As I muse in my latest book The Sustainable High ROI Fundraising System:
Ever heard anything like the following from your board members? I have.
- “If we could only get more grants.”
- “Agency X raised $100,000 through its event. Why can’t we do the same thing?”
- “Let’s raise the money by holding another event!”
- “Why can’t the development director do it? After all, that’s what she was hired to do.”
- “Fundraising is not a board’s job. We leave that to the professionals.”
Obviously, statements like these are not helpful. As overseers of mission fulfillment and growth, board members are very much concerned with fundraising, whether they realize it or not. Just not in the ways they think.
If your board members say things like the above statements to you, they are not thinking strategically about fundraising. They are thinking transactionally. Their focus is on the transactions it takes to raise money, not the strategy behind funding the mission.
Don’t fault your board members. They are trying to be helpful. Most of them think in terms of big government grants and special events because that’s all the fundraising they’ve been exposed to. They may not know anything else. They are doing their best to offer ideas for how the organization can raise the money their agency so desperately needs.
Don’t answer them with the details behind the operations. And don’t let your development person either. You will sound like you are defending yourself and may be perceived as argumentative or impeding progress. Board members certainly will not feel heard or that their input is appreciated. Instead, direct them to strategic questions about fundraising, like these:
- Are we fulfilling our duties to provide resources to implement and grow our mission?
- What strategies are we going to allocate resources toward to meet our mission?
- Do we have a written updated strategic plan that we regularly review and update?
- Are we constantly promoting mission in all we do, even in our fundraising strategy?
- Have we provided a favorable environment for the executive director and staff to succeed in raising money? For example, do we have written board giving and gift acceptance policies in place that we enforce?
- Where will we realize the most financial and mission return on our investment in fundraising?
- How do we want the community to interact with us? How do we as a board influence them to respond the way we want them to?
- Are we making progress in meeting our mission and financial goals?
Don’t bog your board meetings down with discussions about implementing fundraising activities. Don’t get caught up in the transactions. Rather, teach board members to think strategically about money and its purpose: funding the mission. And see how many resources your nonprofit garners.
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