Does Your Board Open Fundraising-Related Doors for You?
I recently made a presentation to a group of fundraising professionals sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. During the presentation, I asked the class many questions. Some of these questions dealt with aspects of using volunteers to seek time, talent and treasure on behalf of their institution. I was not surprised by the number of professionals that said this topic was an issue for them. I had to probe deeper and ask them if they had a board of directors and development committee on their board charged with fundraising.
They certainly had boards, but few had development committees on their boards. Those that had development committees were less than pleased with the engagement and motivation of their board volunteers. The icing on the cake was a question someone asked me privately after the presentation. She said she was new to her organization and gave her board a list of the organization’s top 100 donors. She asked if anyone would open a door for her with these donors. She obtained zero response, because the board either did not know the donors or did not feel compelled to help her. I laughed and told her in my career, I did exactly what she did with the same result.
According to Gail Perry, there are five common mistakes that cause board members to back off when they should be pitching in, which are:
- Asking for money, not building and keeping friends. Board members need to realize the ask is only one small step in a long cultivation process.
- Cold or “cool” calls. Do not subject your board volunteers to constant failure. It is the greatest way to turn them off quickly to the solicitation process.
- Too many calls at too low a dollar level. Because of limited time and need for their maximum use, utilize board members for higher level asks.
- Emergency fundraising, not long-term relationships. This leads to unpleasant volunteer solicitation experiences. We need to motivate volunteers for the long haul.
- Lack of training, structure, coaching and support. Do not make the mistake that your volunteers are fundraising professionals. They need clear-cut directives, coaching and training to succeed.
Perry also suggests that board members can become “door-openers” by:
- Developing their elevator speech/personal message.
- Creating contagious energy by removing the fear of soliciting.
- Creating a conversation.
- Inviting them to follow-up for a next step.
Make sure your board members are happy, fired up and passionate for the cause.
Specific steps for having board members open doors to their networks, according to Amy Eisenstein, include:
- Inviting a friend or colleague on a tour of your facility.
- Asking friends and colleagues to volunteer.
- Hosting a reception in their home where they can introduce their friends to your organization.
- Posting announcements about your nonprofit on their social media channels.
- Arranging one-on-one meetings with your board chair and/or executive director.
- Inviting friends and colleagues to your nonprofit’s events.
It is very important that you work with administration, board leadership, staff and key volunteers to selectively recruit individuals to the board with the right skill sets to fundraise, if you want them to fundraise for you. Some board members can identify prospects, plus rate and screen their potential for giving. Other board members understand the organizational mission and make the elevator speech like no other.
Other board members enjoy the fundraising process and asking for gifts. You must create a sound mechanism, such as a development committee, on your board and recruit members to fit various fundraising roles based upon what they can bring to the table. You also need to say goodbye to board members who are not producing or care to produce. At the end of the day, one key to a successful overall fundraising program is board engagement and leadership. Board members must be responsible and accountable for fundraising success. The key is having board members “own” their fundraising responsibility!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.