The Right Development Committee for Your Nonprofit
The fund development committee of your board of directors should be an integral part of your nonprofit’s governance and fundraising strategy. Fundraising success is dependent on volunteer connectors; a fund development committee provides a mechanism to organize and lead this function for your board. When structured, led and activated correctly this committee multiplies your nonprofit’s fundraising forces.
Right Structure and People
To answer an obvious but frequent question, yes, your board of directors should have an active and distinct fund development committee. Historically, it has been common practice to have this committee essentially live within and be the same as the finance committee; however, this is a mistake. Finance committees fill a valuable role monitoring and ensuring an organization’s financial health, of which philanthropic revenue is a key component. Successful boards differentiate between these functions bifurcating those responsible for monitoring and reporting on performance and those empowered to help impact performance.
An effective development committee should be comprised of individuals with influence and connectivity within the communities where you raise, or would like to raise, significant parts of your income. The size of the committee should vary based on the size of the organization; however, it is important that those who agree to serve are capable and willing to focus on building new relationships for the organization.
Membership of the committee should not be restricted exclusively to board members. The development committee can be a proving ground and pipeline for potential future board members.
The development committee chair should be widely respected by her/his fellow board members and recognizable to the larger community from which you seek funding. The chair should be filled by someone capable of eventually succeeding the current board chair or president and this role should serve as a stepping stone within your board’s succession plan. It is also important that the chair and your chief development officer have a strong working relationship and personal connection. The chief development officer and development chair must partner as closely as the executive director and board chair. They should have a preexisting collaborative pattern and plan to regularly be in communication
formally and informally.
Right Focus and Agenda
A development committee should focus on building new relationships for the organization capable of making significant philanthropic investments. Primary activities should include reviewing prospect lists provided by the chief development officer to identify potential connections, making and participating in introductions to prospects and helping to brainstorm solutions to challenges that inevitably arise in every fundraising program. The committee should not serve as supervisors or managers for the development staff nor focus on logistical details of events or other campaigns. A successful development committee is a machine focused on broadening a nonprofits network of supporters.
Craig Shelley (@craigshelley) is a managing director at Orr Group, which provides nonprofits with strategy, fundraising, leadership and management solutions and has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Craig brings an entrepreneurial approach to fundraising, nonprofit management and strategy. Prior to joining Orr Group, Craig served in a variety of positions with the Boy Scouts of America, most recently as the national director of development and corporate alliances. He serves on the executive committee of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ New York City Chapter and the editorial advisory board for Nonprofit PRO, and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE).