*Guest Post by Board Member, Julie Davidson-Gómez*
One of the leadership roles I most enjoy at Exhale is chairing our Fundraising Committee. This summer, I made a personal gift of $525, and personally have helped raise over $6,000 toward our goal of $15,000.
I want to share with you why I love to fundraise for Exhale.
This morning, as you read this, I’m honored to share a podium with four inspiring “Next Generation” leaders. CompassPoint invited me to share my Exhale board story at their annual Nonprofit Day Conference. They wanted to know what set Exhale’s board of directors apart from the status quo nonprofit board, and to hear how Exhale is Next Gen.
Marla Cornelius and Tim Wolfred, co-authors of the forthcoming “Next Generation Organizations” paper, characterize Next Gen board members as:
- Engaged in provocative dialogue about the organization’s mission impact, not isolated or limited in their spheres of influence;
- Leading based on organizational needs, and evaluating itself based on organizational impact; and
- Essential to the organization’s health – if the board were to disappear tomorrow, it would have an immediate and significantly negative impact to the organization.
On Exhale’s board of directors all of our members have seen and experienced what it’s like for organizations when boards lack focus, when leaders burn out, or when volunteers feel disconnected from the mission. We don’t want that for Exhale, so we have made it our board’s purpose to hold and guide Exhale as described in Cornelius and Wolfred’s paper. In this way, every one of our team members – board, staff, volunteers, donors and allies – has a direct, meaningful and important role in shaping our vision and programs.
This is why I’m a board member. This is why I fundraise. I love the mission, and I love the way we carry it out.
To illustrate the development and impact of our highly effective Next Gen board of directors, I chose three vignettes drawn from the last five years of my board engagement at Exhale.
Vignette #1 – Intentional Beginnings
My invitation to join Exhale’s board followed two years of connection to the organization. Aspen and her founding board were highly intentional in gauging my interest in Exhale, giving me small roles in advising and supporting the newly-established talkline, and creating an application and selection process that made it clear to me that I wouldn’t be “window dressing” for the group. Throughout this timeframe, I engaged in provocative conversations and met kindred spirits who, like me, felt disenfranchised by both sides of the abortion debate and wanted women and their loved ones to have access to nonjudgmental support. By the time I attended the board orientation session, I had clarified and strengthened my commitment to this pro-voice mission – and Exhale has continued to provide me with opportunities to connect, contribute, and grow both personally and professionally.
Vignette #2 – “So You Think You Can Dance?”
Along with the rest of the board, I’d spent months offering my best thinking, editorial eyes, and political savvy as Aspen and her staff developed the first-ever line of abortion e-cards. And we did a little happy dance when a local reporter wrote up a couple of paragraphs about their launch in spring 2007. That happy dance became a full-on rumba as the story got picked up by the national Associated Press newswire, and Aspen began fielding mountains of calls and emails from reporters, bloggers, supporters and critics from all over the pro-choice/pro-life spectrum. Maybe it was a slow news day, maybe we didn’t fully appreciate the revolutionary nature of what we’d put out there – suffice to say we were awestruck by the national response generated by the e-cards. As none other than Rush Limbaugh took “that Baker babe” to task on his radio program (in absentia, to this day they’ve never spoken), the board sprang into action to support Aspen and to collectively implement a multifaceted media and movement response strategy. We “danced in the moment,” responding with agility and grace born of our solid commitment to Exhale’s mission – and our increasingly nuanced pro-voice messaging. I ccompanied Aspen to a national Fox News interview, and I remember the confident way she waltzed into the studio and said, “Hey, I’m Aspen – let’s do this thing!” It was one hell of a dance party.
Vignette #3 – Feeling the Edge, and Saying Yes Anyway
I’ll come out and say it – Exhale’s mission pushes at my “growing edges” on so many levels! As a kid at home and later, in the reproductive rights movement, abortion was either mentioned in a whisper or shouted as a mantra. I didn’t know an in-between was possible until I learned about Exhale. Our pro-voice work appeals to me on so many levels. At Exhale, I can bring all of myself to my leadership role on the board – the aspirational life coach (my job), the systems change theory wonk (my head), and the enthusiastic connector and communicator(my heart).
When I was asked to lead our individual fundraising efforts a few years ago, it seemed like a huge challenge and full of personal “growing edges” for me. I said yes anyway. I said yes to learning how I could plug my personal strengths into the nuts and bolts of fundraising campaigns, individual donor identification, and ongoing relationship-building all from a place of shared passion for Exhale’s mission. And I know that my yes, combined with your yeses, makes Exhale an organization of leaders who “get” that going to the edges is what where we have the most fun, and what makes our organization thrive
Today is the final day of our summer fundraising campaign to raise $15,000. We have just $1,000 to go to reach our goal, and I invite you to join me in saying Yes.
Say yes to a future where Exhale continues to grow and thrive. Please make a donation today.