Book And Video Reviews

Speaking of Money: A Guide to Fund-Raising for Nonprofit Board Members

Hosted by Hugh Downs. User's Guide by Kay Sprinkel Grace
Timeless in subject and professional in presentation

This video and accompanying user's guide are timeless in their subject and professional in their presentation. The video is broadcast-quality without being “slick”, maintaining a high level of interest throughout its approximately 27 minutes running time. Watching the video, I could easily see myself showing it at a board meeting or planning retreat as a succinct introduction and “ice-breaker” into fundraising by volunteer board members.

The video's production values are at least broadcast-quality, so there are no distracting sound, lighting, or editing problems. The video also respects the needs and characteristics of adult learners, such as their short attention spans and demand for immediately relevant (as opposed to conceptual or theoretical) information.

An impressive and articulate cadre of volunteer board members and consultants present their views and experiences individually, avoiding “focus group” scenes that are rewarding in person but often difficult to film and confusing to watch. These volunteers work seamlessly with Downs' narration and facilitation through the video's five sections -- Introduction, Cultivation, The Case, The Ask, and Stewardship. The San Francisco Food Bank, National Black Women's Health Project, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra are three organizations whose board members participate in this video.

One criticism or caveat I hold for this excellent video is that it does not specifically address the issues facing volunteer boards of new, grassroots, and small organizations. Although all may benefit from watching it, it is directed primarily at boards of more established organizations.

Also, board consultant and expert Carol Weisman is the only person on camera who is not from Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, or San Francisco. A video that strives to be diverse in its on-camera personalities and is produced by a national organization should be able to demonstrate geographic diversity by reaching to the interior of the country and to non-metropolitan areas.

The package includes a 20-page User's Guide which helps a facilitator or consultant guide the viewers through pre- and post-viewing exercises designed to reinforce concepts and provide real-life examples of board fundraising. The video and User's Guide are valuable when viewed by individuals when alone, but the best experience is gained when viewing in small groups or in a “mentored” mode.

Don't let the 1996 copyright date hold you back; the quality of information, production values, and its accessibility by volunteers make Speaking of Money an invaluable training tool for any consultant or nonprofit organization working to start, increase, or improve board fundraising.