The Whiteboard Meeting

The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising

Step #7            Go to the Whiteboard!

With the information you have now gathered, from both your own research efforts as well as your just-completed Exploratory Meeting, you are now prepared to begin what may be the most important step, and the most energizing and fruitful. It is now time to gather your troops together to generate solicitation and opportunity ideas for the individual donor, foundation or company you are going to present a proposal to.

To make this process as efficient, effective, and fun as possible, first reach out to those members of your team, or to Trustees or Advisory Board members, that are creative, intuitive, experienced, and wise to the ways of “how donors think”, or may have a personal relationship with the potential donor, foundation or company. Formally invite them to participate in what will become known over time as a “Whiteboard Meeting,” to be held in an office or conference room that has a whiteboard in which to write on.

There is something very magical that happens when ideas/thoughts/comments can be documented instantaneously on a whiteboard, where each participant can view them.

The very visual recording of an idea on the whiteboard energizes others to contribute their own ideas or add to the ideas of other participants. Somehow the whiteboard process creates energy, motion and momentum.

The timing of the Whiteboard Meeting can also be advantageous. I have found that Whiteboard Meetings held earlier in the morning yield the best results, even if held earlier than normal business hours. A Whiteboard Meeting held from 7:00 AM-8:30 AM provides fresh thinking, less distractions, and a fun camaraderie amongst the participants. A shared feeling that the “early bird does get the worm.” Assign one of the team members to supply the donuts, bagels, and beverages—it is always appreciated and gives members an energy pick-up when needed.

Also assign one of the members to serve as the scribe for writing on the Whiteboard, and another member to record what ultimately ends up on the Whiteboard.

To begin the Whiteboard Meeting process, and perhaps in advance, provide the participants two pieces of information:

  • First, provide basic background and information on the potential donor, foundation or company that has been researched and gathered.
  • Second, provide basic information on what the donor, foundation or company is looking for or trying to accomplish, again based on research and the Exploratory Meeting.

The next step of the Whiteboard Meeting is brainstorm ideas, programs or initiatives that would clearly match what your organization can offer with the desires/wants/needs/objectives of the potential donor, foundation or company.

This part of the process should look at two buckets:

  1. Are there existing assets (activities/programs/initiatives/strategic partnerships) that your organization currently has that would serve as a solution to the desires and objectives of the potential donor, foundation or company? In other words, are there ongoing/activated assets in your organization’s quiver that would be of immediate interest?
  2. If not, what is the new/yet-to-be created ideas, programs, or initiatives that your organization could formulate and execute on behalf of the donor, foundation or company?

In both of these parts of the process, encourage the participants to use this piece of advice: Big ideas that execute simply! While there is no shortage of ideas, there are generally limited resources, based on funding and staffing. So the focus should be on great opportunities that will not drain your organization of money and people!

The true purpose of the Whiteboard Meeting, in addition to providing a laboratory for great thinking and creative ideas, is to generate those strategies and tactics that will generate the guts of the formal proposal. The results of the Whiteboard Meeting ultimately translate into showing the donor, foundation or company that your organization has spent time thinking about them!

It is also through this process that your organization arrives at what contribution amount you are going to propose. Once you have clearly defined what measurable impact your organization brings to the donor, foundation or company—in other words, clearly answer the question, “Why associate with us?”—you should now be as confident with the level of financial commitment/contribution you are going to propose.

The Whiteboard Meeting generates the ideas that translate into the formal proposal. The formal proposal should then say to the potential donor, foundation or company, “By making this level of contribution to this organization, and seeing how my dollars will be put to work, I can clearly see my donation’s impact is multiplied many-fold.”

And all parties walk away thinking, “This is a great partnership.”

Next Installment: Step #8: Create an Emotional Atmosphere

This is the 7th part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising.
-Don Stirling


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One Response to “The Whiteboard Meeting”

  1. [...] Installment: Step #7: Go to the Whiteboard! This is the 6th part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved [...]

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