You’ve surely read articles or heard stories of board members that raise great sums of money for their nonprofit. Sometimes the funds help an organization facing a crisis or it may just be a regular occurrence, year after year. Often it goes something like this:
Well-regarded nonprofit faces major budget shortfall and may have to eliminate programs or lay off staff. The board is asked to step-up efforts to help secure support, so they take action and raise money via a combination of events and major gifts. These efforts stave off what seemed inevitable, and the influx of new donors and enthusiasm has re-energized staff, volunteers and the community.
Seems almost like a dream, doesn’t it?
It’s actually not a dream for organizations that recruit board members with an eye towards how they can help raise funds, engage board members with development activities, provide regular fundraising training and staff support, and make fundraising an important part of their board service. Below are four key factors to consider if you want to improve your board’s effectiveness and create your own “dream” board.
1) Recruit strategically
Start with your current board. Create a matrix that defines each member’s skill sets and the role they play on the board. What’s missing? What areas of expertise would help strengthen the group? Are board members connected to potential donors or sponsors? Once your matrix is complete, develop a list of candidates who will help you achieve your mission, including meeting your fundraising goals. Think about who has ties to businesses in your area: finance, legal, real estate, technology, entertainment/restaurants, as well as individuals who support similar initiatives. Who cares about your mission and may be interested in getting involved?
2) Clarify roles
Once you’ve identified good potential board candidates, invite them to join a committee or get involved in some way. This will let them better understand your work, and help you get to know them. If they seem like a good fit after some time, ask them to join your board. Be clear on what you’re looking for and how you’d like them to contribute. Discuss fundraising: share your annual budget, contributed income goals, and board financial expectations. If there’s a give/get, provide details on what is expected! Follow up the meeting with information in writing.
3) Orient & train
All new board members need orientation. This doesn’t mean a casual conversation 15 minutes before the first board meeting. Well in advance of their first board meeting, share your financial information, strategic plan, marketing materials, staff and board lists, and other details with each new board member. Provide a description of your board committees and encourage them to join at least two groups. If new board members get involved with board work from the start, they’re much more likely to stay connected. Be clear on what’s expected in terms of participation.
4) Engage & encourage
Nonprofits should have clearly defined fundraising roles for all of its volunteers, especially the board. A “menu” that is tied to key development activities is a great start in describing options to your board. These include: helping to identify prospects; hosting or participating in cultivation activities; asking for support via meetings or through proposals; and thanking and stewarding donors in calls, letters or personal notes. Most importantly, always encourage board members who are involved with development and steer those who aren’t toward activities that will help generate support and raise funds.
Before you know it, your board will evolve into a dream team where everyone around the table is ready, willing and able to work with you to fundraise for your mission. Imagine that!
NADINE GABAI-BOTERO, CFRE is Principal and Founder of Focus Fundraising LLC. She has more than 20 years of experience in fundraising and has been working as a consultant to nonprofits since 2009. Specializing in annual fund and campaign strategies, board development, and major gifts, Nadine guides organizations seeking to expand their fundraising and create opportunities for donor engagement.