Key points from “A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members”
In my work as a nonprofit consultant, one of the most frequent challenges I encounter is finding ways to get board members more engaged in an organization’s work, especially in fund development. A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members by Julia Ingraham Walker is a great resource for executive directors, fund development directors and board members themselves who are seeking a better way to confront this challenge.
One of Walker’s most important points is that the fundraising culture of a nonprofit board cannot change overnight but can change over time, often resulting in significant gains in fund development success and board engagement. Some of Walker’s key tips include:
Fund development is a significant challenge for nonprofits of all sizes and mission focus areas. Because of the inherent challenges associated with fund development, a nonprofit organization needs all hands on deck and full participation from board members to maintain momentum and achieve success overtime.
Make fund development expectations very clear during the recruitment process for new board members and then provide the tools that board members need to be engaged as successful fundraisers for an organization. Seeking small successes and then building on those successes can help build board member confidence with fund development and help change a board’s culture overtime.
Board leadership in fund development is critical. Many successful fund development programs are based upon the division of responsibility that primarily relies on staff for planning, structure, and coordination, with the board providing leadership in making contacts, cultivating prospects, asking for money, and thanking donors.
This partnership between the board and the staff is essential for creating a sustainable and thriving fund development program, rather than the strapped, over-capacity and burned-out culture that often exists when staff members are solely or mostly responsible for fund development.
Board members should serve as role models for other donors by making leadership-level gifts without constant prodding from the board president or executive director. “The board is there to lead, and it is their leadership that will inspire others to give.” Provide a variety of ways for board members to be involved in fund development.
Not all board members will be comfortable directly asking for money but can be involved in the equally important roles of identifying prospects, cultivating donors and thanking donors over time. Providing options will help get board members in the activities that are most comfortable for them, thus increasing an organization’s prospects for success.
Combining these strategies, along with the many others Walker discusses in her book, can help nonprofit organizations move from frustration around fund development to a higher level of success and sustainability, thus creating more resources for achieving an organization’s mission over time.