Board isn’t there for the easy work, they’re there for the hard work. There’s nothing better for the Board to do than govern the organization and fulfill their roles, responsibilities, and expectations.  Yes they’re volunteers, but they’re accountable volunteers.   If the Board doesn’t have time to be the Board then they don’t have time to be on the Board. 

Bottom Line: Stop trying to make life easy for your Board.  Stop tricking people to serve on the Board by telling them “there’s not much to do”.  Stop depriving your board of the time, space, and opportunity to be the Board.  And most importantly, if you’re a Board member, stop letting your Chair and CEO let you off the hook – Be Aware, Be Engaged, Be Bothered!!!!!

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