Boy, do we need to do a better job on this front! I know how hard it is having been in all the roles that work with a board on this: executive director, director of development, board chair, board member, and more. But part of what makes it hard is how we’re going about it. I encourage you to take a step back to look at the big, long-term picture. Think of the impact your organization can make in 10 years if the board is more strategically involved in your fundraising. What will it take?
Forget a Top 10 – let’s focus on the Top 4!
Yes, train them! It takes 1,200 hours of instruction to cut hair in New Jersey (and this is not a ding against hair stylists!) and yet we send our board members out to slaughter with virtually no training. Board members must be taught how to tell their story, how to cultivate, how to set up meetings and how to conduct them. They must learn that fundraising is only 5% about asking for a gift and 95% about cultivating donors. Otherwise they’ll continue to say “I’ll do anything but fundraise.”
Stop Asking Them to Hit Up Everyone They Know
Board members should not have to provide you their list or ask everyone they know. This is, in general, terrible fundraising (see my post entitled No More Asking Board Members to Swap Gifts with Friends for why). If you involve them in strategic relationship-building rather than transactional fundraising, they’ll be much more willing to fundraise…and much more effective. And, for many small or mid-sized organizations, your board members are best off spending their time on your organization’s current donors rather than finding new ones among their networks.
Board members are generally responsible folks. They’ll do what they’re asked/required to do. But if they’re inspired by a great vision and are part of strategic planning to fulfill that vision, they will have more ownership and be inspired to raise the funds for it. So don’t look at them as a group that rubber stamps what the staff want to do, but rather as partners in figuring out what’s best to do.
Give Them More Opportunities to Experience Your Programs
Of all the hours board members contribute, most are spent in board and committee meetings. So, first off, make sure those meetings are rich in content. Lots of strategic discussion and lots of presentation of your programs by program staff (and participants when possible). Second, make it a priority for board members to experience program firsthand wherever possible. That could be virtually today, but it should be live in real time. Perhaps even trade off some board and committee meeting hours for time spent experiencing program.
Here’s to increasing your board’s involvement in strategic, relationship-building fundraising in 2023.