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What Did You Just Say?! Learn How to Communicate So Your Board Understands You!

Resource Center - Foundation

Peter Drury 150x156You’re a fundraiser in a corporate world and you’re having a hard time communicating to connect the two. Peter Drury, director of development at Splash, an AFPeep and returning speaker at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising will help you create a dashboard to guide you in communicating with your board, as well as a thesaurus to make sure the communication is understood by all parties!

As a fundraiser you are challenged with reporting to a board that may be made up of corporate professionals such as attorneys, accountants, executives, etc. So how do you make sure you’re providing them with the information they crave, while representing the fundraising data in an accurate and helpful manner? The key, says Drury, is to create a fundraising management dashboard.

When you’re driving your car you rely on the dashboard to tell you how fast you’re going, when you need gas, if it’s time to change the oil and these days even the weather. You rely on this dashboard to lead you from point A to point B. Why then wouldn’t you use a dashboard to guide you in your relationship with your board? Through the development and use of a fundraising management dashboard you can build shared understanding among leaders, placing focus where it  must be.

“When volunteers come on to boards they may not know the same things as fundraisers,” says Drury. “However, they’re inclined to ask questions about the fundraising aspects of the organization. So, how do we give them guidance on what specific questions to ask so fundraisers are held accountable, and so they gain the data they’re seeking?”

Drury finds that although board members are successful in the corporate world, they may need some guidance and leadership when it comes to fundraising. Fundraisers have the role of making sure the board has the right information. For example, say you bring on a board member because of their connections in the community, but as the fundraiser you do not provide the right information to the board. Right then you’re losing the communication connection and ability to gain social capital among the board’s connections.

Crafting Your Dashboard

How does a fundraiser make sure they’re providing the correct information to the board? Drury suggest creating a dashboard—a template that you will use to report the same updated information from board meeting to board meeting. Drury’s personal template, which was featured in the 2012 September/October issue of Advancing Philanthropy, follows seven key indicators. These indicators feature data that both he and the board agree are most important.

“One of my seven indicators is member retention. Member retention is more important for a board to evaluate fundraising success than is the number of dollars brought in,” says Drury. “More members today could mean more dollars in the future. It’s about communicating the correct information as a lead indicator opposed to a lag indicator,” says Drury.

During Drury’s session, How to Build (and How Not to) a Fundraising Management Dashboard on Monday, April 8 from 1:15 – 2:30 p.m., he’ll take direct questions from the audience and help them craft a fundraising management dashboard that’s unique to their organization and board. He assures that this dashboard is not heavy-handed in terms of math but more so in perspective.

Once you’ve created your dashboard the next step is to accurately communicate the most important data from your template to the board. But what happens when your board doesn’t understand your fundraising jargon? Enter Drury’s second session at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising in San Diego: Lost in Translation? Tools & Tips for Using the Language of Business to Communicate Fundraising Priorities.

In Other Words

Through the work that Drury has been doing with dashboards over the last couple years, he realized that people were getting stuck on the language barrier between themselves and the board. Yes, you now have a great template of information to present to your board, but it doesn’t mean much if they don’t understand a word you’re saying!

“During my session in Vancouver [at last year’s AFP conference] I explained fundraising in a non-fundraising language. I used business language. Fundraisers are not my target audience, they’re my friends and allies. The dashboard—that’s for fundraisers. But the target audience for the tool is the board. That’s who the fundraisers build it for, so they need to know how to communicate the data from the tool,” convinces Drury.

Drury gives the following example, such as when the CEO asks the fundraiser to prioritize and focus on a major gift of $100,000. “The fundraiser should counter that request by asking if it’s better to have one gift of $100,000, or 1,000 gifts that are $100 each,” says Drury. “If I put all of my time into a $100,000 gift and I don’t get it then I have no money, but if I spend my time getting 1,000 smaller gifts and I don’t secure a few then I’m still left with money. And what happens if that big gift donor doesn’t return the next year, when at least a few of my smaller gift donors are likely to return,” says Drury.

The purpose is to open your board’s eyes to a fundraising view with business jargon. It’s also about communicating the priorities of fundraising in a business language that your board can understand. That’s what Drury’s second session, Lost in Translation? Tools & Tips for Using the Language of Business to Communicate Fundraising Priorities on Tuesday, April 9 from 12:45 – 2:00 p.m. will teach you.

Bring the issues that are plaguing you! “In both sessions I will take time to ask people what they’re stuck on,” says Drury. I want to know the hardest questions they’re facing. We’re going to create a dashboard to present to the board and a thesaurus to accurately communicate the data.”

As an advanced development professional you will benefit from both of these sessions, as they stand alone in their features. They will complement each other but not repeat the teachings. The first will flow into the second perfectly! 

Life As An AFPeep

If you don’t catch Drury in his education sessions, you will certainly be able to find him in the Peeps Nest in the Marketplace and roaming on social media. As an official AFPeep, Drury encourages all attendees to approach these social media guru’s at the conference and ask them everything from the basics of “What is a hashtag?” to, “How can I use social media to promote my nonprofit?”  No question, says Drury, is too simple or stupid. This is a safe place for anyone to ask anything that they’re too shy to ask amongst the millions on the waves of social media.

Drury’s journey to an official AFPeep began on social media when he was following the 2010 AFP International Conference remotely. After building several relationships via Twitter, he was thrilled when they all came together to meet face-to-face at AFP’s conference, and thus the AFPeeps were born. They have been chirping all over Twitter ever since.

Don’t be shy—the AFPeeps are not an exclusive club that you can’t join! The AFPeeps are just like you and find social media to be a compelling aspect to the nonprofit world and fundraising professionals. To join in on the conversations, simply tweet using the hashtags #afpeeps and #afpmeet!

Whether you’re tuning in remotely via social media or you’re attending Drury’s sessions in the flesh, you’ll be sure to walk away with a template on how to communicate with your board, what to communicate to your board and a ton of confidence for that next board meeting!

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