Yes! Your Board Can Fundraise!

Nearly every nonprofit organization would like their board to be more involved in fundraising.

Why is this such a common struggle? There are several different reasons. I find these three to be widespread:

1. Board members may not understand their role

Board members often think that fundraising is cold-calling people and asking for money — and they want no part of that! Well let me tell you, neither do I! Cold-calling someone who has no connection to you or the organization is very ineffective.

Many years ago, I worked with a wonderful woman named Shirley, She was a board member who swore to me she was a terrible fundraiser. But she came in to talk to me about inviting a few friends over to her house for tea to talk about the organization and how it is helping the community.  We raised thousands of dollars that afternoon, and made many new friends who later became donors. Shirley did not perceive that party as fundraising because it was an easy activity for her!

Many board members do not realize that development encompasses a range of activities, including introducing people to the organization, helping them understand what the organization’s impact is, thanking donors, setting an example with their own giving, being an ambassador, and much more.  It is the staff’s job to meet with board members to help them find the best match for their skills, time, and interest, and then provide training, support and encouragement along the way.

2. Board members may not be given training

Fundraising is a skill that can be taught. What are the best-selling auction items at an event? What is the process to cultivate a major donor? What are the most effective ways to communicate your mission? What is planned giving all about? Provide training so that your board members feel more comfortable with a variety of development activities. Training can be done at every board meeting, and also at an annual board retreat.

3. The organization did not recruit board members based on their ability or interest in fundraising.

I’m sure you have heard these lines before – “I was asked to be on a board and they said I don’t really have to do much.”  Or, “Let’s ask Joe to be on the board because he is my neighbor and he is a great guy.” Be intentional with your board recruitment. Examine what your needs are and recruit for those skills and qualities. Then be open and honest with your prospective board members about your expectations with regard to fundraising, attendance, giving, and more.

When you seem to be stuck with board members who are not involved in fundraising, stop and examine what you are doing to help them become more involved.

About Susan Suarez

I am a nonprofit management and fundraising consultant. I have 30 years experience in the philanthropic sector including senior level positions in management, fundraising and grantmaking. I started consulting in 2003, working with local nonprofits and with community foundations nationally. My experience as Executive Director of Eden Autism Services Florida, President of the Community Foundation of Collier County, Vice President of Marketing and Development for the Community Foundation Silicon Valley, and Development Director for the American Red Cross in Palo Alto, CA provides a deep background in philanthropy and management to benefit my clients.
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