Nonprofits and the dirty F word

So, last night I facilitated a meeting to a board that was moving from advisory in nature to a governing 501 (c) 3 board.  The Board Chair was concerned about their lack of embracing one of the primary functions of the board – ensuring that the organization had the necessary resources or the dirty F word- fundraising. 

With 7 sets of anxious eyes staring me I shared my approach to fundraising.  The fundraising journey starts with two givens:   

  1. People give to people -specifically, the people they trust. Fundraising is built on relationships.
  2. You are not begging!  You are offering the donor the opportunity to invest in your mission to have a positive impact on the community.

Once we jumped that hurdle, we talked about the different roles board members play in the fundraising process:

Make personal contributions – Many board members feel that because they donate their time to the organization, they should not have to donate money as well. It is important that board members give financially to the organization for many reasons.

One hundred percent giving from the board shows the board is committed to the organization. This can be particularly important if board members are involved in soliciting from individuals because it will encourage others to give to the organization.

It may seem hypocritical for board members to ask a donor for a contribution if they have not given to the organization themselves; in fact, some foundations want to see 100 percent giving from the board before they give. In addition, board members tend to be more enthusiastic and interested in the organization’s effectiveness when they have made a significant financial contribution to the organization.

Be a Door Opener – Board members can participate in the fundraising process by opening the door to the eventual ask.  They can connect the organization to cultivation by making personal contacts with prospects. They can tell prospects about the history of the organization and share their enthusiasm for the organization’s mission to encourage giving. This provides your organization with instant credibility.

Many nonprofits overlook the importance of leveraging their board members for donor referrals. Board members tend to be influential public figures who have achieved success in their career paths and are well connected to lucrative potential donors. Don’t be afraid to ask your board members to reach out to their personal connections to start the cultivation process. If your board has trouble identifying their referrals use the mapping tool below as an exercise during a board meeting.

Attend face-to-face solicitations –  Board members can contribute to fundraising efforts by accompanying staff members on face-to-face solicitations. When making the ask, there are many things board members should do.

The staff should make sure the prospect knows in advance he or she will be receiving a visit from a board member who is very passionate about the organization and who will ask for a generous donation. Therefore, the board member should be passionate about the organization.

In addition, the board and staff should do their homework before making the visit. The board member should know the prospect’s interest, giving history, and the appropriate amount to ask for; don’t ask for $5,000 if the prospect can give $5 million.

If possible, a staff member should accompany the board member on the solicitation. The staff member will likely be more familiar with the organization’s history and finances and will be better able to answer specific questions. Having a third person at the meeting can make the solicitation more comfortable for everyone because conversation tends to flow more freely. The two people attending the solicitation should meet in advance to determine who will do the asking and how much they will ask for.

Thank donors – An organization’s fundraising responsibilities are not over once it has received a donation from a donor. The final stage of fundraising is stewardship — thanking the donor and maintaining a relationship that keeps the donor connected to the organization.  Board members should let the donor know the gift was appreciated and that it made a difference to the organization. They should keep major donors involved with the organization through invitations to special events or periodic updates from board members or senior staff members. By maintaining a relationship with previous donors, the organization increases its chance of receiving future gifts from these donors.

I hope this helps. Your feedback is appreciated. Let me know the great ways your board members are participating in the fundraising process.  Leave a comment below. Sharing is caring.

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