Originally published in Notations on Non-Profits

Without fundraising, most nonprofits would cease to exist. However, BoardSource’s 2017 Leading with Intent report once again had fundraising performance as one of the top three most important areas needing improved Board performance.

There is no doubt that fundraising is outside of the comfort zone for most Board members, so what can be done to ensure the success of this essential Board responsibility?

  1. Establish expectations for fundraising during Board recruitment:
    • Do conversations with prospective Board members include a discussion about their fundraising responsibilities?
    • Are fundraising responsibilities and personal giving requirements included in the Board responsibilities agreement?
    • If potential Board members are not able to commit to these expectations, then Board service is likely not appropriate.
  2. Recognize that new Board members will need to become familiar with the organization’s mission and programs before making an ask:
    • Do Board members understand the value that their organization brings to the community? Can they articulate the impact their organization makes, and why a donor should support the work?
    • Engaging in an activity to personally call and thank donors is an opportunity for Board members to both cultivate donors, and learn about why donors give. These activities give new Board members confidence.
  3. Take advantage of fundraising training opportunities to educate Board members on the development process, the mechanics of cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, and how to engage personal networks.
  4. Encourage the Board Chair to foster a culture of fundraising by placing fundraising on the Board meeting agenda as a priority, publicly acknowledging Board members involved in the fundraising process, and following up with Board members to ensure their annual giving requirements are met.
  5. Review the organization’s mission to ensure that it is clear, concise and compelling. This will make the case for giving much easier for Board members to articulate.
  6. Ensure the Development Director is identifying appropriate cultivation and stewardship opportunities for Board member participation:
    • Brainstorm how new donors could be introduced to the organization.
    • Review the current donor recognition practices and discuss how donor appreciation could be improved.
  7. Remember that fundraising is about building and maintaining relationships and that the number one reason people don’t give to organizations is that they were not asked. The Board network can be very powerful if it is engaged, and it is crucial that it is engaged, not only for fundraising, but for raising community awareness and attracting volunteers.
Wilson Donella halfbody

Donella Wilson

Donella Wilson, CPA, leads GHJ’s Nonprofit Practice and is also President and Chief Philanthropy Officer of GHJ Foundation, GHJ’s vehicle for purposeful and proactive giving to the community. A leader in both the nonprofit and accounting communities, Donella was named a finalist in the 2021 Los…Learn More