October 18, 2018

Can You Cure Your Board’s Resistance to Fundraising?

Probably yes.

Board resistance arises from four sources.

Which one is healthy?

Which three are unhealthy?

By analyzing the sources, you can determine how to proceed to blow up the resistance. Listen to begin your investigation on why your board resists and to learn how to prevent and reduce your board’s resistance to fundraising.

Transcript of Can You Cure Your Board’s Resistance to Fundraising?

Hello, I’m Karen Eber Davis. Let’s talk about board resistance. This video is part of a series I do Thursdays that provides information for nonprofit leaders and their boards.

Board resistance. You can’t get the board to do what you want them to do. You’d like them to help with some fundraising activities or anything that you wanted to do, and you’re getting this pushback. Board resistance has four origins, and the reason is it’s important to identify which one you have because then it tells you what you might want to do about it.

Resistance Type 1

The first cause of board resistance is this. It’s natural. We all resist doing things that will take our energy, our time. This is good. It’s a healthy response, so your boards are naturally going to push against you and say, “Hey would you do this?” They’re going to think, is there someone else who can do this better? Then they say, “Shouldn’t staff be doing it.”

So those kinds of resistance are good process questions. It’s a good question. You should theoretically think about it before you ask your board. Why do you want them to do it? Why they’re the best candidates for this task to be found, and if they’re interested in doing it, so there’s some buy-in on both sides. To overcome that resistance.

Think of this resistance like when you know you have to go take exercise, and you have to get on the bike, but you’re going to go wrong. What are we going to do? At first, it’s like moving molasses. You really don’t want to do it. Or, maybe it’s not immediately, but somewhere in the process early on and then after a little bit, it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m riding my bike now.” So that’s just sort of that whole process. If we don’t want to move and where that’s the way we are. Type number one. It comes with the territory of working with people.

Resistance Type 2

The next two types are actually types that are unhealthy, as is the fourth one. And these two are actually caused by nonprofit organizations. The first one is design challenges.  Design challenges are the way you ask your board. They don’t have enough information. You ask them too much. You ask them to do things that don’t have enough return. They’re going to have to spend an hour, and you’re going to get $500 maybe. Those kinds of challenges.

There are things that about what you’re asking in the process the way are causing challenges, and they’re saying no.

Often if you translate that what’s that resistance is about, it that they don’t really see that they’re going to win and that the organization’s going to win by taking out on the tasks that you have. So the challenge is then, in that case, is how can you design this request? Are there wins for the board and wins your organization and wins for everybody? Is it a winner? Or, just another thing to do that might help. Important, so that’s the second kind.

The first kind, again, was a natural resistance to movement of any kind. The second kind is this we’re not asking it in the best way. We’re not being strategic and thoughtful. We haven’t really gotten into their shoes.

Resistance Type 3

The third kind of resistance which is also unhealthy, is also caused by nonprofits. Sometimes not your nonprofit, but it comes to the territory. It is that over time, your board members have learned that if you ask them if they don’t want to do it, they look down at their desk. They look at their cell phones. They excuse themselves in the room. That they basically show their resistance, and over time, it goes away.

So say you say, “We’re having an event. We’d like you to invite five people each, and we’ll be, you know, asking you next meeting how that’s going,” and everyone looks down, turns away, and you know it’s not going to happen.

So it’s like you created this conditioned response that as soon as you ask for something they don’t want to do. You don’t have communication about how you might fix that instead, you have this “Uh, we’ll just wait this out.” This is like, this is called like the snow will eventually melt. It will go away, and then we’ll go back to things as they are.

So the third kind of resistance is like leftover, caused by previous not having given people good choices and then allowing that, like oh we can just ignore this it’ll go away, to remain.

Resistance Type 4

The fourth kind of resistance is actually also unhealthy, but it’s not caused by nonprofits, I’m happy to say. But it’s still frustrating and gets in your way, and that resistance is when the board member has fears about what you’re asking. It could be a fear of fundraising. It could be a fear of looking stupid amongst their friends. It could be a fear, I don’t have time. I don’t know what to do. I’m not going to involve my peers. I have no idea how to make do this. What you think it’s a simple request is not a simple request for me.

So a classic way you get that is as you say to your board members, “I want you to call five of your friends and get them to come to this gala,” and what we don’t remember is how many steps there are actually to get those phone calls. To identify the friends. To warm the friends up, but this is coming. To actually make the ask. To knowing when to follow up after that initial invitation has been issued, so a lot of little steps that we inside the field if we’re doing it all the time–no problem. But our board members are like, “I don’t know what to do here.” So you get resistance.

Can You Cure Your Board’s Resistance to Fundraising?

So why does your board resist you? What is it about what you’re asking, how they’re feeling, or their experience that shows resistance? What’s causing that the solution to your resistance starts with knowing why you have it.

So, I’m Karen Eber Davis, and I’d love to chat about your challenges.

For more answers, check out the  Nonprofit CEO Library.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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