Focus Board Members on Raising Friends for the Cause
A nonprofit needs friends just as much as it needs money. Don't you want everybody in your community working with you and wishing you well, whether that person give lots of money or not? I don't know about you, but I'd be thrilled to have raving, passionate friends of my cause all over the place.
How will friends help you?
There are so many ways that friends are able to help out. They can volunteer, spread the word, make key introductions to potential donors or government officials, and generally expand community moral support for your important mission.
As we all know, friendship is far more enduring than money. But will friends give you money? Of course they will, if they can.
The overall goal with a nonprofit is to serve the community, and that means engaging as many community people as possible in your mission. It also means you want as many people as possible to know about you, to talk about you and to tell others how important your work is.
The more friends you have in your community, the stronger you will be. I call it being on somebody's radar. All of us are so barraged by media that we are too often on information overload. Our lives are so busy, and there are so many images firing at us daily, that we block out most stimuli in order to even function.
So getting a nonprofit's signal to show up on someone's radar is a hard job, especially when that person is an important community opinion leader or a philanthropist.
However, once you have your community's awareness, you can end up becoming one of the most important nonprofit groups in the area. Your organization will be noticed.
You will be paid attention to. You also will be able to raise lots of money because half the battle is already won: Your mission has captured people's hearts and minds, and they are talking about your work. Do not underestimate the power of positive attention to the cause.
Each board member has important social capital
One of the most valuable assets each board member brings to your group is his or her social capital. Social capital is a term used for a person's connections and social networks. Sociologists study social capital as a phenomenon that helps build stronger communities and strengthen bonds among people. You can also say that your organization itself has a certain amount of social capital.
The connections we all have to each other form a crucial web of human interaction. This means that we live our lives in webs of interdependence with others.
Social networks offer a host of benefits to organizations, communities and individuals, as well. Our connections with others help keep us emotionally and physically healthy. Some sociologists say that joining an organization cuts an individual's chance of dying within the next year in half.
From families to nations, social networks play a critical role in determining the way community problems are solved, organizations are run and the degree to which individuals succeed in achieving their goals.
There is no doubt that developing social capital for your organization is a highly important task, one that is perfectly designed for board members. It is important to capitalize on your board members' own social capital to further your organization's urgent work.
So the job is clear: You have to ask your board members to pull in their networks and introduce your organization to everybody they know. Remember, however, that when you put your board members to work on this issue, you are not simply looking for donors.
You are literally — and deliberately — seeking to expand your organization's network and social capital. You are looking for friends, as well as a chance to shine brightly on the community's radar screen.
These efforts generate excellent visibility and attention. They are not about money alone, which should make squeamish board members more comfortable.
At the same time, they are vitally important for your cause and the difference you want to make. All good fundraising absolutely requires a setting of positive word-of-mouth PR, constantly humming in the background, supporting everything you do.
Put your board members to work making friends for the cause, and you just might unleash a torrent of enthusiasm and activity!
(Editor's note: This post is excerpted from Gail's book, "Fired-UP Fundraising, Turn Board Passion into Action," which has been called the "gold standard guide to building successful fundraising boards."