What Nonprofit Boards Really Want to See, and How to Give It to Them

You’ve got ten minutes at the next board meeting to provide an update on your organization’s financial reports and data. What do you say? How do you prepare? How can you cram all the information you have into a ten-minute slice of a meeting that half the members don’t really want to be at? 

Nonprofit boards need updated, relevant, and useful information so they can make decisions and provide informed governance. And from your perspective, when you can deliver high quality data in visual displays that are easy to understand, it positions you as an active, engaged, and informed leader who is working diligently to advance your organization’s mission. 

You’re all on the same team. You all care about your mission. Having good data and data visualization doesn’t just make a good impression on your nonprofit board. It also helps you accomplish what your organization needs on behalf of your clients and beneficiaries.

This article will help you know what to say and how to say it at your next nonprofit board meeting.

Nonprofit Board Member Perspective

As you probably know, nonprofit board meetings can be frustrating, unproductive, annoying, boring, and many other things. They can also be collaborative, useful, informative, and strategic. Most board members will be able to attest to both sets of experiences. 

How Board Meetings Often Go

There are numerous challenges with running and maintaining an active, effective nonprofit board. When you come in to make your presentation, it’s helpful to know what you’re walking into. Dysfunctional boards can exhibit any or all of the following traits:

  • Boring and unproductive
  • Disorganized and way too long
  • Frequent tangents that divert from the planned agenda, if any
  • Little resolution to primary issues 
  • Domination and monopolization of the discussion by one or a few board members
  • Unprepared members who didn’t read advance materials
  • Poor attendance
  • Unclear expectations of board members’ roles

If your board exhibits any of these traits at its meetings, you have the opportunity to raise the level of expectations by delivering a crisp, informative, visually engaging, actionable presentation. Such a board is not used to effective and efficient uses of its time. 

How Board Members Wish Meetings Would Go

As you can guess, most board members would love it if their meetings were the opposite of the list above. They would like their time to be respected. They would like to feel valued for whatever expertise and experience they bring to the table. They would like to feel more like a partner working with you to help your organization grow. 

And when you deliver a presentation that does what we’re about to discuss, you’ll delight your board and make them feel glad they showed up for the meeting. They’ll feel like they have something to contribute. They’ll feel informed and empowered with actionable information. 

And you can do all this in just ten minutes, or whatever time in the board meeting has been allotted to you. 

What Nonprofit Boards Need to Know about Your Financial Data

So what does your board need to know? 

The surprising thing is, many boards don’t even know what they need to know. As this article points out, it’s not uncommon for boards to have no measurement models or systems in place for collecting and reporting on the success of their core programs.

Nonprofit boards are often comprised of people with real expertise in various areas, but they need high quality financial and fundraising reports so they can effectively assist in planning and in their own communication with people in their networks, including major donors, community and network connections, and perhaps government contacts. 

If you can present financial and fundraising data that comes from a reliable measurement model, you’ll be giving them exactly what they want and need.

Here’s what they need to know:

  • Key marketing and fundraising metrics
  • Data presented in an easily digestible format
  • Action steps and strategies that directly emerge from the data

Let’s get specific about what marketing and fundraising metrics you can present.

Fundraising Data to Present to Your Board

So, back to our initial scenario:

You’ve got ten minutes to present to your board. What are you going to say? 

The Metrics

Here are some of the most useful and informative fundraising metrics you can share with your board:

  • Monthly, quarterly and annual revenue (growth, hopefully)
  • Average donation amount
  • Reactivated donors
  • Lapsed donors
  • Donor churn
  • Donor (people) retention rate
  • Donation ($ dollar amount) retention rate
  • Donor lifetime value (the most important metric)
  • Recurring donors vs. One-time donors
  • Donation frequency
  • Donor acquisition
  • Bequest potential
  • Major gift pipeline

As for process, the great thing is that you can obtain all this data from just three data categories – donor ID numbers, donation amounts, and donation dates. From just those three data points, you can calculate all the others on the above list, and more. 

Create Graphs and Send Them in Advance

When you use the Fundraising Report Card to calculate the above metrics, you’ll save yourself tons of time. And even better, you can also generate graphs showing how each of these data points has changed over time. 

Even better than that, you can also break each of these metrics down into five giving levels so you can show your board things like donation frequency for donors who give less than $100 compared to donors who give from $250 to $1000, major donors, and two other levels. 

Your board will be absolutely thrilled to see data like this presented in such a visually engaging format that is easy to understand, and they’ll appreciate it even more if you send them the data and graphs in advance of the meeting.

Focus Your Time on Strategies and Actions

Because these graphs are so easy to generate using the Fundraising Report Card, you can prepare them ahead of the meeting and send them out in advance. You should definitely do this, because then you can devote your board meeting time to discussing what to do with the data, rather than spending all the time merely explaining it. 

For example, using the donation frequency example again, this metric gives you a sense of how many monthly donors you have compared to the rest of the donors. If you look at your donation frequency from the last five years, you’ll see if you’re getting more monthly and repeat donors, fewer, or if it’s not changing much. And, you’ll see it at each of the five giving levels.

With the ability to drill down into the data like that, you might discover much higher donation frequency among certain giving levels. Maybe you have high frequency in a couple middle tiers, but it’s lower with your major donors or low-level donors. 

Whatever your data looks like, your board will very quickly see the picture and the history from the last few years, with all the metrics listed above and more.

With everyone now well-informed about the reality, you can devote your meeting time talking about what you plan to DO as a result of that data. 

Present your plans for how you’ll improve your donation frequency. Or, if it’s already been growing, talk about what you’ll do to sustain your success. 

Now, you’re talking about what you’re going to do, and your board will have much greater confidence in your abilities and your performance. 

Demonstrate Responsive Expertise

And this is the final point to make. By having such useful and easily understandable data, and by sending it out to the board in advance and discussing your strategic plans in response to that data, you will come across as a data-driven, action-oriented, strategy-focused leader.

You’ll know what you’re talking about. You’ll have data to back you up. And your board will feel good about what you’re doing. If they have suggestions or ideas they want to discuss, they’ll be discussing them in the context of the known data, not off the cuff hairbrained ideas that have little basis in reality. 

Your meetings will be about the substance. The reality. And your meetings will be productive and collaborative. 

The Key to Impressive Board Meeting Presentations 

As you may realize already, the most effective aspect of presenting your fundraising data to your board is the data visualizations – the graphs.

Charts and numbers can sometimes get overwhelming if you bombard people with them. But graphs give a clear picture of reality in a format that’s easy to understand. 

With the Fundraising Report Card, you’ll be able to create an impressive array of graphs for all the metrics above, and broken down into five giving levels. And you’ll get all this data in minutes.

Doing this on your own would take hours. You’d have to organize the data, calculate the new metrics based on the three foundational ones, and then prepare the graphs using something like Microsoft Excel. 

Is it possible to do that yourself, or have your team do it? Of course.

But are the hours you’d spend doing this every time you want to make a presentation using the most current data worth all that time? 

Start using the Fundraising Report Card. Prepare easily understandable graphs and data visualizations. Impress and inform your nonprofit’s board. 

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