Creating a Board that Fundraises – Continued Q&A

CHERYL ASKS: We have a specific minimum level for board donations. The ED and board chair recently added two people to the board, with the understanding that they do not have to make the minimum commitment. They are bringing other elements to the board, but so do all other board members. Is this acceptable and how do you explain this to other board members?

BARBARA ANSWERS: First, let’s not talk minimums, we want to empower and inspire our Board members to reach up, not down. It is important to note the role of the Board in fundraising may be a culture change for your organization. And sometimes this change takes time. Everyone, Executive Director, Board Chair and Development Officer, all need to be on the same page. Everything we talked about during the webcast – Board application, pledge forms, engaging the Board in fundraising and Board discussions around philanthropy are valuable tools to move the Board and organization forward in creating a culture of philanthropy.

In the bigger picture, the impact of bringing new Board members to the table with different expectations than current Board members, changes the rules and direction. As I said previously, if individuals are not able or willing to make a significant financial contribution to the organization, they should be welcomed to serve on a committee or volunteer or offer their expertise in other ways. This is drawing the line in the proverbial sand – no more slippery slope – EVERYONE on the Board now and in the future needs to have a clear picture of where the organization is going, their role in this work and how fundraising makes it all possible (or not.)

CAROL ASKS: Much of the fundraising discussion happens during Executive Committee meetings, yet development staff is not part of that meeting. Ideas to change this?

JODI ASKS: How do you get the board chair to agree to discuss philanthropy at the meetings? We used to, she is new and stopped it.

BARBARA ANSWERS: It is important, at a leadership level, that development officers are included when fundraising is discussed. This is about investing and believing in staff that has the expertise to create and implement fundraising strategy. They need to be at the table as a part of leadership for these discussions.

  • Sit down with the Executive Director and Board Chair to discuss participation or attendance at the meetings – be prepared to discuss why you think it is important for the organization’s ability to effectively create a culture of philanthropy and raise money.
  • Offer to prepare and facilitate fundraising training for leadership
  • Develop a fundraising plan, idea, program and ask for feedback from the leadership team – presentation required, send before the meeting, facilitated conversation at meeting
  • Find an ally on the committee

We believe discussing fundraising at Board meetings is imperative to engaging and empowering Board members to understand and acknowledge their role in its success. And the discussion can’t be the last item on the agenda they never get to. And how you engage in the discussion is as important as the content. Think about what action you want the Board to take between Board meetings and how staff will support those efforts. Everything else can be shared for information only. FOCUS their time and effort.

Again, this is part of a bigger discussion and commitment to a culture of philanthropy that will lead the organization to successful fundraising. Nonprofit organizations thrive when their mission to serve meets community needs and has the money to support mission and programs. That’s the bottom line – we don’t fundraise ‘cause we can – we raise money to support mission to help our communities help themselves and the people who live in it.

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