The Value of Relationships

| by Bert Armstrong

We’ve used a lot of ink this past month discussing the responsibilities of board members in raising money for their nonprofits.  We have shared strategies for setting expectations, engaging your board in the fundraising process, and offered some interesting animal descriptions to describe board behavior and help you think about how to best utilize them to strengthen your development program.  I'd like to share one additional element as we finish this series?

Our Armstrong McGuire team spent time last week planning our strategic direction for the next 3 – 5 years.  We started our planning the same way we encourage our clients to begin planning:  discussing our mission, core values, and a common vision for the future.  Our core values of integrity, experience and results have guided the Armstrong McGuire team for almost 10 years.  As we thought about our clients and the work we have done during the past decade, we realized that there was a fourth value that we have held just as sacred...the value of building strong RELATIONSHIPS with our clients!  Claiming this and agreeing on how important it is in our work helped propel our planning discussions into some new and exciting directions.

About the time this blog hits your inbox, members of the Armstrong McGuire team will be sitting down with leaders of the North Carolina Housing Coalition.  This will be our firm’s last meeting of an engagement that started with strategic planning last summer and is concluding with the hiring of Satana Deberry as the Coalition’s new Executive Director.  We greatly appreciate the relationships we have built with their leaders.  Today’s meeting will include discussions about the Coalition’s strategic priorities and how the board and executive director will work together in accomplishing their mission, vision and strategic goals.  Most importantly, this “covenant” meeting helps focus attention on the relationship building opportunities that exist among those charged with guiding such an important nonprofit organizations.

Creating healthy working relationships among leaders is at the heart of every nonprofit’s success.   The relationship between the chief executive and the board of directors is often the most visible sign of strength and confidence that an organization can share with its community of supporters.  Ask any foundation director, major philanthropist or community leader what the critical factors are in their decision to support a particular organization and you will undoubtedly hear about the relationships they have with its leaders (board and staff) and their confidence that these leaders are working together towards achievable goals.  When these leaders find the “sweet spot” in their relationship, a common vision for a better community takes shape, staff and volunteer work becomes more aligned to the agreed upon strategic direction, and fundraising campaigns to support important priorities become achievable. This last objective brings us full circle in our discussions regarding fundraising responsibilities of the board.

Fundraising isn’t solely the responsibility of any one person – not the “I’m just a volunteer” board members; the “pulled in 10 directions all at once” chief executive; or the “overworked, underappreciated” development staff.  It is a SHARED responsibility among staff and volunteers who enter into a relationship with one another to accomplish shared goals.  Only when we all commit to work together (to covenant with one another) will our annual fund drives and capital campaigns thrive – as will the mission and vision that our efforts are intended to support.  If any one of us breaks our covenant with the others, fundraising becomes a struggle and will likely fall short of everyone’s hopes and expectations.

How effectively are the leaders of your organization working together?  Join our conversation and share how relationships among your leaders are impacting your success.

Bert Armstrong is a co-founder and principal of Armstrong McGuire & Associates. 

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