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Blessing or Curse: Board Members & Fund Development

By February 24, 2010September 25th, 2014Best of Withisms, Development, Engaging Your Board

I believe successful development efforts have all board members participating in fund development in some capacity and I don’t just mean the “Hey, you’re doing a great job” cheerleading role.

Being a board member is not just an honor to bestow on people who show up at meetings. Board seats are critical to the financial success of your organization.

I can just feel some people squirming as I write this. I can read your mind, too: “But Lori, you don’t know my organization—my board can’t/won’t agree to that!”

Are you sure?

The reality is, without FULL board participation and a clear understanding of your financial needs, your work as an organization is far more difficult.

How do you get the board to support your fund development work? Start with an expectation and accountability discussion. When the board members started their term of service, were they told directly that being a part of fund development is expected of them? Was their role clearly defined? And do you have one or more advocates on your board who will strongly support your efforts to get all the board members, well, “on board”?

Here’s what I mean: In the interview process, it’s critical that both fundraising (the raising of assets) and fund development (raising of visibility and deepening engagement) activities be thoroughly discussed and outlined. New board members must know beyond any doubt that they will be included in some of the “doing” as well as the giving.

A frequent frustration I bump into is that the development staff doesn’t know—because they haven’t discussed it or created a plan around it—what they want from the board, so the board is left to figure it out on their own. It’s as if you want me to know how to scuba dive because I love being in the water, but no one ever takes the time to teach me to do it.

Participation doesn’t mean the board members must directly ask for financial contributions. Here’s a short list of things that a board member or key volunteer can do to assist your organization in maintaining deep, connected relationships with donors, and they do not ever have to ask someone else for a financial contribution:

  • Make phone calls to donors to thank them for their recent contribution.
  • Invite donors, volunteers, community members, family, friends, colleagues, and others to your events, including the “get to know us” type of events that are free.
  • Take a current or former donor to coffee to thank them for their recent gift. Obviously it’s not practical to take every donor out; set a minimum donation goal for this type of activity.
  • Make an introduction to the community affairs person at their workplace.
  • Give a heartfelt—but short—speech at their church or civic group to invite interest in your organization.

This is only a short list of the many ways board members can actively participate in fund development activities. Whatever role they play, staff and board must be clear and specific about expectations. Then staff assists by providing data so that board members can hold themselves accountable. Discussion of these metrics may cause great strides in your keeping donors connected and engaged.

Let me know what other ways your organization utilizes board members in fund development efforts.


This post was included in Withism’s from Lori: Boldness, Clarity & Wisdom for Fundraising Professionals Making a Difference (Volume 1), now available in paperback, on Kindle, and Nook.



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