Pearl and Mel Shaw FC CCKeys to unlocking board involvement:

The vitality of a nonprofit lies with its board members. Their individual and collective action, engagement and clarity of mission make all the difference in the world. In this final installment of our interview with Lisa Hoffman, we share her thoughts regarding the important work of a nonprofit board.

“Board members are critical to successful fundraising. They are in a unique position as volunteers to invite investment, to express their passion and say ‘join me’ in strengthening communities, cleaning up the environment and other essential causes. Fundraising enthusiasm, transcending anxieties and fears about asking, and board engagement in general are all strongly rooted in effective board development,” Hoffman shares.

“And that development begins with how board members are recruited – figuring out what kinds of people are needed, clearly conveying expectations ranging from board meeting attendance to fundraising, and new board member orientation that continuing board members facilitate. It also includes creating an intentional culture, one that focuses on relationships, commitment and accountability, and board governance policies that cover nuts and bolts like board terms and term limits – which are stewarded by board leadership.”

Speaking from her experience, Hoffman continued, “most people live up or down to expectations – and that includes board members. Members of high-performing boards want clarity about the commitments they are being asked to make, and they respond to high expectations. Sometimes that response is to articulate limits – which I feel is optimal because it is honest and opens up the possibility for discussion and authentic commitment that grows from a mutual understanding of expectations.”

We also asked Hoffman about the future for nonprofits in the areas of management, messaging, infrastructure and fundraising. “I think the nonprofits that will thrive in the future will do so because of a combination of classic strengths: staff and board leadership; relationship-based fundraising combined with smart, strategic and tactical use of new and emerging communication tools,” Hoffman shared. “And they’ll remember that these tools are simply ways of connecting and engaging with people – they aren’t magical solutions. They are just additional, certainly powerful, tools in the toolbox.”

Finally, because she lives and works in San Francisco, California we asked Hoffman about engaging technology firms. Her guidance: “I think that most people, technology firms or otherwise, support nonprofits with which they share mission, values and passion. I would add that more than most donor-investors, the tech community seeks impact that can be proven, and has a deep interest in innovative and effective approaches to solving problems.”

Lisa is the real deal. She knows there are no simple “solutions” to fundraising. Rather, it’s a process. Bring your best and join with others in an ongoing process of change.

You can reach Lisa at

Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.