Fundraising Board: A leader’s journey to transforming her board

Are you struggling with board engagement or getting your board members to fundraise? You are not alone. Join us as we hear one leader’s journey to transforming her board.


0:00:01 Cynthia Rojas

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Coffee Time with Masterminds. As you may have realized we’re doing a board series for the next several weeks. And what that means is that we’re talking all about board members and the critical role they play in nonprofit organizations.

But it’s not just that. Sometimes we have problems with our boards, and so we don’t understand why they may be disengaged or not playing up to their role. Well, today is going to be a great show because I have a guest who transformed her board and she is going to tell us how.

0:00:44 CTMM Jingle

0:01:10 Cynthia Rojas

All right, I love that jingle. Welcome back, everybody. And as I mentioned, we have an exciting guest on the show. Do you have a board that you wish did more fundraising? Do you have a disengaged board and are struggling with how to engage them? Well, this is your show. But first, I want to welcome our viewers in the US and around the world and our listeners in Australia.

If you are watching us this morning, please put your name into the comments and let us know where you’re from. Because we always want to hear where our guests are listening and watching from. well, I am excited to bring on Lorrice Grant of Haven’s Harvest. How are you, Lorrice?

0:02:00 Lorrice Grant

I am well. How are you today?

0:02:02 Cynthia Rojas  

I’m fabulous. I’m fabulous. This is so exciting. This is an episode that I’ve been wanting to do. We were just talking before the show. Since I first met you, you have talked about this transformation. And oh my, we knew that this series was coming on.

And I definitely wanted you to tell and show everybody how you did this. So, we’re talking about transforming our boards, and you in particular made a transformed – well, you don’t make anybody do anything. You can’t really do that –but you transformed your board into a fundraising board. So, before we get to the how, tell us what the board was like before this transformation. What were your challenges?

0:02:52 Lorrice Grant

Was a little bit difficult because they were just coming from their height of COVID. They weren’t able to meet in person. So they were not getting together on a regular basis, but just as needed maybe once or twice a year. And they were a little bit disengaged. Well, they were a lot disengaged, and they didn’t know where to jump in. So yeah, I think that,

0:03:17  Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, COVID really put a damper on a lot of boards and their ability to become cohesive, deepen their relationships. And we have to remember that board members are volunteers and volunteers. And I tell this to people all the time, we do not become volunteers to feel more lonely. We become volunteers for a lot of the times, for the relationship part of it. And so, you were finding that the pandemic was putting a damper on that?

0:03:52 Lorrice Grant

Yes, I thought that, you know, they weren’t meeting enough. And I was new. And I didn’t know everyone. So I wanted to come in and get to meet everyone. And, you know, see who was on the board. And I was excited about, you know, connection.

0:04:06 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. And so you chose to work on getting them excited about fundraising. Tell me why you chose that.

0:04:15 Lorrice Grant

Well, I chose that because when I came in, my ED was very honest with me about, you know, where we were with fundraising and how the interaction was with the board. And she said, these are some of the things I need help with besides the things that you’re doing for the director of operations, and I asked her, I said, you know, “What’s eating your lunch? What can I help you with?” And she’s like, “Yeah, I wish my board was a little bit more engaged.” And I said, ”Tell me more about that.” She said, “Well, somebody asked me if I’m still doing that food thing where we did over a million pounds of food last year,” and I said, “Ah! okay, I hear that there’s a lack of communication issues there. Let’s start talking.”

0:04:55 Cynthia Rojas

And if you could tell our viewers what you mean about that food thing. You’re in the food business.

0:05:00 Lorrice Grant

We’re in the food business, we rescued a million and a half pounds of food last year and the year before. And so if someone from the board was unclear about that, that means that there’s a breakdown in communication somewhere.

0:05:14 Cynthia Rojas  

Yes, yes. And so, you went on this journey. Tell me how you start transforming something like this. Because I have to tell you, leaders everywhere, Lorrice, there is not a leader I don’t speak to that has some kind of challenge they’re facing with their boards. And the number one is fundraising. So, tell me how you started that journey?

0:05:39 Lorrice Grant

Well, the first thing I did was I invited them all to a volunteer celebration. I said, you know, during the pandemic, their volunteers have been out, doing food for Haven’s harvest. I would really love it if you just came and were supportive and showed up as the board. Just helped me to tell them, thank you. And they jumped at the chance they showed up.

0:05:58 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah? Oh, wow. Well, well, we all like saying thank you to people. That’s one thing. And so what you’re saying is that you didn’t ask the board for anything yet. Right? You’re just saying show up and say thank you. And you’re also telling them you are so important. And I want you to be the one to sleep. And that is true. Our board members are truly a critical component of the operations of a nonprofit organization. So they showed up.

0:06:28 Lorrice Grant

They did, they did. And while they were there. I said, “Oh, you know, by the way, I’m new. I don’t know how it goes. So when’s the next board meeting?” And they started talking. And they were like”Yes. Okay. Yeah, we’ll invite you to the next board meeting.” And I didn’t hear anything right away. So I did something a little unorthodox as I scheduled the board meeting.

But they all showed up. So that was good. Except for one person who resigned, I think they said this is going to be too much for me. She’s a hot ticket item. And she’s on a roundup. I don’t know if I can handle her. So, they said that this wasn’t for them. But the rest of them showed up. And you know, it was amazing. I can tell you that from where we were when we started this journey until now. It’s a total transformation.

0:07:18 Cynthia Rojas

So Lorrice, are you telling me that the board at that time did not have scheduled board meetings?

0:07:26 Lorrice Grant

They met as needed. They would schedule twice a year, and they didn’t have a regular schedule, So that wasn’t something they could depend on and kind of set their time for.

0:07:34 Cynthia Rojas

Oh, of course, it was disengagement. Right? They were meeting as needed and that sounded like a transactional board, which is just a type of board, not a bad thing, or a good thing. It’s just a type. And you know.

0:07:48 Lorrice Grant

Right! And I think those board members wanted a little bit more engagement. In fact, when I talked to them, they said, well, we don’t really know what’s going on. And we kind of fell out of the loop. And we want more. And I said really? And so you know, I started the conversations with my ED and I said, you know, they really want more, they want to be more hands on. They want to help. They want to know what they can do. They want to roll up their sleeves. And I said, we need to talk to them about the finances there. And you know that we need to raise some funds. And this is what we’d like to see. We need more staffing. So yeah, let’s tell them what we need.

0:08:19 Cynthia Rojas

So there’s a lot of things that you’re saying that I just want to live because this is amazing. First, I think our viewers and listeners should know that at this time, you are a two-person operation during this time. Okay, so there are two full time staff or…?

0:08:37 Lorrice Grant

Two full time Staff

0:08:38 Cynthia Rojas

Okay, so there are two full time staff. This is important, because I’m sure that some viewers are saying, Well, isn’t this the ED’s job? But what I was also realizing is that there’s a lot of trust between you and your ED and a true partnership in this effort. And so, the ED is also building the organization, because she’s both the founder and the organization is relatively new, correct?


Lorrice Grant


0:09:03 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. So I just want to put that into perspective, because I don’t want you know, emails about why in your ED do this. And what a dream that we have a staff member that says, What’s eating your lunch, and how can I help you? Like, that’s true partnership?

0:09:21 Lorrice Grant   

Well, when she brought me on, she said, “You know, we’re going to do this together.” And I was like, “Okay, let’s go, let’s do it together.” And, you know, the relationships that she built over time with all of the donors and all of the nonprofit recipients and all of the volunteers. I mean, when I came in, she already had over 200 volunteers that were willing to answer the phone calls of the Food Rescue Hero app and say, Yes, I’ll go get food. So she had already built so many relationships, and she was doing the boots on the ground work.

So when I came in and she was showing me the ropes of doing the boots on the ground work, then she could kind of like start loosening the reins so that she could do other things. More wasn’t what an executive director does, and now she does that. But she needed the help. And she needed to train me. So as I was coming in, I just started asking her every Monday. I set up a scheduled appointment and said, Hey, what’s eating your lunch? What can I take off your schedule this week?

0:10:14 Cynthia Rojas

Wow, wow, what a blessing. What a blessing. And so, so Okay, so you set up a board meeting. And the board shows up.

0:10:27 Lorrice Grant

And they showed up.

0:10:28 Cynthia Rojas

And so tell me what those early conversations were because unless you went in that first day, and said, Okay, this is what we’re going to do, but otherwise, you probably went in slowly and have some kind of method to this amazing transformation. How do you do it?

0:10:45 Lorrice Grant

Well, I started researching and reading about board work, because I didn’t know a lot about it. But I knew there was a lot of information out there, I use a lot of the websites from the Community Foundation. They have a lot of things posted there about how boards work, how to set up a board and what the bylaws look like. And it was tremendously helpful. So I just read those in kind of downloaded and share that with the board over time. And they were receptive to it, because they really, really were a great big group of people that really wanted to make a difference.

0:11:19 Cynthia Rojas

And so, let’s just name the foundation, because it’s, it’s a very specific one. It is the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, correct?

0:11:28 Lorrice Grant


0:11:29 Cynthia Rojas

Okay, they have those resources. So, you can check out their website. And okay, and so what? So, you’re doing this? Did you have a place in the agenda where at every board meeting, you got to talk about a different topic? Is that how that happened?

0:11:48 Lorrice Grant

It didn’t happen at first. But we have started adding in segments where I can talk about different topics. We were given the opportunity to use another platform for board work. I came in and I showed them how to use that platform. I told them what was on the platform. I showed them that there. There’s grants on there, and they can research those as well. And so little by little they’re using it a little bit more than they were using it before. And then they started helping us with fundraising, so they became peer fundraisers.

0:12:22 Cynthia Rojas

So Oh, and we’ll get to that. But  this is interesting. So there is a platform that you gave them access to. You’re going have to name the platform, if you can.

0:12:34 Lorrice Grant

I can

0:12:36 Cynthia Rojas 

And so, now they get to look for grants on behalf of the organization.

0:12:41 Lorrice Grant

Yes, they have the ability to look for grants on behalf of the organization using the Resilia platform

0:12:47 Cynthia Rojas

Resilia – Can you spell that for us?

0:12:51 Lorrice Grant

R E S I L l A. Resilia.

0:12:55 Cynthia Rojas

Okay, so I’m here, let me just put REISILA?

0:13:02 Lorrice Grant


0:13:08 Cynthia Rojas

Okay. Is it

0:13:11 Lorrice Grant You know, the cool thing about that, is that I can go in and share pictures and tell stories so that the board has something to work with. And it’s interactive, so we can all use it. So it’s a good platform for this.

0:13:24 Cynthia Rojas

Wow, I’m going to put it on the comments, not the comments, checkout with I’m going to put it across our banner so that our viewers… There we go check out with So, this is a place that board members can go to and get information. You can also load stories they get to know on their own time. They get to learn more about the organization, learn the elevator speech, hear stories, and then do some great research.

0:14:00 Lorrice Grant


0:14:01 Cynthia Rojas

I love this. I love this. And tell me what was the outcome of that.

0:14:05 Lorrice Grant

The outcome is stronger, more cohesive board. They talk together more often. I can see them sometimes passing chats back and forth. They’re more connected to our ED, our ED is more connected to them. Just last night, they went and spoke at pints in,They want to speak together for Senator Maroney and tell about food insecurity and what we’re doing in our area about food insecurity and recovering food and then went together. So that was amazing.

0:14:39 Cynthia Rojas

Wow. That is amazing.

0:14:41 Lorrice Grant

And I’m sure the ED felt so supportive, because she had three board members with her that said, You know what, we’ll go with you. You don’t have to go alone. And I think that’s really what she was looking for before. But being busy and not having enough resources or staff. You can’t really do all of the pieces.

0:14:59 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, Yeah, and also, you know, board members who don’t show up, are tend to believe or not showing up because they are either embarrassed because they don’t know the elevator speech, they don’t know the information and they tend to want to stay in the background unless they’ve been with the organization for long time. Then I see board members feeling ultra confident talking to the audience. However, I have not seen an ED ask for volunteers to go with her to an event and three people volunteer, usually it’s like pulling teeth. So this is amazing. And so she is like an entourage.

0:15:46 Lorrice Grant

I tell you, our board is amazing. And you know, I liked what you said about having the information and knowing what to say and not feeling comfortable. We made up a one page document for them just Haven’s harvest FAQ so that they have something in hand, and they can refer back to it and always know, you know, this is what our numbers are. This is what we’re about and have some language so that they can work on their own personalized elevator speech, but feel confident and comfortable about sharing information about payment harvests.

0:16:18 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah, yeah. Okay. And now I want to go into the peer to peer fundraising,

0:16:23 Lorrice Grant


0:16:24 Cynthia Rojas

Because this is where the old model of boards or board membership was really about bringing on people with capital, relationship, capital, and wealth, so that we can tap into that. now that we’re really century equity. And all we do, we are realizing that, if we only keep board membership to those that have relationship, capital, and wealth, that we are perpetuating white supremacy.

And so this is where the whole diversity movement is coming in. And so peer to peer fundraising is still a topic that a lot of boards grapple with. And so one, nobody wants to ask their friends for money on one of them. Right? So how do we do that? And do we really need to ask our friends for money? I tend to think no, there is another way of doing it. Right?

And for those people that have watched the show, they know that I have gone out there and said, I actually don’t think board members should do fundraising. I think fundraising should be left to the experts. But what you did was that you built an expertise in these members. And so you made them probably fundraising experts. So, tell me, tell us how you did that?

0:17:47 Lorrice Grant

Well, I looked up some information on peer to peer fundraising, and I shared it at a board meeting and they got excited about it. And I said, you know, you don’t even have to ask your friends and family. If you want, you can go and ask some of the donors that we work with. You can ask some of the people that you know, you see everyday that you know, know about what you’re doing, and for Haven’s Harvest, and reach out to them and tell them what a great mission it is, and see if they’re willing to donate. And I said, You’ll be surprised that people would be willing to do donations that way, more than maybe going into an organization that they don’t know that much about. They don’t know who’s connected to it. They know you. They trust you. You can do this. And they did. They did.

0:18:29 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. And so fundraising for food someone once told me is not as challenging as fundraising for something that is very focused or niched, because we can all if we don’t identify with food insecurity, we can only imagine what that is like, like that is something that we all share is this need and desire for food. And that the thought that there are people out there who are hungry, really hits at the core of many of us, even if we’ve not been hungry, it still hits us at our core. So you had it, you had an advantage in that form.You know, asking for donations for food is probably easier than asking for something very specific.

0:19:20 Lorrice Grant

Well, not exactly. Food Recovery is a donation-based business so, we get our food donated. And then we have volunteers that power it. So, sometimes people can’t wrap their minds around. What do you need money for? But you need money for infrastructure, you need money for bags, you need money to do volunteer celebrations, you need money for refrigeration if you need to store something. So there are a lot of costs that people would not necessarily see right away and understand. So we had to talk our board to that language as well and say okay, if they ask you Well, what do you need the money for? This is what we need it for, you know, we need it for infrastructure so people are running a business that should be run by five or six people.

We need money so that we can hire staff, we want to have great  jobs. We’re an environmental organization. So you have to tell them and maybe explain it to them. Because they’re saying, if you get free food and you have volunteers, then you don’t need anything. And it’s like, wait a minute, let’s look at the basis of what it really is. So they took the information, and they understood it, because a lot of them, you know, do food runs.

Our board is comprised of people that are interested in food insecurity, and really do this work themselves, a couple of them run their own pantries, you know, in the city. So our board is very diverse. And they’re from all walks of life. Maybe most of them don’t have million dollar friends that they can say, You know what, I’ll treat you to dinner. And so it’s not like that. But yet, they’re out there fundraising and helping Haven’s Harvest. So we just are appreciative.

0:20:59 Cynthia Rojas

So fundraising is not something that we do quite often. And so what, what were the tools you had to teach? And give them so that they can do peer to peer fundraising? What was it that you did and learned through your research?

0:21:18 Lorrice Grant

Well, a couple of things. We have some scheduled fundraisers every year, so they know when to gear up for fundraising. So it’s scheduled, so they know it’s coming. So that’s helpful, because it’s not just you know, what, when do you want a fundraiser? Well, anytime when we need it anyway, using a budget to show them when funds are necessary is also helpful. And we use some platforms from the Community Foundation that have upgraded.

They have some fundraising platforms that we could use to show how much we want to raise something about our business. And also, we can also chart the progress of each one of the board members so that we can see, you know, this one has raised this much, or this one has raised that much. So they can have a little bit of a competition if they want to, but they don’t have to.

0:22:11 Cynthia Rojas

And so do you. Do you track their progress on the Resilia Platform?

0:22:22 Lorrice Grant

No, we track it in. you have me now?

0:22:29  Cynthia Rojas

Yep, you’re back, you’re back. So you track it where, how do you track it?

0:22:33 Lorrice Grant

Okay, We track their progress on the software that comes with the Community Foundation, we call it Gift Tab.

0:22:43 Cynthia Rojas

Okay. Okay, tell us a little bit about Gift Tab. Girl! you got tools, you got a lot of tools. Tell me a little bit about Gift Tab.

0:22:52 Lorrice Grant

Give me a couple of tools. I mean, I’m not really technically savvy, give me a tutorial, I’ll jump on.

I will figure it out in Let’s go. Yes, I use a lot of tools. Gift Tab is a platform that the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven uses to just figure out, if you want to raise money, you know, they make sure that your nonprofit, and that you’re in good standing. And then you can use their platforms, you can post pictures, you can post videos, you can tell a little bit more about you know, your organization, you can put board member information up there. And it’s a good way to keep track of what’s going in and what’s going out through funding the fundraising sites.

0:23:32 Cynthia Rojas

Wow, that’s cool. That’s cool to know. So that’s where you track the fundraising efforts of all the board members. And I’m going to imagine because sometimes tracking efforts can feel punitive, but I’m going to imagine you make it fun. It sounds like there’s some friendly competition going on?

0:23:54 Lorrice Grant

Well, yes, sometimes there is. And I know what you mean, because everybody is different. Their backgrounds are different. We let our board know that we don’t, we’re not gauging it, or waging it by a number amount or dollar amount. We just want to buy in and participation. You know, whatever you are, if we can have 100% buy in, whatever that looks like for you, that’s 100% buy In and that’s a win. And they’re receptive to that and our board.

They’re all participating and we just appreciate them for what they’re doing. And you know what, everybody has different skills. Some people can be great at fundraising. Some people are great at collecting people and get new volunteers. So we all have good skills. And if that’s not your forte, I mean, we get it, but just every little bit helps. So we all participate and we all kind of chip in when we can.


Is all the fundraising done online?

0:24:56 Lorrice Grant

Most of it is done online. Yes.

0:24:57 Cynthia Rojas

Okay, so they get to send an email to their friends. that says do you want to donate? Okay, so I’m hearing efficiency is really key. And in the world of COVID, I would imagine that face to face fundraising decreased because we weren’t meeting people, we weren’t going to events as much. We weren’t going out to lunch with our friends. And so we were staying within our pods. So face to face fundraising was very challenging at that time. And I’m sure there was an uptick in online fundraising. So you were right. I mean, the opportunity was right.

0:25:39 Lorrice Grant

Yeah, it was a good opportunity. And we did some Facebook posts, and we use social media to like really show what we’re doing. And also use Facebook to do some virtual events so that people could still talk to us, feel connected, and see what’s going on. And then when people can feel what you’re doing, even if it’s virtually then just kind of like seeing your mission up close. Sometimes people are really drawn to the mission.

We’ve had a tremendous response in volunteers and volunteer engagement since we started doing a lot of social media. So I know that, you know, that’s also a help for board members, because people kind of have heard it a little bit around town. So they know. Oh, Haven’s harvest! Yeah, I think I’ve seen a sticker like that somewhere. Or I think, you know, I went into a Starbucks. And I think somebody was asking about Haven’s Harvest donation. So it’s helpful for them, because it makes it easier for them if they have tools.

0:26:39 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So my final question, Lorrice, did you lose any board members in the process? Did anybody say goodbye? And I know, you mentioned someone said goodbye very early on, when you started this peer to peer fundraising, and tracking and all that stuff. Did other board members say, you know, I think I should step down.

0:27:04 Lorrice Grant

We did not lose people during the fundraising process. No. I think everyone if they had a question, they just kind of called the ED privately and said, Okay, what do you want me to do? I’m not quite sure. Or, you know, this is where my barrier is. And you know, Lorrice is so good. She’s so good with people. And you know, she’s so kind. She let them know that there’s no pressure. So the fundraising wasn’t a deal breaker for people, people were like, Let’s see what we can do.

0:27:33 Cynthia Rojas

Yeah. And, then you know how much time because I think another thing is, the thing about fundraising is that it’s really a time, it’s when you track fundraising effort, you have to add more time to it because there’s relationship building, right? You don’t just go from raising $3,000 a year to $30,000. It just doesn’t happen that fast. And so my question to you is, how long did this process take you to where you are today?

0:28:07 Lorrice Grant

I would say it took a good nine months.

0:28:11 Cynthia Rojas

Okay. Yeah.

0:28:12 Lorrice Grant

A good nine months of relationship building. And, you know, having consistent conversations, communication, having consistent board members, we have a very dynamic Secretary on our board now, who keeps us updated, she takes great notes, and she sends those things out. So we kind of know where we are. And I think it’s just a group effort. We all want to see that succeed.

0:28:38 Cynthia Rojas

That is amazing. That is amazing. And so you have done something most nonprofit leaders are so challenged by and so if you had something for our audience, a takeaway, what would that be? And I know you said a lot, and people should watch this show until the end. But, what’s the, How can we begin? Because it feels so daunting, especially when there’s a huge disengage board.

0:29:10 Lorrice Grant

I think what I would tell people is that if they said yes to being a board member, there’s something about what you’re doing that excites them. And so that you should lean in and kind of try to bring them in with some communication. Ask them if they have any questions. Is there anything that they would like to participate in?

Maybe there’s a fundraising event or just even a volunteer engagement event that really would excite them and say, they would want to take ownership of that, You know what, I do need help. And I think a lot of times, people if they don’t think you need help, they don’t offer because they figure they’re all set to get in. Sometimes you really do need their help, and the board is so important to the organization. Let them know that.

0:29:58 Cynthia Rojas

Oh, I love that, I love that. We had another episode and an author of the book ‘Stop the nonprofit blame game’. And he talks about the work that leaders need to do to engage their board. And that’s a whole chapter where he says, get to understand and listen for the passion that’s inside of your board members, because they all have it and you said it. They came on your board for a reason. And so we have to learn how to maximize that.

Thank you so much, Lorrise. I’ve so enjoyed this conversation. And I want to thank our viewers and our listeners, and we look forward to seeing you again next week at 10:30. Thank you very much.

Hi, Pieta. I have a question regarding the category for the show. On YT, I have been adding the episodes to the “People & Blogs” category. Is this okay?

There is also a “Nonprofits & Activism” category.

Which of the two categories do you like to use, please?

Pieta Blakely

About Pieta Blakely

I help mission-based organizations measure their impact so that they can do what they do well. I started my nonprofit career as a teacher in workforce development and adult basic education. It was important work and I was worried that we didn’t really know if we were doing it well. In the process of trying to answer that question, I got a Masters in Education and a PhD in Social Policy, and became an evaluator.

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