“Should my board help me raise funds?” The obvious answer is yes of course they should! Now comes the hard part. Getting the board to raise money is much more difficult than simply saying they should. Many nonprofits, of all sizes and mission types, overlook the basic steps necessary to involve the board in effective fundraising. The following nine tips will put your board on the right track. And there is a bonus attached. Once the board masters these eight steps, they will be engaged, engaged, and truly making a difference.
Tip No. # 1: Make sure the agency fundraising is worth it. The board’s primary responsibility is to govern the agency and make sure it delivers on its promise. That means the board sets the direction, defines the vision, mission, goals and objectives, and holds the CEO or CEO accountable for achieving the results. It is not, emphatically, the board’s job to volunteer, stuff envelopes, provide free legal or accounting services, although they can do those things if the board as a whole decides they must. That it is The board’s job is to represent the constituents your agency serves and to demand excellence in agency performance. Once the board has clearly defined its leadership role, then and only then is it ready to start raising money.
Tip No. # 2: Engage their hearts and their wallets. If you are on a nonprofit board, then it makes sense for you to believe in that organization. Therefore, the agency should be one of the main recipients of your personal donations. The board’s second step toward fundraising is to institute a “give or take” policy, whereby board members write a check or seek out others to write checks on their behalf. If the board member cannot afford to give the required amount, then he can raise money from others. Board members who are unwilling to invest in the financial future of the agency may not be the best candidates for board service. Give or take policies need not be overloaded; giving can start as low as you like.
Tip No. 3: Write a strong case statement to give. It’s not fair to sit back and assume that board members know how, or why, to raise money for your agency; Give them the right support. Provide an effective case statement, a document that ‘defines the case’ to support the agency. The case statement begins with the agency mission statement and then goes beyond. It should cover both “financial” and “emotional” appeal. The emotional appeal tells potential donors about the good works the charity is doing and engages their hearts. Economic appeal tells donors why charity work contributes to the economy, why it is “worthy of a donation” and compromises their wallets. Your case statement may include a description of funding levels or even specific purposes for which you need funding. Make sure each board member has copies of this document and be sure to review and revise it every year.
Tip # 4: Profile the types of donors you would like to attract. Please describe your ideal donor, including details on the demographics of the donors most likely to donate such as age, zip code, wealth level, past donation history, etc. Then include the interests, passions, or convictions of your ideal donor. Document this profile as a reference point or guide for qualifying new donors. Once you have developed the ideal donor / donor profile, use it as a reason to Exclude unqualified opportunities as well as include appropriate ones. This reduces the likelihood of board members wasting time on unqualified prospects.
Tip No. # 5: Board members know the people. Develop an initial list of potential donors by asking board members to identify people they can contact on behalf of your agency. Getting a name out of the newspaper is not the best place to start; the board member should use his personal influence to start the process. Provide board members with your ideal donor profile in advance and ask “who do you know that looks like this profile?” Board members can and should use their contacts and influence to schedule time for meetings and discussions with these people. This exercise may put some of your board members to the test. If no one on your board has influence or contacts in the community, it may be helpful to find new board members who do.
Tip # 6: Staff collect grants; the board encourages philanthropy. Nonprofits raise money from four types of income: grants, fees for service (earned income), philanthropy, and corporate partnerships. Staff are better trained to pursue earned income and grant opportunities; let them do it. The board, on the other hand, is best suited for raising money from individual philanthropy (individual donations of any size) and from corporations. First, have staff calculate how much you need to earn from each funding category, then describe and prioritize your specific funding needs. (By the way, “we just need more money” is not a necessity, it is a complaint). Once staff have defined their funding needs, prioritized them, and determined which needs are best met by philanthropic or corporate donations, the board can begin planning their calling and visiting hours. Make sure there is an ideal donor profile useful for wealthy individuals and a specific one for corporate partnerships or sponsorships.
Tip No. # 7: encourage them to tap into their connections. The board members know a lot of people. Make sure they feel comfortable reaching out to their contacts on their behalf. Remind them that they may meet wealthy people, people who like to volunteer, corporate executives looking for charities to align with, or people who want to be on boards. Make your board members comfortable with reaching out to your contacts and connections. This can be especially helpful if your board member is acquired from the founder or director of a family foundation.
Tip No. 8: Help them ask for money. Some board members may feel uncomfortable asking for donations. Help them out by providing your Case Statement, Ideal Donor Profile, and a list of funding needs. Arrange for some training. Schedule participation in a class, bring in an outside expert, or take time (inside or outside of board meetings) for board members and staff to practice, rehearse, and coach one another until ‘asking the question. ‘feel natural. Revenue development is a career skill and it is not fair to assume that all board members have the same skills or talents for the job.
Tip No. # 9: Track performance. Set specific performance goals for fundraising, using so-called “leading” metrics – metrics that take place before the money comes in the door. Consider indicators such as the growth in the size of the prospect database and the growth in the number of proposals being discussed with wealthy individuals and corporate sponsor prospects. The Executive Director should collect such data on a regular basis and report on it at each board meeting. Constant attention to the realities of the fundraising process will institute an important discipline for everyone.
Fundraising is a critical and strategic function that needs and deserves strong leadership. It’s not “someone else’s” job, it’s everyone’s job. And it’s not enough to simply assume that board members will get the job done without being asked, without tools, and without training. We encourage board members to take this message seriously and use these simple tips to create effective fundraising disciplines.