5 Epic Board Fundraising Fails
There are many fundraising fails. Staff frequently fail at cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, just to name a few, but let’s talk about board fundraising fails. Here are my top five.
1. Failure to Fundraise
In many organizations, board members see fundraising as the sole responsibility of staff. When this happens, board members fail. When this happens, board members fail. Successful fundraising is a team sport, and board members have an important role to play in fundraising. The role of the board in fundraising is inescapable. Members can advocate for your organization, refer potential donors, cultivate new donors, and solicit funds. And when board members work with staff, they can decide what role they want to play on the fundraising team.
2. Failure to Introduce Prospective Donors
A key strategy of prospecting for new donors is to ask board members to refer and introduce development staff to prospective donors. Prospective donors can be business associates, friends or other family members. Board members can introduce staff to members of their Rotary Club or the chamber of commerce. A fundraising failure I frequently see in some organizations is when board members are not asked to make referrals or don’t want to make referrals. Not making referrals shows a lack of trust, which will be obvious to all. Staff, be sure to ask your board members to make referrals and when they don’t — ask them why.
3. Failure to Give Lead Campaign Gifts
Successful fundraising campaigns start with gifts, and the first gifts to any campaign (capital, planned, major gifts, endowment) come from board members. These lead gifts will set the tone, speed and success of your campaign; and improve your success rate when you are asking others to support your efforts. Why should anyone make a gift to an organization where the board members haven’t stepped up and made their own gifts? When board members don’t lead with their gifts toward your fundraising campaigns, the campaigns fail.
4. Failure to Plan
Successful organizations follow a planning cycle that starts with a strategic plan, followed by the development and marketing plans. Staff and the board create these plans together. Successful plans are those where staff and board are present and engaged. Board members who do not play an active role in the planning process fail. And so will the plans.
5. Failure to Obtain Fundraising Metrics
We work in a fundraising environment where fundraising metrics are important to individual donors. Board members must pay attention to how well the staff is performing on many key metrics like cost to raise a dollar, return on investment, donor retention and average gift size to name a few. Providing these metrics demonstrates transparency to prospects and donors. If board members are not receiving metrics of the organization’s fundraising efforts from the staff, they should ask for them. If they are not collected, they should ask why.
Board members have the responsibility to steward the mission and they must have donors and recipients of services at the forefront of their mind. They should attend board meetings, committee meetings, assist in fundraising, sign an engagement agreement and live up to their commitments.
Jack Alotto, CFRE, has his Master’s of Arts and is a trainer at the Fundraising Academy at National University.