FUNdraising Good Times: Building Consensus and Reaching Agreement


Column, Mel and Pearl Shaw

This is the second in a series focused on the prerequisites for fundraising success.

Agreement is the cornerstone upon which a healthy nonprofit is built. Without agreement amongst an organization’s leadership it is almost impossible to sustain successful fundraising.

You may be in a situation where there was agreement in the past, but changes in board membership, executive leadership, the economy, or needs of the community have eroded prior agreement. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As we mentioned in part one of this series, it may be time for things to change.

Reaching and sustaining agreement is an ongoing process that impacts many aspects of your organization including fundraising. For example, your case for support, fundraising priorities and strategies all depend on prior agreement. Without agreement, leadership may feel they are asked to “rubber stamp” decisions. They may consent in words, but not with actions. You may find “simple” decisions such as approving a grant submission evolve into lengthy discussions that question the organization’s direction. These can emerge because time was not previously allocated to full and open discussion.

Here’s a process we suggest for the new year. Both the board chair and the executive director can schedule individual conversations with board members, senior staff, and key volunteers. The purpose of these conversations is to learn their thoughts regarding current and proposed programming, strategic directions, fundraising, staffing, and – in general terms – their level of comfort with the nonprofit and how they want to be involved. Questions should be answered, dissent noted and addressed, and new ideas given proper consideration.

These individual conversations should be followed by a leadership meeting. The board chair and executive director should communicate the work that lies ahead for the coming year and invite discussion. They can begin by laying out new ideas raised in individual conversations, or areas where they know there is dissent.

This may sound like “a lot of unnecessary work.” Others may feel it “opens up a can of worms.” We believe it is important to the very foundation of your nonprofit. Some years leaders may engage in long, animated discussions. Other years leadership may nod in agreement, reaffirming prior commitments and wanting to get on with the work at hand.

What’s most important is that every attempt is made to understand minority opinions and objections. When people feel their concerns are not addressed, they can make it difficult to reach future decisions, or they may remove themselves from the organization, taking with them their wisdom and relationships.

Learn more by reading chapter one of our book Prerequisites for Fundraising Success.

Next week: commitment.

Copyright 2015– Mel and Pearl Shaw

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