Your board is the most valuable leadership asset your nonprofit has. Board members teach your community how to interact with your nonprofit. And you want your community to be excited about your cause and financially support your mission. You need board members who carry your message to the world. It is imperative that you recruit board members thoughtfully and with intention, outlining their responsibilities—including fundraising—and giving them tools to successfully fulfill them.
Profile of a Good Board Member
A good board member:
- Is committed to the cause
- Has leadership skills and can guide and influence others
- Is of good character
- Promotes good communication and decision-making
- Is straightforward and impartial
- Is open to the ideas of others, realizing that they do not know everything
- Values discretion and confidentiality
- Fits into your agency’s culture
- Is willing to use their personal and professional resources to advance the mission
This last bullet doesn’t mean asking board members to share their contact list with you. It means they need to be willing to make important connections that only they can make.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The number one thing you can do to avoid poor engagement in fundraising is to fully explain the role of board members before they say yes. Discuss a board member’s fiduciary responsibilities as trustees of the organization—that board members are legal stewards of the public trust. And then talk about what that means in practical terms. Set crystal clear expectations.
For example, as part of their fiduciary duties, board members must provide financial oversight of the nonprofit. Understanding fundraising strategy and monitoring its implementation is an essential part of overseeing financial success. Board members must also ensure there are adequate resources to carry out the agency’s purpose, in other words, to fulfill its mission. Fundraising is all about garnering resources. In addition, board members are entrusted with the responsibility to strengthen programs and services, expanding mission in the community. It is fundraising growth that fuels such expansion.
Concretely, board members engage in approve a strategic plan, of which fundraising is a part. The board approves a gift acceptance policy. And the board approves the annual budget, which includes fundraising revenue goals and cost allocations.
Let your board members know what they are getting upfront. Link their legal and fiduciary roles as trustees directly to the fundraising responsibilities you expect them to fulfill. And tell them why what you are asking them to do is important. It’s lives you’re changing.
Giving Them the Tools They Need
Once you set expectations regarding their fundraising responsibilities, board members need tools to carry out their duties. Four of those tools are creating of board member binders, fostering supportive relationships, providing meaningful work, and offering board training.
Board Member Binder
One of the easiest ways to reinforce board roles in relation to fundraising is to create a board member binder for each new board member that includes your case for support. A case for support is an internal document that briefly describes your agency, what is does, where it is going, and how the community can be involved in moving it forward.
You also want new board members to meet one-on-one with the board president, who can explain expectations related to fundraising and underscore their importance. A mentor can help reinforce those expectations as well as guide novice board members in navigating fundraising communication and decision-making systems. Also get new board members on a committee or project right away. And facilitate a mid-year check in, just to see how things are going.
People want to be recognized for their contributions, particularly if they are doing something new, which fundraising often is for new board members. The board as a whole also needs feedback. In regards to fundraising, this means evaluating how well the board is interacting with the community in promoting your nonprofit’s mission. Best practices are board members conduct annual individual and corporate evaluations.
Give your board members interesting and meaningful work. This means you focus on your nonprofit’s mission and the strategies board members are taking to fulfill and grow it instead of the tasks required to execute that strategy. For example, asking for money is a task. Setting mission goals made possible because of fundraising is part of the strategic process. You want to highlight your organization’s impact. Because every step of your agency’s progress in advancing its mission leads to more changed lives. Which gives their board service purpose.
Providing training opportunities builds a culture of continuous improvement, increases engagement and motivations, helps board members pick up fundraising skills, and increases their productivity. Many board members are inexperienced in fundraising matters and find training enlightening. And don’t only think in terms of hard fundraising skills. Soft skills are just as crucial to successfully raising money. Use training to cultivate board member’s relationship-building, communication, and planning skills.
Let’s talk about where you are in recruiting board members that will fundraise and what your next steps are. Just schedule a complimentary, thirty-minute strategy session with me. During our time together, we’ll clarify the issues you’re facing and explore possible solutions. Click the button below to get some time with me. I look forward to getting to know you!