Fundraising 101 for Board Members

With the nonprofit sector growing and expanding, odds are pretty good that you've been approached about joining a Board of Directors. In fact, maybe in a moment of altruistic inspiration, you've even considered joining one independently or have already joined. In any case, thank you. Nonprofit organizations are desperately in need of committed and conscientious Board Members to provide their expertise on governance, management and of course, fundraising.

Fundraising seems to be a sore subject on many Boards. Although part of every Board Member's duty is to fundraise, inevitably it gets shuttled back to the staff, who then try to come up with creative or not-so-creative ways to get their Board Members to give. This back-and-forth goes on for some time until someone comes up with a "give-get" policy, which Board members typically agree to after some uncomfortable conversation. While some organizations form committees and task forces on fundraising, others focus their fundraising on a single large event while still others leave it to individual board members with scripted lines and remittance envelopes. But Board members need a basic understanding about what fundraising really entails before they commit to joining an organization and fundraising on its behalf. Here is the two minute primer on fundraising for Board Members:

 

To know your agency is to love your agency.

Now is when we get practical. Find a pen and paper (don't worry, we'll wait). Got it? Great. Give us one sentence on why you joined or believe in this organization. Simple enough, right? Now look at it, this is your pitch to your friends, your colleagues and larger donors. Is it compelling? Does it speak to your agency's mission? If it doesn't or you are having trouble with this portion, maybe a visit to see your agency in action is in order. After all, its hard to sell something you are not passionate about.

Oprah isn't going to be doing any heavy lifting.

As a nonprofit consultant, you might be surprised how many times the names "Oprah" and "Ellen" enter the conversation when we start talking to Board Members about fundraising. Inevitably, someone's already written a letter or has a "friend of a friend" who can get the organization a much-coveted mention on one of these shows. While there is no denying the positive benefits that coverage on a nation-wide show can bring your agency, this is not a fundraising strategy. If you DO get on, and you DO raise money, this would be in addition to the fundraising efforts you've already undertaken.

So who really cares what you think?

When it comes down to it, ask yourself where you REALLY wield influence - and use it. Your personal network is the best space to advocate for your cause. Too many Boards have the "build it and they will come" mentality, but that's just not tenable. Be it a fancy new website, a facebook page, or a celebrity-studded gala dinner, the best way to enlist support is through YOUR friends. Don't expect strangers and nameless donors to fill the space needed to make any of these endeavors a success. And it's not enough to simply post it on your facebook or send out a blast email (let's be honest here, no one likes that.) Personalize your message. Explain why this cause is so important to you.

 Going Once, Going Twice....

Use your charity as an opportunity to do some de-cluttering at home and hold your own silent auction. It used to be that silent auctions were relegated to dinners and parties only. But now there are a plethora of sites that will host an easy silent auction ranging from one small item (think Ebay) to an entire high-end luxury "auction event" (like Charitybuzz). Recently, we even saw an individual family raise more than $5k at an online auction organized entirely on instagram. No baking cookies, no folding tables, just quick money directly to your agency. 

Break out the "for company" flatware.

If social networking isn't your thing, host a gathering to introduce your network to your agency. This is what is referred to in the business as a "friendraiser." While certainly one of the points of any friendraiser is to raise money for your agency directly, the main point is for you to personally introduce the cause to your network and showcase the important work being done in an intimate venue. Your network will be swayed by your commitment, compassion and excellent choice in appetizers.

Write the check. 

When it is all said and done, fundraising takes time. A lot of time.  It also takes stretching your personal network. This is a commitment you should not take lightly.  If you're short on time, or feel uncomfortable pulling from your personal network - you can always write a personal check. While this may seem to be an uncomfortable suggestion, it needs to be said. After all, how can you expect your personal network or even "unnamed donor" to financially support a cause that Board Members themselves are unwilling to fund?

Rally the Troops.

Board member frustration and resentment can build when they feel they are not being supported equally by their peers. Hold your fellow Board Members accountable. If no one's jumping to organize that next auction or host the next friendraiser, push to have it be assigned or rotating. Be a cheerleader. Attend the meetings. This is a cause you feel strongly about, right? Help take them to the next level by creating and sustaining Board Member momentum.

(Sometimes this stuff comes best from a neutral third party. Want us to present to your Board? Drop us a line!)

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