by Andy Canada
I am guessing if you have worked with a non-profit for very long then you have asked the question or been asked “What role does the board play in fundraising?”
It is a question that comes up in almost every organization and in many cases comes up year after year. It is important to address it head on and make sure the organization’s leadership, staff, and board members are all on the same page.
Board members have many critical roles and responsibilities with an organization and fundraising literally needs to be on the list. Fundraising and development has to be specifically listed on the board’s charge and also discussed during the recruitment of board members.
An organization needs board members to be engage in fundraising and there is no reason to not specifically discuss it on a regular basis and even track their activities. In many cases, board members set the tone for the entire organization’s fundraising program. If they are willing and able to communicate effectively on the mission of the organization to their network of contacts, it can empower staff and other volunteers to do the same.
There are many different roles that board members can play in fundraising. Not every board member will be comfortable asking for a gift, but there are some core activities in which all board members should participate.
- The most obvious and critically important is for them to personally contribute to the organization. This acts as a demonstration of their commitment to the organization in their own gifting priorities.
- All board members should help to identify and evaluate potential donors. This helps the staff and organization focus on the potential donors that have an affinity and capacity to move the organization forward.
- Attend events hosted by the organization or represent the organization in the community. Their presence will show they are committed to the organization and that it is important to them.
- Play a role in stewardship of donors. Board members can call and personally thank donors, send notes, or invite them to events.
In many cases the list above will be all that some board members will be comfortable doing. In some cases the list above might make some board members uneasy, but with the proper coaching and encouragement from the staff and fellow board members all members of the board will get engaged.
Board members that are part of your development committee or that want to play a more active role in fundraising can be excellent resources for your organization. They can provide more coverage in interacting with your donors and prospects. Some specific activities that more active fundraising board members can participate in include:
- Open doors for staff members to contact potential donors
- Personally assist with cultivating potential prospects and donors.
- Solicit gifts from members of the community and other members of the board.
- Host small gatherings at their home or offices to educate and further engage members of the community with your organization.
A key that I have found is addressing fundraising with your board members directly. Many want to find constructive ways to help the organization move forward but they may need some help in identifying specific tasks. Work closely with your board members and find items from the list above that they are comfortable with. They can be one of your best assets in moving a relationship with a prospective donor to the next level or introducing a new potential donor to your organization.