According to numerous studies, fundraising is among the leading board duties that need improvement. Yet, most board members tend to rely on an executive director or staff when it comes to meeting fundraising goals. Moreover, just 5% of nonprofit organizations admitted fundraising to be their strength.
However, board engagement in fundraising activities is crucial for supplying an organization with the resources it needs to accomplish its goals. That’s why directors should find a way to address this issue.
Even though nonprofit boards may have different standards and approaches to board fundraising, certain recommendations and strategies can benefit all organizations.
Below you’ll find a board member guide to fundraising that has all the information on the fundraising responsibilities of nonprofit board members, challenges, best practices, and tools.
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Why board fundraising matters
A board consists of individuals elected or appointed to establish policy, oversee the organization’s management, and exercise fiscal responsibility. Fiscal responsibility, in its turn, implies a commitment to raise money.
Board involvement in fundraising is significant because:
- Board members understand the organization’s inner processes. That’s why they’re aware of the fundraising goal a team faces to support its work.
- Board members are motivated and have a deep belief in an organization’s mission. That’s why, in the case of proper board fundraising training, they become excellent fundraisers and inspire others to join their mission.
- External donors look for board contributors. That’s why it’s important for every board member to be an example for donor prospects.
Still, many board members put little or no effort into fundraising.
Why do board members not participate in fundraising?
The main reasons are:
- They don’t know how.
- They never had to do it before.
- They were never asked to be involved.
- They have no knowledge of the organization’s fundraising strategy.
- They’re not comfortable asking people for money.
- They’re too busy and have too many commitments.
Board members’ role in nonprofit board fundraising
“Members of the governing board bear the responsibility of approving all financial transactions and, as a consequence, they should also bear the duty of determining how financial resources can be secured and how they themselves can be involved in the process…trustees should be part of the action to acquire the resources…they should be willing to play a major role in fundraising.”
Henry J. Rosso, Rosso on Fund Raising: Lessons from a Master’s Lifetime Experience
The board is responsible for ensuring its organization has enough resources. When income isn’t sufficient, fundraising becomes a part of the board’s duty. In fact, the board of directors’ fundraising responsibilities are directly linked to the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
Here is how board members can help raise funds.
1. Learn your organization’s fundraising strategy and goals
To support fundraising, first, start with understanding how it works in your organization.
The thing is, public charities rely on different strategies. For example:
- Events like a gala, cook-off, house party, sporting event, and charity auction to solicit corporate sponsorship.
- Grants through finding grant-giving foundations and then writing and submitting grant proposals.
- Direct solicitation by asking major donors, volunteers, or event attendees to donate.
- Peer-to-peer fundraising by hosting personal campaigns and collecting donations from friends, family, and colleagues on an organization’s behalf.
2. Identify new donors
Another board’s role in fundraising is to help find prospective donors. Here’s what you can do:
- Identify prospective donors. Look out for possible new supporters at events or among friends.
- Communicate with donors. Tell prospective donors about your organization’s great work.
- Ask for contributions. Take a delicate approach. For example, sell tickets and sponsorships for events. Or introduce donors to your organization’s development team and let them ask for contributions in a correct manner.
- Thank donors. Send a thank-you letter or call. A study shows that donors contribute about 40% more the next time after receiving a thank you.
3. Make a personal donation
It’s crucial that board members personally make gifts to their organizations. Here’s why:
- Effective board members play a key role in inspiring others to make contributions.
- A board member demonstrates a commitment to the organization’s mission.
- Many foundations only contribute to organizations where every board member is a contributor.
Clear board fundraising expectations
By being straightforward in what you expect board members to do, you define how actively they’re going to participate in the fundraising efforts of an organization:
Here’s how to set clear and realistic board of directors fundraising expectations.
- Include board fundraising expectations in recruitment materials. It should contain a description of board fundraising responsibilities and board fundraising concepts so that a board member clearly understands what they’re expected to do.
- Communicate expectations during an interview. Help a candidate understand their role in raising funds by clearly explaining an organization’s position regarding fundraising.
- Create an expectation agreement. Let all new board members sign a board member expectation agreement, including a conflict of interest policy. It helps to make sure everyone is on the same page to help avoid confusion.
- Review board member fundraising expectations. Sync up with a board member on key fundraising expectations by making it a part of an annual board assessment process. Don’t forget to include it in the annual board meeting plan. Also, ask for feedback to learn what challenges they face and what help they need.
Challenges of fundraising boards
Even good fundraisers periodically face problems with raising money. Here are a few examples of what many nonprofit leaders and board members have to deal with:
- Building trust with donors. Some nonprofit organizations fail their donors. Consequently, this discourages other people from contributing.
- Diversifying revenue streams. Many organizations rely on one source of donations, like individual contributions. This puts them in a vulnerable position because funds can be unexpectedly pulled.
- Making it easy for donors. Donors that want to give expect to be able to do it in different ways — through cash or check, credit or debit card, online, and even through social media platforms. As one might expect, online donations are becoming more popular, showing a 42% three-year increase.
- Ensuring compliance across the board. Compliance is an ever-changing area that tremendously influences an organization’s work. To avoid governance issues, directors need to make sure all rules and board codes are strictly followed.
Note: A critical aspect for organizations to consider is nonprofit risk management. A comprehensive risk management plan should be established and regularly reviewed to ensure that the organization is adequately prepared for any unexpected events or challenges that may arise.
Nonprofit board fundraising best practices
Here are some tips for improving board service and fundraising.
Board management software can significantly simplify and facilitate the board’s work, including fundraising processes. Here’s how board members can use it:
- Meetings. Conduct a virtual board meeting anywhere and anytime.
- Document storage. Store a donor database, fundraising report, or other board materials securely in one place.
- Activity tracking. Use the activity dashboard to monitor board member actions.
- Task assignment. Create tasks, set deadlines, assign experts, and monitor progress.
You can check the guide to find the most suitable board management software for your organization’s needs.
Create a standing committee for resource development
A board chair and board members need to establish a standing committee responsible for resource development. Here are its main characteristics:
- It ensures that board fundraising is getting enough attention.
- It develops an effective strategy with clear expectations.
- It functions just as any other board committee — members meet, collaborate, develop plans, and approve them.
- It includes a committee chair, board members, and trustworthy community members.
Train a board to be good fundraisers
Don’t expect board members to know how to raise money. They should be properly trained and provided with a board fundraising toolkit. Here’s what can be done:
- Make training a part of onboarding. Let fundraising professionals or a board development committee teach new board members the basics of fundraising and the organization’s strategies.
- Ask board members to read fundraising literature. It can be Nonprofit Fundraising 101, Building Donor Loyalty, It’s Not Just About the Money, or Donor-Centered Leadership.
Board portals as management tools for fundraising
A board portal is a centralized and highly-secure platform where board members and a standing committee can:
- Organize and manage meetings
- Store, share, and access board materials
- Assign tasks and set deadlines
This is possible due to several features.
|Group of features||Features|
|Security features||Multi-level encryption|
Role-based access control
Private or shared notes to documents
Users or groups tagging
Private and group chats
|Document management features||Viewing |
|Meeting management features||Calendar|
|Reporting features||User-activity tracking|
The benefits users highlight include:
- Effective communication. Use Zoom and Skype integrations to contact other board members quickly.
- Quick document distribution. Feel confident when sharing board materials, including sensitive information.
- 24/7 accessibility. Prepare for the next board meeting, send reminders, receive approvals, and collaborate with board members anytime and anywhere.
- Eco-friendliness. Conduct a paperless board meeting to reduce your environmental footprint.
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How to get board members involved in fundraising?
To start with, ensure you’ve set clear expectations during the hiring and onboarding processes. Then, you should educate and train board members on how to be effective fundraisers. And lastly, you should ask board members for feedback and help them when they have questions or difficulties.
How much board time should be spent on fundraising?
Organizations that regard fundraising as one of their top priorities should let board directors spend at least 50% of their time on fundraising activities.