Jerold Panas is author of The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, Making a Case Your Donors Will Love, Asking, The Fundraiser's Measuring Stick, and Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them.
I've never really kept track.
In my years of consulting, I suppose I've worked with 30,000 volunteer and professional fundraisers. Perhaps as many as 50,000. They come in all sizes and shapes and ethnic backgrounds. Tall, short. Heavy, thin. I've seen it all.
From this wealth of experience, I've identified 15 precepts that I believe board members should use as their guide. In my book, The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, I spell them out in more detail.
- The mission of your organization is its most prized treasure—to be taken out for public display, to be cherished, and to be polished regularly to maintain its luster and value. Your mission isn't a recital of where you've been. It speaks eloquently as to where you're going.
- You make certain your organization has the financial resources to meet its mission. Money makes this happen. Board members cannot abdicate their responsibility for raising funds. They cannot allow a mission deficit.
- Trustees must be willing to give. This is what transforms vision into reality. If those closest don't give, it is a serious failure, a decaying of moral fortitude, determination, and dedication.
- You bring to each board meeting a probing, challenging, open mind. You ask, What are we achieving? Are we meeting our mission? What are the dreams and visions for the future?
- Understand that your organization doesn't have needs. The people you serve have needs. You have the answer. The response. The solution.
- It is an unforgiving failure if you come to a board meeting unprepared. If you're not familiar with what is happening, it sets a course for a rudderless journey in stormy waters. No compass, no direction, no bearings, no future.
- Policy determination is the province of the board and the board only. Policy execution is the responsibility of the staff. You are admonished not to meddle. There ought to be a "No Trespassing" sign firmly in place.
- You never lose sight that your organization is in the business of empowering and enriching lives.
- Complacency and even graduate growth are the enemies of organizational vitality. There's plenty of room at the bottom for the organization willing to limp along and live on past laurels.
- It is amazing, the wondrous things that can be achieved when a staff receives its proper recognition. Including salary recognition. You provide accord and acclaim for good performance.
- There are four levels of trustees. Those who make things happen. Those who watch things happen. Those to whom things happen. And those who don't even know what's happening. Your job is to make things happen.
- As a board member, you are less concerned about how things are done and greatly concerned about why things are done.
- The financial statement doesn't tell the story of your organization. The bottom line cannot be counted in dollars. The true net worth can only be measure in how you affect the lives of those you serve.
- A ho-hum board begets a ho-hum institution. Plain vanilla. No soaring hopes. No exciting aspirations. No creative solutions. It will never be able to respond to human and social needs. Your responsibility is to be continuously vigilant. To review, package, and revitalize the program.
- As a trustee, you are an advocate. You carry the flag. More than anyone, you're the goodwill ambassador and tell the organization's story whenever and wherever possible. Be a roaring enthusiast. Tell everyone about the amazing work your organization is doing.
As a board member, you are among the chosen few. Lives are being changed and saved because of you. You're the noble souls raising funds to provide the scholarships, heal the sick, feed the hungry, build the buildings, furnish the equipment, and find the cures.
You dream the unthinkable. Attempt the impossible. It is the magic of your involvement that leads your organization to success.
You will forever be, to use Ernest Hemingway's salute: "The winner and undisputed champion."
Jerold Panas is among a small handful of the grandmasters of American fundraisers. He is considered one of the top writers in the field and a number of his books have achieved classic status. Hailed by Newsweek as "the Robert Schuller of fundraising," Jerry is a favorite speaker at conferences and workshops throughout the nation. He is executive director of one of the premier firms in America and is co-founder of the Institute for Charitable Giving. The very term "philanthropy" would mean less without Jerry's influence. He lives with his wife, Felicity, in northwest Connecticut.