"Raising" Your Board
For fundraisers, “raising” an organization's board of directors can be just as difficult and as important as raising a dollar.
Many fundraisers make strides every day in turning their boards from grassroots groups of committed people to professional business boards in the hopes of making their organizations better. But this is no simple task. It can be a difficult transition for the board, but it’s a great opportunity for the organization to groom a dedicated group of volunteers. Here are some steps you can take to do just that. Some of the examples are drawn from my own experience with the Church Street School for Music and Art, so the details are education-related, but the root of the advice is applicable across missions.
Walk the walk of your organization
Many of your board members probably know someone on another board. They see how their friends act as board members and are unsure if they can do the same. As a board evolves, it will have a mixture of people with wisdom, work, wealth or a combination of the three. All of your board members will know that they are expected to help fund the school, for example, but board members that your institution is born with are very different from board members that you recruit.
It’s important to honor the time that your board members have served at your institution and continuously thank them for it. It might seem like common sense, but every time a board member gives you $500 for your capital campaign, thank her for both the check and the 15 years she might have spent teaching 5-year-olds to finger paint. People like her are the reason your institution has a fantastic reputation and is ready to grow.
Go from grassroots in the community to a community organization with roots
Since your board members might have come from staff or other groups associated with your organization, or been frends of the director for many years, they have seen your institution grow from servicing a few dozen people to what it is today. They might not have noticed that your budget is sizeable now or that your institution is responsible for the employment of several dozen people or more. In short, they might not have realized that your institution has grown considerably from its humble origins.