Four Steps to Creating a Strong Fundraising Board
“Our board was not built to be a fundraising board.”
If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard that, I would be a philanthropist rather than a fundraising consultant. One of the first questions we ask an organization that contacts us about providing counsel for a campaign is about the involvement of its board: What is its role in fundraising, and what are its prospective roles as leaders and donors for the campaign?
It is becoming alarmingly frequent for people to answer that their board is not a fundraising board, was not recruited to give and get money, and will be of little help as donors or solicitors for the campaign. Many organizations believe that the first step in undertaking a successful campaign is conducting a feasibility study. In fact, the first step in preparing for successful fundraising should be a period of time spent strategically and deliberately building the fundraising awareness, ability and strength of the board.
I do live in the real world and realize that it’s not easy to recruit smart, talented board members who have resources, have access to and are willing to solicit others of means, and have a passion for your cause. I’ve also heard every year for the past 20 that “people are busier than they have ever been.” Sooner or later we have to reach the point where people are as busy as is possible and we can remove that phrase from the common vernacular.
I also realize that we have been through right sizing, down sizing and an economic downturn that continues to reduce the size of the corporate volunteer corps — the corps that has long been a major source of nonprofit board members.
Incidentally, some of the weakest boards have been built by organizations going to local companies and asking for a “representative” to serve on their board. These organizations ultimately end up with someone who serves because they’re told to do so, rather than out of a commitment to the cause. However, these factors make the work of building a strong board all the more important to the success of an organization.