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Relationship Fundraising Comes of Age

In 1992 I had the absolute pleasure of working with numerous nonprofits and their fundraising throughout Europe. During that year, I was handed a copy of a revolutionary new book on fundraising techniques and principles. The book was Relationship Fundraising authored by a Scotsman with the name of Ken Burnett.


Honoring Nonprofit CFOs

The Nonprofit CFO of the Year Awards honor financial professionals who have made extraordinary efforts to support and maintain the mission of their organizations, often creating innovative ways to do so. This annual event recognizes and honors the contributions of nonprofit financial executives who demonstrate a vision for operational excellence, innovation in finance and management, and exceptional leadership and commitment to improving accountability and financial reporting. The CFO Awards recognize the often unsung leadership role CFOs have in the important works nonprofits do, working generally behind the scene as a key supporter of the executive director, to keep the organization moving forward.


Three False Assumptions Looming Behind Big Data

Nonprofits already know that big data can open up a swath of fundraising, marketing and management opportunities. But for all the expectation, it's important to remember that even the best data has its limits. Any org looking to leverage and apply data should immediately lose the following assumptions:


Nonprofit Financial Statements: Change is Coming

This March, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) – the organization that establishes financial accounting and reporting standards – will release a first draft of the new financial reporting changes for non-profit organizations. The good news: everyone in the non-profit space can have a voice in accepting or rejecting the changes. It is highly recommended that all non-profits and financial statement users share their opinion with FASB – good, bad, or otherwise – since it will impact reporting requirements.


5 Nonprofit Fundraising Predictions for 2015 and Beyond

2015 is already shaping up to be a transitional year for nonprofits, as the sector’s leaders implement more business-minded tactics to grow revenue, versus simply sustain operations.


Thank you for sharing your #Nonprofitluv

Thank you to all of the nonprofits and donors who participated in GuideStar's 3rd annual #Nonprofitluv campaign! Explore our Storify of collected images and social media shout-outs here. I encourage everyone to take a look at the great work nonprofits are doing all across the country! Hundreds of nonprofits participated, and according to SimplyMeasured, our campaign reached a total of 554,264 potential impressions, which is the total number of times a Tweet could appear in users’ Twitter feeds during the report period. That's a lot of luv! Below are some highlights from campaign, which ran January 28th to February 16th. Check out our Storify or visit GuideStar's #Nonprofitluv landing page to see them all!


The Board's Role in Donor Cultivation

 

Here's a dilemma. Your organization has a new board member—let's call her Maisie.

She is personally wealthy and knows a lot of people who could be prospects for major gifts (indeed, that's why you asked her to join the board and were thrilled when she accepted). You hope she'll provide entree to a whole new donor pool.

Maisie comes to her first development committee meeting. She's already promised to do her share. You present her with logical prospects to solicit and anticipate great results. But in every instance Maisie's response is the same. "Well of course I know them. But I couldn't possibly ask them for money." Then the next sentence is either "They're some of my closest friends" or "They're relatives."

What to do? For the moment, let's discuss what you shouldn't do:

  • First, don't insist. It's amazing how many of us do, often with poor results. We don't want to accept a no from someone like Maisie because we're certain she'll succeed. But if Maisie isn't comfortable asking, of if she does agree reluctantly, then it's likely she'll be a terrible solicitor. If you push too hard, the whole thing could end unpleasantly—you might even find yourself minus a board member.
  • Second, be willing to put off soliciting some of the people you felt were perfect prospects for Maisie—at least for a while. Once she has her feet on the ground and has success asking others, she may change her mind. I've seen this happen countless times.
  • Third, don't let Maisie off the hook. She may not be the best solicitor, at least not yet, but there are other ways she can help.

As I explain in my book, How to Connect with Donors and Double the Money You Raise, I learned early on how the process works when people feel they can't approach family and friends. My parents, who were generous and willing to help raise money, were continually asked to serve on boards. No surprise there. But there was one group my mother and father never approached—relatives. There was an unwritten family rule—"We don't solicit one another." As you would guess, that frustrated a lot of organizations that had anticipated easy pickings when my parents joined their boards.

It frustrated my mother, too, as she did want to help financially. Fortunately, under the tutelage of a fundraising master, she learned just how to do that.

Roland was executive director of an organization where my mother served as a board member. She loved what the group did and wanted to improve their bottom line. "I wish there was something I could do," she told Roland."But I'd be booted out of the family."

"Oh, but you can help," Roland said. And over the next month, he and my mother and the development staff developed a list of key family members with my mother telling them everything she knew about each one—age, occupation, interests, children with ages and where they went to school, things their children had done of which they were particularly proud. It was an information dump so large my mother wondered how it could possibly be useful.

But useful it was. As Roland and his staff and other board members met the relatives, they were primed. As such, they could link aspects of their organization's activities to areas of interest for each family member. Sometimes it led nowhere ... but occasionally a connection was made. And as one family member after another came into the fold, the dominoes started to fall and many became donors.

Board members have a special status in the game of donor cultivation. Their word offers more credibility than a staff member's. So talking up an organization, telling a prospect why doing board service is so satisfying, can be a critical first step in introducing that individual to an organization. In fact, when I conduct board trainings, I tell each member that every gathering they attend is a cultivation event, and if they don't have at least one conversation with a potential donor, then these board members aren't doing their job.

There is one last area of donor cultivation uniquely suited to a board member—that of cultivating fellow trustees. If you've been in the field for long, you're aware that no group of individuals has more responsibility for giving than the board. Yet often their giving potential is under-realized.

That's why each trustee should be thought of as a prospect and each should receive the kind of attention reserved for the most important donors. I always assume that a trustee will give more if properly cultivated. This is not a job for staff—only fellow trustees can do it. And when they do it well, everyone feels good.

The preceding is a guest post by Thomas Wolf, a principal with the consulting firm WolfBrown. He is the author of How to Connect with Donors and Double the Money You Raise. Among his other books is Effective Leadership for Nonprofit Organizations: How Executive Directors and Boards Work Together.


Pruning Deadwood from Your Board

 

Have you looked at a board member's name and thought, "When did we see that person last?" Or do you have board members who show up physically at meetings but aren't working on any projects, don't participate in discussions, and haven't contributed in any way to the board's work?

Most nonprofit boards have deadwood at one time or another. And many nonprofit leaders suffer some degree of angst in deciding what to do about it. Can we get the person off the board voluntarily? If we force him or her off the board, will there be repercussions from other board members or stakeholders? The best test to get over any self-doubt about pruning deadwood from your board is to ask yourself, "What could we accomplish if we had an active, energetic, and engaged board member in that slot?"

Inactive board members aren't necessarily bad people. They may, in fact, have actively contributed to the board's work early in their tenure. Life changes and priorities shift. Maybe they've over-committed, or maybe the work of the board has changed enough to leave these board members behind. There are also board members who looked great on paper when they were recruited but for whatever reason never really engaged and or found their role on the board.

When confronted with deadwood on your board, it's worth stepping back and trying to determine why a member is not active. It's possible that the situation can be remedied. Perhaps you need to have a conversation about expectations for board members, offer a new committee assignment, or even suggest a short sabbatical from the board to resolve business or personal issues that are monopolizing the board member's time.

When you've exhausted the possibilities of firing up an inactive board member, it's time to look at how to graciously remove him or her from the board and free up that slot. It's important that this be a board-driven process and not simply the executive director's initiative. If the executive director takes the lead, it's akin to firing the boss (which may be tempting at times, but not very practical). Certainly the executive director should be aware of what's happening, and he or she might actually be helping in the background.

A little research is called for at this point. When does the board member's term expire? The best time to ask someone to vacate the board is when the end of his or her term is coming up; in fact, you can just not renew the term. A corollary would be to evaluate all board members' activity levels as terms expire and address inactive board members then. Hopefully the bylaws clearly define terms for board members. Two-year terms are the most common, but there are other durations.

Ideally when the end of board members' terms are coming up, the board chair can call them individually to discuss their recommitment to the board. A conversation with an inactive board member can discuss whether or not his or her situation will be changing or if he or she has an interest in continuing on the board in a more active role. If the board member has disengaged so much that a phone conversation isn't possible or practical, the board chair should write a letter. The letter can thank the board member for past service, state that the chair is sorry that the member hasn't been able to participate more, and note that the term will not be renewed. It should also say to let the chair know if the board member's situation changes in the future and he or she would like to reengage with the board.

I've had very interesting experiences with these phone calls and letters—all very positive! Never have I had a (soon to be former) board member get upset. They seemed to be looking for a gracious way to exit an organization that they've lost interest in and appreciated the ability to go quietly. There's almost a sigh of relief. And from the organization's standpoint, there's now an open board slot to fill with new blood!

The preceding is a guest post by Bill Hoffman. Bill has more than 30 years' expertise in various aspects of the nonprofit sector, having worked at all levels of nonprofit organizations, including serving as chief executive of a $6 million education foundation for 9 years. He and his firm have written and presented on topics ranging from board development to community and volunteer engagement, organizational development and performance, and best practices in national, regional, and state publications and symposia.


Ask Andrea – Fresh Perspectives on Fundraising


Hiding in Plain Sight

Do you have high capacity donors hiding in plain sight?Chances are you do and you may not know it.


Trusting Technology to Overcome Management Challenges in Your Nonprofit

What is the biggest challenge facing your nonprofit right now? If you’re like most nonprofits, it probably has to do with managing people.


Better Data, Better Decisions, Better World

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” -John F. Kennedy


Join GuideStar's First 2015 Impact Call!

Please join Jacob Harold and James Lum, GuideStar’s CEO and CFO, respectively, on Monday, February 23, 2 pm EDT, for our first Impact Call of 2015: www.guidestar.org/impact. During the live discussion with participants, Harold will present and discuss GuideStar’s theory of change, in which the organization of nonprofit information and data can strengthen every one of the four factors that lead to social impact:


Blogging For Nonprofits- How To Get Started

This is part one of a three-part series on how you can get started with blogging. We’ll talk about getting started, blogging platforms, idea generation, and distribution channels in the series to help you get started with blogging.


The Power of a Six-Month Thank You: Making donor impact real

You have gotten through the year-end avalanche of contributions.You thanked everyone promptly – even the donors of stock gifts, pledge payments, and restricted gifts.The mail flow is down to a trickle now.So thanking donors no longer takes a major chunk of each day.But before you move on to the next big thing, please make yourself a note to thank your top donors in May or June.

The immediate acknowledgement says, “We got the check, and we will put it to work.” Note the future tense.

Now fast forward six months.The donor wants to hear how the gift is being transformed into altruistic muscle fibers.The message of the six-month thank you is, “That gift is fully employed, to accomplish the work we both cherish.”

For fundraisers, the pivotal moment in the relationship is The Ask.But for donors it’s different.A donor who says yes to a request is trusting the institution to be a conduit for his or her altruism.The pivotal moment, from the donor’s perspective, is when the institution reports that the gift made a difference.

When I was a fundraiser for The Wilderness Society, I visited a donor who loved the landscape in southern Utah.The Bureau of Land Management at that time was figuring out what to do with a place called the Grand Staircase Escalante.One year, the scientists of The Wilderness Society were cataloging the unique treasures of this landscape, so they could persuade the BLM that it was worth protecting.I asked the donor if he would underwrite that research.He said yes.It was a gift of $25,000.

The next year, the BLM laid out five different alternative management plans, and The Wilderness Society advocated for the scheme that was most protective.The donor said yes again, and that year his gift paid for that advocacy.

The following year, the BLM evaded the decision and put together a management plan that postponed any tough decisions.The Wilderness Society trained activists around the West to pressure the agency to protect the Grand Staircase Escalante.The donor paid for that training.

Finally, we heard from activists that the training materials were so helpful that they should be broadened so they could be used throughout all of the land managed by the BLM.So we provided that training, and the donor paid for it.

Every year, I was able to report to the donor what the organization had done with his gift.That lead to a discussion of the opportunities we had in front of us.And the discussion of opportunities lead to our plans, which opened the door for a solicitation of his next gift.It was a wonderful cycle: solicitation leads to gift, which leads to report, which leads to solicitation.

A sincere thank you is a powerful thing.But a thank you that communicates “look what your gift accomplished” is a nearly unstoppable force.Why would a donor not keep giving to an organization that reported faithfully on the work his or her gift made possible?

Paul Jolly

The preceding is a guest post by our regular contributor Paul Jolly, founder of Jump Start Growth, Inc. Paul worked as a fund raising professional for over 20 years before starting the consulting firm Jump Start Growth. He began his career serving various Quaker institutions, then moved to The Wilderness Society, and then the American Civil Liberties Union. In every instance, he has zeroed in on gifts from individuals at the top of the giving pyramid. The focus of Paul’s consulting work is bringing sophisticated major gifts fund raising practices to organizations that are outside of the philanthropic mainstream. His successes include leading three capital campaigns for organizations new to major gifts fund raising, securing millions of dollars in bequest and planned gift commitments, and bringing new life and laser-sharp focus to disheartened development departments.


Challenge Your Board, Raise More Money

 

You're probably familiar with the challenge or matching gift. A generous donor provides a gift or grant on the condition that you raise an equal amount from other sources.

These gifts often require a one-to-one match. Each donation you receive is matched dollar for dollar by the donor, though other ratios are possible.

If you listen to public radio anywhere in the United States, you've heard this appeal a thousand times. "Gerry Generous has pledged $5,000, but only if we raise an additional $5,000 in the next hour. Please give now!"

Challenge gifts are a classic fundraising tactic because they work. Why? The pitch includes two irresistible components. Good value for the donor—"Double your money! Your gift of $50 becomes $100!" Plus a deadline that creates a sense of urgency.

Use Challenge Gifts to Inspire Action

In recent years, the concept of the challenge has expanded to include other metrics. The donor provides a contribution if you meet different benchmarks, not just dollars raised.

For example, I volunteer for a grassroots organization in my community. One of our donors wanted to help broaden our base of support, so he pledged $15,000 on the condition that we recruit 30 new donors in 60 days, regardless of the amount they gave.

This was a great motivator. We had a measurable goal, a deadline, and a pitch: "Gifts of all sizes move us closer to a big donation. Will you help?"

How can you use this principle to better engage your board in fundraising? Here are two great examples.

How to Train Your Board—Even If They Don't Want to Be Trained

A friend in Iowa had been to several of my fundraising workshops and heard I was returning to lead another. She really, really wanted her board to attend, but they expressed little interest.

So she got creative. She identified two donors who pledged $500 each on the condition that 9 out of 10 board members attended the training. (Notice the specific benchmark: 9 out of 10.)

She brought this challenge to the board with a bit of humor. "If nine of you will show up, we'll receive $1000 just because you're in the room. You don't have to participate. You can sit in the back and scowl for three hours, but you have to be there or we can't collect the money."

Well, they came, they participated, and I didn't notice any scowls. The best part? They wouldn't leave the room. When the training was over, they huddled in the back and started strategizing. With nine board members present, they had critical mass and wanted to start applying what they had just learned.

Let's be honest: what motivated the board was bribery. But because the bribe went to the organization, rather than individual board members, no laws or ethical standards were broken. They were simply given an incentive to participate, and they rose to the challenge.

Donors Aren't Scary ... Are They?

A colleague of mine, a development director, was struggling to convince her board to join her for donor meetings. They had the usual excuses, so she conducted most of these meetings without board participation.

Finally, in frustration, she shared her struggle with a foundation officer—and the two of them devised a brilliant solution. She returned to the board with a proposition.

"I just received a $10,000 challenge grant on the condition that board members join me on 20 donor visits. Every time you come with me, we receive an additional $500 from the foundation just because you're in the room.

"You don't have to ask for the gift. I'll do that. Your job is to talk about our work and why it's meaningful to you.

"Get out your calendars and tell me when you're available. I will start scheduling appointments right now."

This is an example of what psychologists call aversion therapy. People are scared of something—snakes, spiders, donors, whatever—until they're exposed to it, and then they discover that their fears are irrational. Yes, some snakes and spiders are dangerous. Donors are not. Sit down with a donor or two and you'll look forward to doing it again.

As with the previous example, this challenge grant provided an incentive for board members to change their behavior. They met the challenge and collected the grant. Everyone felt proud. After that, it was much easier to recruit board members to meet with donors.

Get Creative—Challenge Your Board!

This principle can be applied to almost any aspect of board behavior. If you're focusing on fundraising, here are a few additional metrics that could be linked to challenge gifts.

  • 100% board giving. The donor provides a gift on the condition that all board members also make a gift.
  • Prospecting: The challenge is complete when all trustees provide names of at least five potential donors.
  • Thank-you calls. When the board phones 100 donors to thank them—for example, 10 trustees each calling 10 donors—the challenge gift is received.
  • Board fundraising agreements. When you have a personalized agreement or work plan from all board members specifying how they want to participate in fundraising, you can collect the money.

Encourage the board to develop its own measurements of fundraising success. Then identify donors who will make a challenge gift to motivate the board to follow through.

Here's the best part. When you use a donor's gift to change and strengthen your organization, you engage that donor in a much deeper, more intentional way. When you meet the challenge requirements, you're delivering on your promises, reinforcing the board's efforts, and deepening your connection to the challenge donor. Everybody wins.

The preceding is a guest post by Andy Robinson, trainer and consultant based in Vermont. Learn more at www.andyrobinsononline.com and www.trainyourboard.com. A brand-new video series, focused on effective board training, is available at www.boardtrainingvideos.com.


One Small Step for Government, One Giant Leap for Nonprofits

 

When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon 45 years ago, his first words captured how the simple act of taking a small step opened a new era in the history of mankind. Another seemingly small step taken by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently opened a new era in the government-nonprofit contracting relationship and provided the first tangible evidence that focused advocacy can overcome the "Overhead Myth." The changes contained in OMB's new rules, known as the Uniform Guidance, may not be the same as "one giant leap for all mankind," but OMB controller Dave Mader wasn't overstating it when he observed that "this historic reform will transform the landscape ... for generations to come."


Why Donors Leave

Excerpted from Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life

I'd just made what I felt was a mighty effective case for a major gift from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and was absolutely startled when he said, "No, I won't give!"

I was nonplussed. "May I ask why?"

His response: "Because of minced pie."

A bit dumbfounded, I eventually found my tongue. "What does minced pie have to do with giving to our alma mater?"

"Nothing," he said. "But when you don't want to give, one excuse is as good as another."

Fortunately, when it comes to donor defection, there aren't many "minced-pie" reasons for leaving. In general, we know why donors stop giving, and it's possible for every organization to identify the specific reasons donors quit it.

You might want to take a look at a Bloomerang infographic that's outlines the reasons why donors leave compared to the reasons consumers walk away from businesses.

It's worth exploring in some detail the reasons donors leave:

5%—Thought the charity didn't need them.
Clearly, if you don't tell donors about your needs, or, better yet, the beneficiaries you help, why should they bother staying with you? After all, they joined because they wanted to help.

8%—No information on how monies were used.
There are two key questions donors ask: 1) Why do you need my help? and 2) Did my contribution make any difference? Fail to answer these two questions and you'll lose your donors, especially as more skeptical "show-me" Baby Boomers and Generations Y and X come to the fore. Remember: if you neglect to tell 'em, there are thousands of other organizations that will.

9%—No memory of supporting.
If ever there were evidence of ineffective communication and branding, this is it. If you don't help a donor distinguish your organization from others, you're likely to be forgotten. Generalized or aspirational taglines such as "We work hard to feed the hungry" or "We offer excellence in a multi-cultural environment" serve only to reinforce donor amnesia.

13%—Never got thanked for donating.
Failure to thank a donor properly is bad manners and horrible fundraising. No act of omission more clearly signals, "We don't care. Just send the money." Is it any surprise organizations that behave rudely don't hold onto their donors?

16%—Death.
No surprise here. Donors tend to be far older than the general population. Notice that the commercial world with far, far younger consumers loses only 1 percent because of mortality. If, however, you've treated your donors well, a small but special group will make their largest contributions at the end of life in the form of bequests or other planned gifts.

18%—Poor service or communication.
Relative to the minutiae we obsess about—our logo, the annual report, the mission statement—too many of us just don't grasp why spelling a donor's name correctly or promptly responding to inquiries and complaints is so important. We mistakenly treat donor service as a cost center, when in reality good service can add thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands to the bottom line.

36%—Others more deserving.
This statistic screams failure on the part of fundraising and communications departments. With more than a million groups clamoring for support, organizations that don't state a powerful case leave themselves wide open to donors defecting to similar groups.

54%—Could no longer afford.
This may be the mince-pie excuse in this lineup of reasons why donors stop their support. Experience shows that organizations that make strong cases and provide positive experiences usually avoid being cut as donors trim the list of groups they support due to changes in health, retirement, or reduction in income.

Do you note a pattern or common thread in these reasons for defection? With the exception of death and a donor's personal financial situation, every single one is entirely within the control of your organization. That's right, organizations through their own actions—or inactions—are severely jeopardizing their own retention rates.

Roger M. Craver
© 2014, Roger M. Craver. Excerpted from Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life. Excerpted with permission.

A fundraising pioneer since the 1960s, Roger Craver brings an experienced and critical eye to the greatest problem faced by today's nonprofits: donor retention. He has conducted capital and annual fundraising campaigns, advocacy and membership drives in the United States, Canada, and throughout Europe.


Walking As Work: Why Movement Is the Killer App

Psst! Want to learn more about walking as work? Register here for our free GuideStar webinar on Thursday, February 12 at 2pm ET with Beth Kanter and Andrea Kihlstedt, "Nonprofit Kick Start 2015: Creating Healthy and Productive Meetings." Can't make that time? Don't worry, all registrants will receive full slides and recordings a week after the event. Thank you!

Last year, when I got my annual physical, my cholesterol numbers were not good. For this month's Connect theme, a number of speakers are previewing the great breakout sessions they are preparing for the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin, TX March 4-6. Following is a preview of one of over 100 breakout sessions.

My doctor's advice was to start eating a heart-healthy diet and get more exercise. A lot of my work consists of sitting — working on a computer, talking on the phone, or attending meetings or conferences. As Nilofer Merchant points out in this TED talk, people are sitting 9.3 hours a day, which is more than we're sleeping, at 7.7 hours. All that sitting is not good for your health.

I made a commitment to change. I started using a Fitbit and apps like Fi.it to monitor and motivate me. I also changed my eating habits. I'm happy to report that my numbers are in the normal range. I'm also noticing that many of my NPTech colleagues are trying to become healthy, and that is why I decided to put a session together at the 15NTC on “Walking as Work” along with Ritu Sharma to show some ways that we can all integrate walking into work.

[embed]http://www.slideshare.net/kanter/walking-is-the-work?ref=http://www.nten.org/articles/2015/walking-as-work-why-movement-is-the-killer-app[/embed]

I try to walk between 10-20k steps a day, using my fitbit to measure it. When I mentioned this to a colleague, he asked me, "How the heck do you make the time to do this? What have you cut from your schedule?" I have cut out non-productive work time where I sit at my desk and can't concentrate! I have incorporated mini-breaks to walk in the middle of the day to help me think when I I am writing or thinking through a problem for a client. Also, if I'm on calls, I do them while walking around. I have gotten good at taking notes while I walk. I've also replaced networking requests for "coffee" for "walking meetings." It isn't about making the time or thinking about physical activity or movement as a separate exercise time, but something that is integrated into your life — including work time. I even presented a walking keynote on walking!

The problem is that walking is perceived as a "break activity," not part of work as explained in this Harvard Business Review blog post, "Take a Walk, Sure, but Don't Call It A Break." It describes the benefits of walking as part of work — creativity, leadership development, and relationship building. "So, when you really need to get something done, get away from your computer and your conference room, and go for a long walk. It’s not a luxury. It’s work."

Senior Leaders Get on Their Walking Shoes

The benefits of walking to "clear your brain" or build relationships is not a new leadership technique. As Louis Sullivan, HHS Secretary in 1989-93 and famous for walking meetings, notes, "For me, walking has proved to be a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle, while facilitating my communications skills and leadership efforts." Steve Jobs was famous for it and, perhaps because of that, walking meetings are common in Silicon Valley, as this article points out. The walking at work trend is being more broadly adopted by senior managers, in part because leaders want to get some distance from their always on work styles, with all of the demands of smartphones and laptops. It’s also boosted by the increasing number of open-space offices, which give even top executives little privacy to speak candidly or have any alone time.

Walking is the Killer Work App for Creativity

Henry David Thoreau said famously, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” As a trainer, I have incorporated movement breaks and moving around into instruction because this helps wake up peoples' brains. But incorporating walking into your work has many advantages, too. Research shows that walking boosts creativity and cognitive function. It can also help to build relationships.

Some Tips for Walking Meetings

One resource that I came across is "Everybody Walk," a campaign aimed at getting Americans up and moving. While their messaging is focused solely on the fitness benefits — that walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week can improve your overall health and prevent disease — there are some useful resources on the site. I think there are additional benefits, especially for work. When you walk solo, you have the benefit of working through some problems or helping you generate a creative solution. But walking with colleagues can boost relationship-building and collaboration. That means rethinking meetings.

What are some practical ways to integrate walking into work?

1. Make a list of all the work meetings in your life

  • Organizational Meetings: A big part of work life, especially for those who are staff members of traditional nonprofits, are meetings. Think about all the meetings that are scheduled in a typical workweek. Many are face-to-face: these might include 1:1 meetings with colleagues or your boss; small team meetings, or large team meetings
  • Professional Networking Meetings: Meetings with people for coffee or lunch or visiting their office (or vice a versa) for professional relationship building
  • Conferences: Small or large sessions at conferences
  • Virtual Meetings: Conference calls, online chats, and webinars

All of these meetings can be reinvented as walking meetings. Those that require technology and an Internet connection can easily be transferred to a mobile phone while you walk.

2. Think about your goals

Walking has the added benefit of getting your creative juices going. So, if you are having a brainstorm meeting, you can make it even more productive by making it a walking meeting. Or maybe you want to change up the dynamics of a small group meeting by changing your normal routine.

The Feet First site suggests that these tasks are perfect for walking meetings:

  • Educate and inform: Educate about things in the environment while experiencing and demonstrating them. Different experts can speak at different locations
  • Problem solve: Problem solving can be enhanced by the physical activity of walking (“thinking on your feet”), as well as informal interactions among people
  • Enhance creativity: Creativity is enhanced when people are physically active, and stimulated by a variety of visual, auditory, and other senses
  • Socialize and build team spirit: Relationships are developed while walking, and team-building occurs while involved in informal activities. The spontaneous mixing that occurs on a walk can enhance interactions
  • Make decisions: Walking meetings help prepare for decision-making and can result in more options for consideration
  • Resolve conflict: Walks can help resolve conflicts for pairs and small groups. For larger groups, the walk improves team interactions and helps generate solutions

3. Let People Know in Advance

It is important to give enough warning for a walking meeting so people can dress accordingly — bring a coat or sweater or wear comfortable shoes. Walking meetings in high heels are not much fun.

4. Planning and Preparation

Like any other business meeting, there is agenda preparation, but there are also some other items you need to think about. You need to allow time for stretching and bio breaks. Also, allow time to capture notes after the meeting. I like to take along a pen and small pad to jot down notes, but I find that if I am doing a walking meeting, I'm retaining information better; some quiet time right after the meeting ends is enough to capture the notes.

5. The Actual Walk

Plan your route in advance, if possible, so you know how far you can walk in your allotted time and avoid noisy spots or too-narrow walkways. If you have more than one other person, you will have to do a little bit more planning. According to the Feet First Walking Guide:

  • One on One Meetings: Meeting as a pair tends to be easy. Walking breaks down the barrier of a desk and chair, and lets people communicate more equally
  • Small Group Meetings of 3-5: Meetings with three or more can be affected by the width of the sidewalk or path, variations in terrain, and possible physical barriers. This size group is flexible, as discussion can occur while walking, or if desired the group can stop along the walk
  • Groups of 5-16: Meetings with larger groups tend to result in more than one conversation while walking. If the whole group is to be involved, make time to stop and gather as a whole
  • Groups Larger than 16: These tend to require more planning, with a strong leader and potentially a few assistants if needed. There will be conversations while walking, then planned stops for presentations

Also be sure to establish the rules such as "stay with the group" or "no cell phones," before you head out. If you have a larger group, you might want to designate someone as the notetaker. And, if you have more than one person, you might have to break the group up by pace of their walking. Include stops in your meeting to summarize agenda points and shift into next topic.

You can find additional resources on walking meetings here.

The preceding is a cross-post by Beth Kanter, the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. To read the original article on Beth’s blog, click here. Beth has over 30 years working in the nonprofit sector in technology, training, capacity building, evaluation, fundraising, and marketing. Beth is an internationally recognized trainer who has developed and implemented effective sector capacity building programs that help organizations integrate social media, network building, and relationship marketing best practices. Beth is an expert in facilitating online and offline peer learning, curriculum development based on traditional adult learning theory, and other instructional approaches. She has trained thousands of nonprofits around the world.


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