Board Fundraising: 4 Roles Your Nonprofit’s Board Must Fill
Your board members not only have leadership responsibilities to your nonprofit, but they also have fiduciary responsibilities. When they assume their position, they agree to help your organization raise the funds it needs to achieve its purpose.
In this guide, we’ll walk through four roles that board members can take on during fundraising campaigns. We encourage you to consider these roles and assign responsibilities that play into the strengths of your board members.
How Do You Motivate Board Members to Fundraise?
It can be challenging to encourage board members to participate in fundraising activities if they don’t have prior experience. But, fundraising is a key part of their role, and board involvement can greatly improve the outcomes of your fundraising campaigns. Not only can they make donations themselves, but they can also introduce your organization to their personal and professional network, spread the word about your nonprofit to the community, and provide helpful feedback on strategy.
Here are a few ways you can motivate board members to participate in your fundraising efforts:
- Set Expectations Early. Before adding new board members, take the time to clearly lay out their responsibilities during the interview process. Most organizations have members sign a board member agreement that lists the specific expectations and responsibilities they must fulfill while serving on the board. Make sure to include the specific fundraising responsibilities they will take on in this agreement.
- Explain Why You’re Fundraising. Your board members likely understand the importance of fundraising for nonprofits. However, highlighting the specific impact fundraising dollars have on your organization shows them the tangible effects. For example, you might reference your last successful fundraising campaign that enabled you to expand a program and reach dozens more beneficiaries. Remember to explain the purpose behind your current fundraising campaigns as well.
- Train Them to Fundraise. Not everyone on your board is a natural fundraiser, especially if they are new members. Have your more experienced staff and board members host training sessions with these members to teach them fundraising fundamentals. If your board members feel prepared to make fundraising asks, they will be more willing to help, more confident, and more successful.
- Assign Specific Tasks. Assign specific roles to each of your board members that align with their strengths and experiences. Then, help them gain a better understanding of their responsibilities and how they fit into the overall campaign by checking in with them periodically to see how they’re doing. To ensure they have a strong understanding of their individual responsibilities, create specific task lists for each board member.
The key to driving board involvement during fundraising campaigns is clear communication and support from your staff. Make it as easy as possible for your board to understand their roles and responsibilities.
What Are the Four Key Board Fundraising Roles?
In addition to outlining clear board responsibilities, assigning specific roles to each member ensures they know exactly which tasks to fulfill. Draft a detailed description of each of the following roles and take the time to decide which board members will thrive in each role. Keep in mind that you may have multiple board members in each of these roles depending on the size and expertise of your board.
The Ambassador serves as a representative or promoter of your nonprofit. Board members who take on the Ambassador role will be the face of your organization to their networks and work to actively engage their contacts in your nonprofit’s work.
Some of the specific responsibilities Ambassadors must fulfill include:
- Inviting Friends, Family, and Colleagues to Events. Ambassadors can help you attract attendees to important events by inviting members of their personal and professional networks. Ask Ambassadors to either submit contact information for potential attendees or have them personally invite their contacts.
- Hosting House Parties. Ambassadors can also host their own events, inviting their acquaintances so they can share about your purpose with new audiences. When Ambassadors take on the responsibility of hosting an event for your organization, it saves you the time, effort, and costs of organizing your own event. It also provides a more intimate setting to discuss your purpose.
- Sharing Donor and Prospect Information with Staff. Cultivating relationships with existing and prospective major donors is a labor-intensive—but necessary—step in the fundraising process. Ambassadors can be an excellent asset for your fundraising team when it comes to learning more about your major donors and prospects and sharing those details with your staff.
The ideal candidate for this role identifies as a “people person,” is comfortable talking up your organization, and is well-connected to a large, philanthropically-inclined social network.
The Connector’s strength lies in getting the right people to your event. They work to organize points of connection with donors and other important entities.
As a Connector, members in this role might:
- Grow Your Donor Base. Gather lists of prospects for donor cultivation and solicitation from other board members.
- Secure New Funding Opportunities. Set up meetings with individuals, corporations, foundations, or government agencies that can provide funding.
- Research and Plan. Perform research and organize meetings that allow them to serve as a matchmaker between your nonprofit and promising prospects.
When choosing board members to fill this role, keep in mind that having a large social and professional network is important (as with the Ambassador role). However, the Connector role is best suited to those who prefer to work behind the scenes—they may not be as outgoing as Ambassadors. Be sure to choose a board member who has excellent organizational skills and the bandwidth to juggle these important meetings.
The Solicitor is your closer. They are willing (and even eager) to participate in major donor fundraising and make asks.
As your closer, Solicitors will need to:
- Undergo Specific Solicitation Training. Training board members on how to approach soliciting a gift from donors can make them feel more confident and help present your nonprofit as a united front. Use training to get everyone on the same page about how to explain your nonprofit’s purpose, describe specific programs, and navigate common questions. Be sure to develop a basic structure for making asks that they can follow, too.
- Attend Important Meetings and Events. Cultivating relationships with donors is necessary to make an ask, and luncheons and other fundraising events provide the perfect opportunity. While they might not close at the event, the relationships they build there can factor into winning a major donation in the future. Your donors are more likely to respond better to fundraising asks made by a familiar face, meaning that it’s important to establish as many touchpoints before soliciting as possible.
- Look for Additional Funding Opportunities. Solicitors don’t have to stick to asking for major gifts from donors. They can also look for other avenues for gaining funding (or reducing costs) for the organization. For example, they might find a local business owner who is willing to sponsor your nonprofit’s next event.
Because the role Solicitors play in the fundraising process is important to securing funds, it’s important to choose board members who will thrive in the role. While prior sales experience is great for this role, it’s not required to make a great Solicitor. Look for board members who are knowledgeable about your organization’s purpose, know what donations will achieve, can “sell” your organization, and can smoothly navigate questions and concerns.
The Steward helps nurture your donor relationships. By cultivating deep connections with donors and consistently expressing your gratitude and appreciation, Stewards help you promote loyal, long-term support from donors.
Stewarding donors is an important step in the fundraising process that your organization should already be doing (especially when it comes to major donors). Involving board members can make the process feel more genuine and personal. Assign Stewards to a handful of donors and ask them to make personal phone calls, send emails, and write letters expressing your nonprofit’s thanks. Encourage them to engage with donors as a peer rather than a staff member to learn more about them.
Board members who fit the role of Steward should be trustworthy, warm, and passionate about your organization’s purpose. Make sure they are comfortable speaking one-on-one with donors, have strong writing skills, and are knowledgeable about your nonprofit’s programs.
To engage and activate your board, develop a clear vision of what you want your board members to do and give them the tools they need to meet those expectations. In addition to reaching out to prospects and thanking major donors, there are other ways that your board members can support fundraising. From volunteering services, to pro bono work, to procuring auction items for events, rely on your board to help grow your organization and further your mission.
Develop a clear vision of what you want your board to do—and give them the tools to meet those expectations. Download How to Engage and Activate Your Nonprofit Board and turn your board into better fundraisers today!