Partnership Boards: Effective Vehicles for Advancing Your Mission


I’ve recently been helping a non-profit organization that wisely decided to form regional partnership boards to strengthen awareness and support for their mission.  It has given me ample opportunity to reflect on the characteristics of effective partnership boards and when they make the most sense for an organization to consider implementing such a strategy.

A partnership board is a group of organizational supporters from a region where your organization is active.  The primary purposes of such a board are to enhance awareness of your work in the region and to strengthen your capacity for fundraising in the community.  It is not a governing board, and it does not take the place of a board of directors or trustees.

Partnership Boards may be right for your organization if you are trying to build support in different regions of the country or different communities in an urban area.  Think of them as similar to the regional alumni organizations that are hosted by national universities.  At first the gatherings can be primarily social occasions, designed to bring people together to hear from organizational leaders about new developments in the region, and to learn of the impact you have or hope to have on people who live there.  Every such occasion should include a menu of “asks:”  to donate, to become more involved, to identify others who should be included in future events.

When recruiting for such a board, you will want to identify key individuals who are leaders in the community, who have a passion for your mission, and who are willing to commit to helping you strengthen your efforts in the region.  You will want some philanthropists on the board, but more importantly, you’ll need to identify those who want to see your organization have a greater impact in the local community.  Ask yourself the question:  who are the people who can help us get the job done in this community?  These are the people you will want to invite to serve on your partnership board!

A partnership board can provide valuable advice and counsel to your organization without demanding a lot of time from its members.  Since you may have several such boards in different regions, you’ll want to plan for them to meet just twice a year.  Between meetings, you can keep members informed of the assistance you need in a given region, but you can also hold up examples of effective support in each region that will inspire other regions to do the same.

Partnership boards can be excellent proving grounds for building your board of trustees.  Those who excel at advancing your mission at the regional level can be asked to make the greater commitment to joining your board.

Fundraising is seldom about radically new ideas; it’s always about the old idea that your mission needs support!  Partnership Boards may help you achieve that support at the local level.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions


A Message of Thanks!


As we near the close of the fiscal year, we development folks are often busy wrapping up loose ends, finalizing budgets for the new fiscal year as well as sending out just one more appeal or special mailing or e-blast to donors and friends.  While all of this is important and keeps us busy and on our toes, I’d like to propose adding just one more thing to your early summer to-do list…and that is, send a note of thanks to each board member and other special volunteers.

For many, summer tends to be a little slower paced, with folks taking time for a vacation or a weekend getaway…or maybe even a day off for a ball game, a concert or a day at the beach.  Wouldn’t it be nice for your board members and volunteers – key investors and leaders of your organizations – to come home to find not another to-do, or something they need to respond to or a request for help in their mailbox…but a simple note of gratitude waiting for them?

I was recently at a meeting and someone remarked on how nice it was to receive a handwritten note.  I heard the person say…”it felt so genuine…it wasn’t an email!…it made me feel great that they took the time to write to me!”

I promise you…it’s simple, this doesn’t take a huge amount of time, and your effort will not go unnoticed.

Some ideas…

  • Handwrite the note…keep it short and sweet…just tell them how much you appreciate their time work and energy to help your organization fulfill its mission.
  • Send a photo of a grateful client with a simple message…we appreciate you…you helped make this happen.
  • Share a win…a grant proposal awarded, a record number of clients served…whatever it may be. Tell your board member or volunteer that this would not be possible without their leadership and support.

The idea is simple…the message is simple.  But, this effort can go along way with our volunteer leaders.  It tells them that you are appreciative of their work…that you noticed…that you care.  So, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade, turn on some tunes and start writing your notes!    Have a wonderful summer!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Seasoned and Green


Is your current Board comprised of established members – constituents who have been a part of your organization for a decade or longer?  Over the past few weeks, I have found myself in conversation with several non-profit leaders where this topic has been raised.  The consistent concerns are twofold:

  1. How do we continue to engage this important (and aging) group; and
  2. How do we attract and engage the “next generation” of leaders?

Let’s take the first group first.  Obviously, it is important to continue to recognize and thank your faithful leaders.  But it is also important to read their cues.  In other words, do you have a Board member who is getting tired?  Is he/she hinting that it may be time to take a less active role with the organization?  The best approach is simply to have a conversation with this person.  Invite him/her for coffee or lunch and listen.  Ask open-ended questions.  Find out how they would like to stay engaged and informed.

If your organization does not have one, perhaps you should consider creating an Advisory Council or a President’s Council.  Designed to meet the needs of your organization and a select group of constituents, this type of “board” typically meets only once a year for lunch and a “state of the organization”-type presentation.  In addition, the members of this Council may be consulted occasionally for advice or assistance.  This arrangement is typically a “win-win” for members and the organization alike.

It is equally important to “listen” to the senior Board members who want to continue to be active and engaged.  Unfortunately, I have seen active Board members forced to “resign” to a role as a Life Trustee – or something less meaningful – as a way to open a Board spot for someone else.  This can be a big mistake, as some may take offense and become less engaged, both with their time and their resources.

In terms of attracting the “next generation” – it is also important to listen and understand what type of volunteer work they are interested in and what role they may want to play with the organization.  It’s typically a good idea to find more entry level roles for younger constituents – perhaps they can help with a benefit or serve on a Junior Board.  This helps both the volunteer and the organization get acquainted before making a potentially bigger commitment, such as a Board role.  It is also fun to identify and cultivate family members – children or other relatives of Board members or volunteers –  as they typically have a good understanding of the mission and may be interested in developing a relationship with the organization as well.

In any of these scenarios, it is often just a matter of observing, asking good questions – and truly listening to the needs and interests of your constituents.  Which simply translates into good development.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

The Value of Volunteers



By George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

The Independent Sector recently announced on their website that the 2015 value of volunteer time increased 49 cents over the value of a volunteer hour in the year prior.  The study shows that the 2015 national value of a volunteer hour is $23.56  (Illinois avg. = $25.34 a 2.4% increase over 2014) the survey shows a steady growth in the value of a volunteer hour since 2001.  More than anything, I believe this study shows that volunteers do indeed bring real, measureable value to an organization.  Over my career, I have come to know organizations that use volunteers in different way.  Many treat volunteers as a “necessary evil” instead of a strategic resource.  The strategic organizations acknowledge that volunteers are a valuable resource and plan accordingly.  Here are three things your organization should do  to effectively use volunteers:

  1. Budget a staff member’s time to coordinate the work of volunteers.  Boards, Committees and Councils are comprised of volunteers.  The best of these groups actively work to advance the organization, but also have need for information, support, etc.  Make sure that someone has designated time in his or her work schedule to provide the support necessary.
  2. Create projects with anticipated needs and clear objectives defined for volunteers.  How will you use volunteers?  This is a critical and strategic decision.  Effective organizations make plans with clear objectives to utilize volunteers and anticipate their needs.  Is the plan for a committee to identify, five new Board member prospects in the next 90 days?  What are the interim steps?  What materials will Board members need?
  3. Take the time to celebrate victories – Remember, volunteers are not staff.  Take the time to celebrate the “wins” that volunteers allow your organization to experience.  This will reinforce with the volunteers how impactful their time is to your organization and will show your appreciation for their generous gifts of time and talent.

As the Independent Sector points out, volunteer time is a precious commodity that comes with a real and tangible value to your organization.  Be strategic when thinking about how your organization will  plan clearly, budget for the support necessary for their success  and make the time to calibrate the impact they have on advancing your organization.

How to Maximize your ROI with a Party in a Box

party in a box

by Molly Galo, Senior Consultant, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

As professional fundraisers, we know it makes most sense to spend most of our time building an individual giving program.  We know the importance of building relationships over time with individual donors that result in major gifts.  After all, more than 70 percent of all charitable contributions come from individuals.  Those gifts have the greatest impact on our programs…and in business terms offer us the greatest return on our investment of our time and other precious resources.

But we also know that our board members and volunteers don’t always see it that way.

How many times have you heard an enthusiastic, well-meaning board member—or even your entire development committee—say, “we just need to have more events”?  Or, “we need to raise money, let’s throw a party?”

Events are important, to be sure.  They do bring in funds, new friends, and exposure for your organization.  But, they can take a disproportionate amount of staff time and agency resources.

I’d like to offer a strategy for harnessing your board members’ enthusiasm, while helping you maximize the ROI of your staff’s time, and your organization’s monetary resources:  the Party in a Box.  Simply put, the Party in a Box is a package you can hand to any third party – board member, volunteer, local business –that wants to host an event to benefit your organization.   The package defines the types of events that make sense for you, offers clear guidelines regarding host and staff responsibilities, and offers strategies for thanking participants.  As you think through what makes sense for your organization, consider the following:

Third-party Fundraisers come in many forms.  These types of events can be as simple as a dine-out night at a local restaurant, from which your organization receives a percentage of the proceeds.  Or, they might take the form of a private party thrown by a board member during which guests are asked to make contributions to your organization. Or, a host committee might throw a large, public event to which attendees by tickets.

Ideally, the host will handle most, if not all, of the planning and execution.  Since the goal is to minimize the burden on staff, it is best to spell out expectations regarding all responsibilities in the package you give to your hosts: who is handling the guest list, invitations, RSVPs?  If you’re selling tickets, how will sales be handled?  Will a staff member speak about your mission at the event? How and by whom will the event be publicized?  Will your organization incur any expenses?

Thank your hosts and attendees.  Be sure you’ve got your event follow-up plan in place.  Your hosts are wonderful partners, be sure they understand how much you appreciate them!  And your attendees are donors, too.  You never know, some of them may become major donors.

The Party in a Box strategy is a win for everyone – your board members and volunteers who want to help, your staff who have myriad competing priorities, and, most importantly, the beneficiaries of your organization’s mission.