It’s no secret that many board members just don’t like fundraising In fact, in a recent BoardSource study, CEOs graded their boards on their fundraising performance. Nearly two-thirds of gave their volunteer leaders either a C or D grade. See what I mean?
Before you start recruiting new board members, it’s essential to identify two things:
- What you need your board to look like (in terms of composition and skill sets).
- What you want your board to do when it comes to fundraising.
But, how do you manage or change expectations when your board members may not even know that fundraising is one of their responsibilities? I recommend the following approach:
First, work to get your board chair on board (pun intended) with embracing fundraising in their work. After all, if one of your leading volunteers isn’t actively supporting your organization, what message does that send?
Next, review your board members’ job description with your governance committee. If it doesn’t include fundraising or giving as a responsibility, provide clear language that articulates the level or range of gift you would like each board member to make as well as the fundraising activities you want them to do.
For more tips on boards + fundraising download our eGuide, How to Manage and Inspire Your Nonprofit’s Board.
You can also develop specific fundraising roles for each board member based on their availability and comfort level. If you say that you “hope you will play an active role in fundraising for the organization,” that leaves the exact fundraising duties open to the imagination. In my experience, that also means your board’s work is likely to fall way short of what you really need and want from them. In addition, this vague statement makes it difficult to hold your board accountable because there are no specific requests.
Once the governance committee feels comfortable with this proposed addition, the (not the development director or CEO), should present it to the full board for approval. This signals that the committee is owning this pivot.
So, your board has agreed to embrace fundraising more fully. What do you do next? Empower them for success. Consider taking the following steps:
- Make sure they really understand why philanthropy is important to your organization. Share a summary of your annual development plan to ensure that the board understands all of your fundraising goals, trends, how your multi-channel activities work together, and where they can be involved. Provide progress reports and call out specific ways they can help.
- Offer training on donor motivations, trends in fundraising, and best practices in creating donor relationships to demystify fundraising.
- Ask them to share how they can be most helpful based on their talents and availability. At the beginning of every fiscal year, sit down individually with board members and discuss how they will be involved with fundraising that year.
- Confirm the level of support they will need from the staff to do their board duties most effectively.
Last (but not least), manage your own expectations of this transition. It’s unlikely you’ll turn around your board’s feelings about fundraising within one fiscal year. Expect baby steps and set achievable goals for your board that will show their progress in accepting a new dimension to their volunteer leadership. There may be some member who will never step into their fundraising role as you would like them to do. If that’s the case, evaluate whether that volunteer can be useful in other ways or whether it’s time to bless and release them.
I’ll end with a data point that truly underscores the power of board involvement in fundraising. In Donor-Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk reported that survey participants were asked how a thank you call from a board member would impact their future giving. She found that:
- 93% said they would definitely or probably give again when they were next asked;
- 84% would give a larger gift;
- 74% would give indefinitely.
Share that at your next board meeting, drop the mic, and see how they react. If that isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is.
SAMPLE BOARD FUNDRAISING EXPECTATIONS
(can be tailored to what will work best for your Board)
<Organization> Board of Directors
Individual Fundraising Plan
Please complete this form as your FYXXXX fundraising plan, by confirming your personal gift, choosing the donor development activities you will participate in, and setting goals in those areas. It is important that each board member commits to at least one donor development activity.
My financial investment in ORGANIZATION
Board members of <Organization> are each expected to make an annual gift in an amount that is personally significant to them. Gifts may be pledged and paid over monthly or quarterly installments throughout the fiscal year, paid by gifts of appreciated securities, or to include matching gifts from your employer.
My personal donation for FYXXX: $____________________
My company will match this amount: $____________________
Donor Development Activities
- Attend <Organization> events and send information on donors and prospects to staff.
- Invite friends, colleagues, and/or relatives to <Organization> events.
- Host a house party or invite a friend to host a house party. House parties can educate our new friends and donors about <Organization>’s programs and are also an opportunity to raise money. As host of a party, you will underwrite the cost of food and drink, and open up your home to friends and family.
Months that are best for me: __________________________________________
- I have a friend who is available to host and I will actively assist with the creation of the guest list.
- Provide a list of prospects for donor cultivation and solicitation. The development director and fundraising committee will work one-on-one with you to develop an effective strategy for inviting your family, friends, or colleagues to support the work of <Organization>.
- Arrange a prospective donor meeting with an individual, corporation, foundation or governmental agency that can provide new funding to <Organization>. Solicitation of prospective funding is more effective when personal contact is made. If you know any individuals, and/or anyone in a corporation, foundation, or government agency that you can introduce personally to <Organization> staff and participate in a meeting, you can play a key role in <Organization>’s fundraising. Additionally, you may know of trustees who can make discretionary grants to <Organization>, or can be especially helpful in advocating for <Organization> on key proposals.
- I am interested in facilitating a donor meeting or specific communication with foundation trustees.
- Watch for names of prospects from annual reports, newspapers, etc., and send to staff.
- Participate in major donor fundraising by serving as a contact, participating in a meeting, and/or making ask(s). Raising unrestricted funds is an important component of <Organization>’s fundraising plan and solicitations from major donors is an important strategy.
My goal to raise through major donor fundraising: $________________
- Solicit a sponsor for an event. Events are an important opportunity to solicit corporate sponsorship, or to invite the support of other potential donors. We will let the Board know in advance about the scheduled events so you have enough time to solicit sponsors.
My goal to raise through an event: $________________
- Make thank-you calls to donors and supporters. This activity involves calling and/or emailing donors just to say “thanks.” It is an opportunity to thank the donors for their support, answer any questions, and learn more about the donor. You will be given information and assistance to make these thank you calls.
- Write notes to major donors on event invitations, annual solicitation letters, etc.
- Other ways to support fundraising. Please include ways you can volunteer your services to <Organization> or other ways you hope to raise funds for the organization (e.g., auction items).
My overall fundraising goal: $______________________
I agree to fulfill the above-stated fundraising goals to the best of my ability.
Board Member Date
Download our eGuide and get these templates in a PDF.
Guest Author: Barbara O’Reilly, CFRE