Your Nonprofit Advisory Board Must Focus on Fundraising
A nonprofit advisory board is an important vehicle for a nonprofit organization. Where else can you obtain a diverse set of community leaders representing a variety of organizations and life experiences with a common purpose, which is to provide support for your organization? I have interacted with many advisory boards through the years. Some boards were very strong.
Others were very weak. Others had great potential but did not have a strategic or organizational plan. Several administrative leaders I have interfaced with had mixed feelings about the value of a nonprofit advisory board. This feeling may have been expressed in part because of a lack of knowledge in recruiting, training or providing proper orientation to the board.
In “Nonprofit Advisory Boards: Why They Matter, How to Get Them Off the Ground” by the MissionBox staff, the staff noted that a nonprofit advisory board is a volunteer group formed to give advice and support to a nonprofit’s board of directors or executive staff. An advisory board may contribute to the organization in many ways. For example, an advisory board could be established for the sole purpose of fundraising.
Another nonprofit advisory board could be set up solely to give advice on issues. It needs to be noted that a nonprofit advisory board doesn’t have formal legal responsibilities or decision-making authority. To get the most out of your organization’s advisory board, keep its purpose in mind. Respecting, honoring and recognizing the work of the advisory board are crucial.
According to BoardEffect, many organizations struggle to build and/or maintain high performing boards. Nonprofit advisory boards can expand organizational capacity, reach and impact in ways that might not be appropriate or feasible for board or staff members. Advisory boards typically fall into one of the following categories, according to Blue Avocado:
The blog article, “The Non-Profit Advisory Board/Committee,” notes that there are two types of “advisory” groups: those that advise and those that don’t. The key to the successful functioning of (any kind of) advisory board is to (first) clearly define its mission, goals and objectives and have a clear job description (if that “board” really has a mission, goal or “job”) for the members of that group.
The article also notes folks in the non-profit sector express the feeling that people who are recruited to an advisory board for their skills, insights, contacts and/or common sense shouldn’t be asked for money in addition to being asked to “work” for the organization. If those visible individuals do not give to the organization, it suggests that they are not fully committed to the achievement of the mission—that they are merely indulging in a pastime or hobby—that the organization might be worth lending their name and/or giving some of their time, but not worth investing their money.
Bloomerang points out that all your board members should be involved with fundraising in one way or another. Fundraising is at the heart of what your nonprofit does and without funds you could not carry out your mission. Advisory board members can help organizational fundraising by hosting a non-ask event, make thank-you calls to donors, go out and ask for advice from potential donors, be an ambassador and make sure the development program is fully resourced.
Gail Perry suggests that each board member must make a proud, personal annual gift, understand your organization’s fundraising program and strategies, help thank donors, communicate with donors, help identify prospective donors and open doors, help cultivate donors, when appropriate, ask for contributions, support and encourage all fundraising activities and the fundraising team, ensure that fundraising has adequate resources and support, and attend public events and bring prospects and friends.
In the book, “The AAA Way to Fundraising Success: Maximum Involvement, Maximum Results,” the AAA program for a board is when every board member is an ambassador, advocate or asker for the institution they serve. Each of these functions has different roles and responsibilities. These roles must be followed for maximum fundraising success to occur. By implementing this process, there will be wider and deeper board engagement, a growing confidence about getting involved in the asking process and increased financial resources.
Gail Perry points out that there are four steps to take board members from fear to understanding and to open the door for willingness. Step one is asking board members how to do you feel about soliciting and asking for money? Step two is telling them fundraising is not about money but it’s about changing the world. Step three is seeking institutional friends—not donors and step four, tell them they don’t have to solicit but help cultivating, thanking, informing and communicating with donors.
The bottom line is for your nonprofit to survive and thrive, nonprofit advisory boards must be totally engaged in the fundraising process. The key is recruiting advisory board members that understand their role is to acquire time, talent and treasure that starts with their first personal gift. Know who on your advisory board can ask, tell stories, cultivate, identify, rate and perform specific development functions with prospects. Constantly inform your advisory board well about your organizational fundraising priorities and strive to make fundraising an enjoyable experience to be shared by them, as it is truly a team sport.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.