Question: How can we engage Board members in fundraising when their previous role was ensuring compliance with regulations?
Answer: This is an important question because the nonprofit Board’s role is not only to provide governance and strategic direction. Resource development is a crucial component of Board service. Board members commit to providing the organization with the resources it needs to thrive, and fundraising is a significant part of this. A culture of enthusiasm for Board fundraising is important to provide the organization with the resources it needs to pursue its mission.
This doesn’t always mean asking for donations. If an organization is large enough to have a development professional, then the Board may focus primarily on governance issues and assist the development team with introductions and other personal contributions. For small nonprofits, the Board’s network and fundraising efforts are much more crucial to the organization’s bottom line. Therefore, it is important to set clear expectations for Board fundraising from the outset and to make the Board’s responsibilities clear.
It is important to clear these fundraising expectations during Board member recruitment interviews, and some organizations even ask the incoming Board members to sign a “Board Member Expectation Agreement” that includes the conflict-of-interest policy. Meeting with the Board members periodically to discuss their fundraising commitment and other assigned duties is also important.
Contrary to popular belief, fundraising can be learned, and it can be fun! It is important to note that there are no innate fundraising skills that people are born with. Everyone has learned that at some point along the way. Having said this, it is essential to provide the Board with fundraising training, even if a Board member has had prior experience.
Board members are also expected to make personal contributions, and there should be a clearly stated “Give or Get” policy. Board members can also make important introductions from their business and personal contacts. Additionally, Board members may be able to educate the community on the importance of the mission through speaking opportunities or mission tours.
To this point, crafting a quality case statement is important before Board fundraising efforts are underway. A case statement spells out what the nonprofit does with the funds raised for the mission and its biggest future goals. Then, once the Board members are armed with the case statement, it is important to set a fundraising goal and a method to track it to monitor progress along the way. This serves to motivate the individuals serving on the board.
Many fundraising database platforms help development professionals manage donors, find potential engagement opportunities, and track who last engaged with each person. These platforms also provide fundraising reports that the Board of directors can evaluate as it measures its progress towards its fundraising goals and eventually celebrate together when these goals are met! An experienced fundraising professional can advise the nonprofit on what constitutes an appropriate fundraising goal, the timeline, and the steps necessary to reach the fundraising goal.
If one of the Board members is more of a technician and not a fundraiser, find a way to ignite their passion for the cause. Find out what makes them dedicated by tapping into their emotions. Understand why being on the board is meaningful to them, what made them join the board in the first place, and what they hope to accomplish by serving on the board. Once you have tapped into these emotions, it should be easier to ignite the fire and get the Board members fundraising.
Most importantly, everyone should know that fundraising can be fun and a very rewarding experience with the right training and support.