Board Reality Check
One of the first myths I learned when I started my nonprofit career can be stated in two words: “Boards fundraise.” Some do, though generally that consists of getting their corporations to contribute, or selling tickets to your special events to their friends.
These are not, of course, bad things. To the contrary, they are quite good. They are not, however, fundraising. Nor, I would argue, is fundraising asking your friend for a gift in exchange for a gift of the same amount that you will give to the nonprofit where he or she is involved.
That, however, is how most board members view fundraising, and it plays a big part in why they don’t want to be involved.
That most boards don’t fundraise may be a fact, but it is also a fact that we really need them to. At a time when even the 400 largest nonprofits are seeing declines of up to 9 percent in their fundraising revenue, we all need to be working harder. If your organization, like many, has been overly dependent on grants, your need is even greater and going to get greater still.
Since the 1940s, giving as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) has hovered around 2 percent. Last year it was 2.2 percent, down a bit from the previous year.
Where those funds come from has also remained remarkably steady over the years.
In 2008, about 5 percent of all charitable gifts were made by corporations. Another 13 percent came from foundations, and — even though this represents a drop from 2007 — a whopping 75 percent of all charitable gifts came from living individuals. If you add gifts by bequests, individual giving rises to 82 percent.
Clearly, to get your charitable revenue to increase, you need to go where the money is — and that is to individuals. Here is where your board can and should be a real resource.