One of the challenges executive directors share most often with me is their frustration with their board members and their lack of participation in fundraising for the organization.
While it’s true that the age and size of an organization will determine distinct roles and responsibilities for its board, the need for meaningful engagement in the development function is a universal board member responsibility. If you’re a board member of a nonprofit, you should be eager to live this out in two distinct ways:
- You should be giving financially to the organization you serve, and
- You should be introducing others in your peer group to the opportunity to support the organization you serve.
Fundraising Starts with the Board
I often hear, “But I’m giving my unique professional expertise to the organization. That should be good enough.” Let’s be clear—it’s not. If that’s your view, you probably should consider whether you should be taking up a seat. Most corporate and private foundations require 100% financial participation of an organization’s board before they will consider the organization for a grant. It’s about credibility. If you’re truly passionate about a mission, you’ll give to it. You’ll give your time, your talent, your treasure—and you’ll give your influence.
Giving your influence—sharing the mission your passionate about with your family, friends and colleagues—is often the next hardest thing to do. Certainly the executive director and development staff (if any) should be providing compelling entry points for new donors as well as stewarding existing donors with a plan for major gift cultivation and solicitation. However, their work is twice as effective if done in concert with your leveraged influence.
What does that look like? Every board member should agree to introduce a number of their extended family, friends and colleagues to the organization they serve each year. This is as simple as hosting them for lunch or coffee with the executive director or development staff. If your organization has an annual gala, pay for the tickets for your top prospects each year and start there. The lunch can be a follow-up.
“But I don’t know all the details. I can’t remember how many people we serve or even exactly how we do it or what it costs.” That’s why you bring the executive director with you. Each board member should be able to give a meaningful answer to the “Why are you involved with this organization?” question. Let the org’s staff do the heavy detail lifting.
Once you have that first lunch, you’ll find your own commitment strengthened—and you may even have fun.