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The big question is how to engage and empower Board members to fundraise? This begins with a solid recruitment, orientation and on-boarding process. From there we have to treat our Board members like the major donors we know they are or can or should be. As nonprofit professionals, we need to partner with them in fundraising training, prospect ranking, donor cultivation and solicitation. We rarely see Board members who come to the Board table ready, willing and able to raise money – early and often.
Keep these ideas in mind as you think about how you can create or reinvent your fundraising Board.
- Engagement is key – open and honest communication at Board meetings and in between.
- Avoid bobble-head Board meetings. Place fundraising discussion at the beginning of the Board meeting agenda – not the end and invite conversation – not just reporting at or to the Board. Focus Board attention on fundraising in between Board meetings.
- Assessing the Board’s work as a group and individuals can help keep and relieve Board members.
In reading the July/August issue of Advancing Philanthropy, I found this quote from an active Board member particularly timely. I encourage you to read the article she wrote, “Board Members as Storytellers – and Fundraisers”.
“Instead of intimidating current and future Board members by asking them to ask people for money, it more productive to inspire and transform them into becoming good storytellers, with as wide as audience as possible. Practice makes perfect, and in due time these storytellers will become valuable fundraisers.”
Susan Woodall, Board Member, Women & Family Life Center, Guildford, CT,
JENNIFER ASKS: What if a (Board) member is dedicated to volunteering time but not able to offer assistance with fund raising based on their current work position prohibits it. How should this be handled?
BARBARA ANSWERS: This is a common question and challenge faced by our clients. I believe successful organizations have strong Boards (leaders) who are committed to supporting the organization financially. Beyond our work with our clients, if you look around your own community – which nonprofit organizations are thriving? You will most likely find those who have Boards committed to giving and raising significant dollars.
I believe volunteering time or having a restriction on their ability to raise money should potentially exclude them from Board service. HOWEVER, your organization should have many points of entry for community members who want to serve. Committee work is a great place for those who want to give time and expertise but may not be able or interested in making a tax-deductible contribution. Every nonprofit organization needs expertise, advice and counsel that supports staff experience. Engaging those who want to offer their talents should be welcomed, but they don’t have to take a valuable spot on your Board.