Building a Culture of Philanthropy: Board Members as P2P Fundraisers
I sit on several nonprofit boards and have led and managed many. What I found is executives and community leaders who serve on nonprofit boards do so because they have a passion for the cause and they typically know quite a bit about the organization. What is even better is they bring their own knowledge and expertise to support the organization’s purpose and mission. On the other hand, most do not come with vast experience in fundraising. Though they may be interested in doing so, fundraising can seem like a challenge for board members, since many do not have the skillset.
A study conducted in 2012 by Nonprofit Research Collaborative showed that of nonprofits who had board members who participated in fundraising saw an increase in fundraising by 55 percent, compared to the amount raised the previous year. Nonprofits often would like their board to be involved in fundraising, but it can be difficult to transform nonprofit board members into productive fundraisers.
One of the biggest staples of a successful nonprofit is a dedicated and invested board of directors. What would happen if being invested meant board members becoming actively involved in your organization, particularly when it comes to fundraising? The greater questions are: Where do we begin, and how can we encourage and coach board members to be effective and successful fundraisers for your nonprofit?
The key to making this shift or enhancing this practice is to introduce the concept of peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising with your board members. P2P fundraising is a fundraising tactic that employs your board members to actively fundraise on your behalf. This type of fundraising encourages your board to reach out to their social and business networks and ask for donations. Members of a typical nonprofit board have a wide professional network and know how to use it. Because of this, encouraging board members to do P2P fundraising might not be all that difficult. The key is to introduce the concept and create accountability as part of board duties. Nonprofits must simply make fundraising an easy process for board members to follow. There are many steps to make this process effective.
1. Educate Board Members
Before you convince them to fundraise for you, you must remind board members of your need and how they can help. Being open and transparent about the areas where your nonprofit is struggling is something you should already be doing with your board—showing them how they can help is the next step.
2. Board Members as Ambassadors
Remember to let board members know that while you are asking them to participate in raising money for your organization, you are primarily asking that they act as ambassadors of your organization to their social networks. Make good on your word by hosting non-ask events that are not primarily fundraisers. Events like these serve as a first opportunity for your board members to introduce their friends, families and co-workers to your organization, creating a more comfortable environment for fundraising campaigns in the future.
3. Empower Your Board
Few people are natural-born fundraisers, so it is the job of the organization to empower board members to fundraise by educating them on the practice in order to help them build this skill. Some ways to achieve this goal are to send your board links to some of the best practice fundraising articles, integrate a short training into every board meeting and involve your board members in your organizations’ fundraising efforts and process.
Remember, building a culture of philanthropy with your board of directors will not happen overnight. It takes patience, consistency and commitment. You are primarily responsible for building a culture of philanthropy and developing a board that is actively engaged in fundraising.
Editor's Note: This Fundraising Connection article was published in the September 2017 issue of NonProfit PRO. Click here to read the full issue.
Tarsha Whitaker Calloway serves as vice president of philanthropy for Tessitura Network. For almost two decades, Tarsha has helped nonprofits develop fundraising, board governance and fundraising strategies to further their mission. Tarsha has directly led efforts to raise more than $50 million for the nonprofit organizations, including the Woodruff Arts Center, Emory University and the American Cancer Society. She frequently presents locally, regionally and nationally on fundraising; organizational and board development; and diversity and philanthropy.
Outside of work, Tarsha has a monthly column in NonProfit PRO magazine and is actively involved in her community, including board of trustees for Destination Imagination, board of directors' executive committee for Leadership DeKalb, board of directors for National HBCU Hall of Fame and former board chair for Atlanta Shakespeare Theater. Tarsha holds a master's of business administration in international business from Mercer University Stetson School of Business and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and theater from Texas Southern University. She also holds certificate in current affairs fundraising from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and a certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace from South Florida University.
Tarsha resides in Atlanta with her husband and son.