Posts Tagged ‘board fundraising’

Get Smarter Give-Away: The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards

downloadWe believe the best things in life are free. That’s why we’re giving you a chance to win a free copy of The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards in our Get Smarter Give-Away.

Fundraising Habits author Jerold Panas has worked with more than 400 boards and raised billions of dollars. He’s written this book to help boards learn from his mistakes and wins along the way.

Jerry’s relatable stories will help your board members adopt the right habits with fundraising and they’ll appreciate a book that’s written specifically for them. If you have a board that’s hesitant about raising funds or simply needs a boost, enter our drawing and give your board a great tool.


How to enter the drawing:

Simply send us an email at and write “free drawing” in the subject line.

See book summaries about board fundraising:

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

Super Boards: How Inspired Governance Transforms Your Organization

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Burned out on board fundraising? Get inspired by a view from outside the box

“The big secret of philanthropy is now out. Philanthropy is fun. It is joyful. It is fulfilling. It will make your life feel worthwhile in ways that few other enterprises can.”

Author Ted Kort highlighted this quotation by James Wolfensohn in chapter two of his new book, Outside the Box Fundraising: The Way to Nonprofit Board Success. Kort must have felt the way I did when I read it for the first time: inspired by a positive perspective.

“Inspired by a positive perspective” is the phrase I would also use to describe Kort’s Outside the Box book. Kort’s refreshing, knowledgeable and enthusiastic approach to fundraising at the board level will remind you of the numerous ways you can engage people in a winning approach.

Kort’s Outside the Box reads like a “best of” book, highlighting all of the practices that worked for him over the years. He also provides plenty of examples that illustrate his efforts in the trenches while working on behalf of dozens of boards. Kort is quick to acknowledge the sources and books that helped him, including many authors we recommend at CausePlanet such as Tom Ahern and Ken Burnett.

Kort covers all the bases so I’ll give you a brief outline of his book:

Great relationships are the focus of chapter one. Kort uses the relationship rating system to determine how you are progressing with each prospect.

Philanthropy is the subject of chapter two. He stresses the importance of understanding your own personal views and how those views impact your donors.

Chapters three and four explore how to educate, motivate and activate board members. Once you have them on board, Kort explains how to run great board meetings.

Kort shares four easy ways to to ask without asking and how to leverage your core event in chapters five and six.

In chapters seven, eight and nine, Kort introduces how to use teamwork when forming your campaign plans and how to apply new ideas for phone and face-to-face solicitations.

The two most important words in fundraising, “thank you,” are the focus of chapter 10.

The book concludes with chapters 11 and 12, covering five important subjects such as the elevator speech, PR and goal setting. Chapter 12 ends—you guessed it—on a high note with how to energize your board immediately.

Kort provides helpful finishing touches in the form of appendices that include board expectations, recommended reading and my favorite: 77 Reasons Why People Give by Robert Hartsook. If you’re on a board or working with one, it’s a great time to get inspired again with Outside the Box Fundraising.

See also:

Asking Rights: Why Some Nonprofits Get Funded (and Some Don’t)

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

Relationship Fundraising: A Donor-Based Approach to the Business of Raising Money, 2nd Ed.

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

Image credits: Outside the Box Fundraising

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Build a board culture that advances fund development

One of the most frequent frustrations for nonprofit executive directors is their board of directors’ lack of involvement in fund development activities. Not only is it often challenging for nonprofit staff members to engage board members in fund development, the idea of the board advancing fund development activities is laughable to some executive directors and fund development staff. Because one key aspect of a nonprofit board and an individual board member’s responsibilities is fund development, building a board culture that supports and advances an organization’s fund development is essential for organizational effectiveness.

Start with personal contributions.

Expecting board members to make a personal contribution to the organization, especially a personally significant contribution, is typically considered an essential board member responsibility[i] Giving a personal gift often helps a board member feel more directly connected to an organization’s work because he/she has made a personal investment in advancing the mission. Also, it is difficult for board members to have credibility in asking others for money if they do not make a personal contribution on their own. Having a board leader communicate this expectation is a first step in building a culture that supports fund development.

For new board members, start off on the right foot.

The challenges with getting a board of directors engaged in fund development activities often stem from the recruitment process. Because an organization does not want to scare away potential board members, those overseeing the recruitment process sometimes downplay the importance of board member involvement in fund development. Additionally, some boards have the expectation that board members participate in fund development but do not specifically articulate what “involvement” means. One of the best ways to get board members engaged with fund development is to articulate expectations and then ask potential board members how they would see themselves meeting those expectations – before asking the individual to join the board. Then once that person joins the board, another board member should meet with that individual to discuss involvement in fundraising as part of the board orientation process.

Help board members customize their commitment to fund development.

For board members who came onto the board without the interest in, understanding of, or comfort with fund development, customizing a board member’s involvement with fund development is one key to success. Instead of setting the same expectations for all board members, especially expectations that involve asking for money in person or from their circle of contacts, an organization’s leadership on the board and staff can likely identify 15 to 25 ways board members can participate in fund development (including cultivation, stewardship and direct fund development activities). Then, with encouragement from the board’s leadership, each board member can choose five to seven ways he/she can personally support and advance fund development activities in a way that is comfortable for each individual. Customizing a board member’s involvement with fund development can significantly increase involvement with fund development because each board member is able to select the options that make the most sense for him/her. Then, the board can recruit new board members with a specific focus on filling any gaps that exist.

Build shared accountability.

Building shared accountability with the board as a whole can also help develop a culture that supports and advances fund development. An important first step is having board members individually identify and share their commitments with the rest of the board and then having the board as a whole identify its own goals for advancing fund development. For example, a board could agree to raise $5,000 through its members’ own direct contributions, $10,000 in additional support, and meet 85 percent of the board members’ personal commitments to advancing fund development. By setting goals for itself, the board can start taking responsibility and ownership of some important aspects of an organization’s fund development activities.

With a few small successes, positive encouragement and support from the board’s leadership, a new culture around fund development should start to emerge. While this is not an overnight process, following these steps can over time move a board from fear and dislike of fund development to one that helps develop significant resources for the organization.

[i] In working with dozens of organizations on fund development as a consultant, I have only come across one good reason for not asking board members to give. An organization had representatives of partner agencies on their board, most of whom were government employees, and those individuals were strongly discouraged by their employers to make charitable gifts to organizations with whom their departments had business relationships. I have found that almost all other reasons for why board members cannot give money to an organization on whose board they sit are simply excuses.

See also:

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This post was originally published at CausePlanet on 3/7/2011.

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Forecasting and fundraising with a “table of needs”

When I worked in the university setting as an annual giving director, the goal-setting process was a mixture of art and science as well as feasibility versus need. Unlike my colleagues who sought major gifts exclusively, I had the fortunate position of leaning more on science due to the nature of expected response rates from a combination of direct mail, the telephone outreach program and our direct solicitations by committee. Oftentimes, my major gift counterparts were dealing with much more uncertainty, such as well-researched prospects who didn’t give to their potential or surprising windfalls from the consistent $25 annual donor.

Forecasting and fundraising

Whenever there were “windfall gifts” that far exceeded our expectations, we always factored them out of the equation for our projections in the new fiscal year because they unfairly skewed our estimations to a more optimistic goal that wasn’t always repeatable. Financial author and consultant Richard Linzer actually talks about this strategy in his book, Cash Flow Strategies. He recommends forecasting revenue based on three different types of income that are categorized by how dependable they are. This way you can forecast several scenarios depending on what type of income renews.

Another kindred spirit on the forecasting topic is consultant and author Julia Ingraham Walker. Her book, A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members, gets a lot of attention in our summary store and for good reason. Walker has accomplished the behemoth task of aggregating everything you need to know about orchestrating a coordinated fundraising effort at the board and staff levels.

How one small independent school got it right

In addition to publishing several more books on this topic, Ingraham Walker is also an accomplished fundraiser in her own right, continuing to consult with high-impact nonprofits and universities. One of the many passages in the book that naturally caught my eye was called “Setting Goals.” Here’s how the vignette reads:

One small independent school thought that it would set a capital campaign goal based on what its peer institutions were raising. The headmaster polled several bigger, successful schools in its market and decided that his school needed to raise $100 million to be just like them. When he told the board they were going to raise $100 million, they balked. The largest campaign they had ever completed was for $25 million. Where were they going to find four times that amount?

The school brought in a consultant to conduct a feasibility study. Discussions with potential donors and board members took over six months, but the final result was a recommendation to develop a $75 million campaign in three phases. The first phase was for $25 million to build a new science center, the second phase of $25 million would be for faculty salaries and program needs, and the third phase was for $25 million for scholarships and endowment. In this way the board agreed to most of the aims of the headmaster but focused on a realistic set of needs and a timeline that could be met.

A “table of needs” is feasibility’s best friend

This small independent school is not unlike many other organizations that have aspirations to be more and do more but they require taking a realistic look at what’s feasible. Ingraham Walker introduces a great exercise to facilitate this feasibility discussion called a “table of needs.” A table of needs is the list of goals your organization wants to raise money to accomplish. These needs should stem directly from your strategic plan and be the basis of your fundraising efforts. The table should result in a three- to five-year list of needs over and above annual operating funds. “The list should be prioritized so that as potential donors are identified, the projects that are most important to the organization get funded first,” says the author.

Let your table of needs increase fundraising solidarity and focus

In the picture above [Image 3.2 on page 55], I’ve shown Ingraham Walker’s example from her book. She points out that this plan relieves the annual fund of picking up the additional annual cost of a new staff member, an all too common method for funding new staff, which creates more pressure on fundraising for operations. Notice how the table covers capital, endowment, program and staffing goals over the next five years. And if this organization is fortunate enough to find a “high impact” gift of $2 to $3 million in addition to the priorities it has identified, it has some big ideas to explore for expanding its services.

For small nonprofits with no history of major gifts, there are major financial and staffing implications to plan a comprehensive fundraising campaign to meet the needs outlined in this exhibit. A board must be willing to help seek additional resources to reach the fundraising levels required by a plan like this.

Why I like it

I like this table-of-needs method because it also puts everyone on the same page if you have multiple staff members working toward funding objectives. For larger teams, it facilitates cohesion toward shared funding goals. And for smaller one-staff-member development efforts, it keeps the board tied to the objectives and keeps the type of prospects needed top-of-mind. Above all, it divides the needs among the different kinds of fundraising strategies as well so there aren’t any surprises in annual giving versus major gifts, for example.

After looking at what transpired at the small independent school, it’s easy to see how a table of needs might have helped it break down the goal into the three agreed phases and areas of programming focus. The table could have also helped the board compartmentalize how each phase would come from different kinds of gifts and how to target specific objectives.

If you’re running your development effort solo or with a department, ask yourself if you have a table of needs or something similar in your plan. It’s a small but mighty tool that will yield clarity and commitment toward goal-setting and organizational growth.

See also:

Fundraising Series–Volume One: Selling Impact, Storytelling, Planned Gift Marketing and Legacy Gifts

The Influential Fundraiser

Fundraising When Money Is Tight

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Table 3.2 on page 55: A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members by Julia Ingraham Walker



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Organize your board to support the revenue strategy

Instead of focusing only on how board members can raise individual donations (or not!), think more broadly and effectively about how board members can support the key aspects of your organization’s business/revenue strategy:

In the quest for funds, there is no shortage of advice given to nonprofits. Start a social enterprise! Get corporate donations! Raffle a house! Perhaps the most frequent and consistent advice: focus the board on getting major gifts; in fact, recruit a strong fundraising board that can get major gifts.

But pursuing a new funding stream for which you may not have the right people and competencies already is usually not the best place to start. Instead, we recommend you see how you can boost and leverage the funding streams and people you already have in place.

Let’s imagine a community center with five areas of activity:

  1. An after-school tutoring program
  2. Memberships from neighborhood residents
  3. Facility rentals (to basketball teams, Girl Scouts, etc.)
  4. Annual Neighborhood Congress Day
  5. Organizing neighbors on issues such as zoning, traffic, police presence, economic development, housing

We have to consider which are the most important programs for the community center. The board and management team can discuss:

  • Which programs add the greatest value to our neighborhood?
  • What do we need to do to maintain our largest revenue sources?
  • What do we need to do to grow the type of revenue that will support our most important programs?

In this community center, the answers are:

  • The Neighborhood Congress and community organizing are the heart of the organization—we are a neighborhood council first and foremost.
  • But in terms of financial support, we are a tutoring center.
  • We need to have connections to government funders and foundations, as these are our biggest funding sources.
  • As a neighborhood council, memberships and small business sponsorships are important ways to stay close to our constituents.

Organizing the board around the business strategy, then, means something like this:

  • We need two board members who can and will work proactively to stay in touch with government officials (both elected and administrative) and work to keep our county funding.
  • We need two board members to help with foundation fundraising — whether making introductions, writing proposals or joining staff in meetings with foundation representatives. We will try to get foundation funding for neighborhood issues but also realize sometimes it won’t happen.
  • We need two board members who can and will actively recruit members and local merchant sponsors.

Each pair can then develop a work plan for the year. For example, one board member might agree to set up a lunch for herself with the executive director, a city council member and someone from the mayor’s office to tour the neighborhood. Another might say he will stop into one local merchant each month to talk about the center.

This modest process can result in board members who are capable of supporting the key elements of revenue strategy and just as important, are organized to do so. In addition, it provides a platform where board members of all economic means can contribute meaningfully to the organization’s finances.

Rather than a vague and intimidating dictum like, “Every board member has to raise money,” this approach focuses on the organization’s real-life revenue streams and mobilizes board members in support of a strategy for sustainability.

Special thanks to Jan Masaoka and Blue Avocado for this article, which was originally posted on February 9. 2012.

See also:

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

Should board members be required to give?

Just tell me: What’s the best way to raise money?



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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.

See also:

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members.

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

The Board Game

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What grade does your board earn in fundraising?

More than 73 percent of the United States’ charitable giving in 2010 came from individuals, according to Giving USA 2011. When coupled with BoardSource’s report that asserts fundraising is the area most in need of improvement, nonprofit leaders can’t afford to ignore this challenge any longer.

In fact, when nonprofit CEOs were asked by BoardSource to rate board performance on a report card, fundraising received the lowest grade, a D+, and only a C+ when board members rated themselves. Fundraising Guide author, Julia Walker, acknowledges a board’s capacity to raise funding doesn’t change overnight, she does demonstrate it’s absolutely possible over time.

Having personally gone through the board fundraising experience as board chair and board member, I was impressed by Walker’s thorough approach in her book. Chock full of interesting facts, real-world anecdotes and useful tables for planning purposes, Walker’s book doesn’t leave you guessing.

I’ll excerpt one of her sidebars today because it’s a good reminder about motivation. If you want to get better grades on board fundraising, consider first how to make the grade on reasons for giving.

“When asked about their chartable behavior, high-net-worth households reported that their top motivations for giving were:

• Being moved by how their gift can make a difference (72%).
• Feeling financially secure (71%).
• Giving to an organization that will use their donation efficiently (71%).
• Supporting the same causes or organizations annually (66%).”

This information was quoted from the AFP wire report on the 2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy and was conducted by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch in partnership with the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University. The study focused on 800 high-net-worth households. Respondents’ household incomes were greater than $200,000; net assets were at least $1 million; and the average household wealth was $10.7 million excluding the value of their residences. Over 98 percent donated to charitable causes.

Think about what your supporting materials say to emphasize making a difference, spending efficiently and promoting financial security of your donors. Furthermore, consider how you’re training your board members to induce these feelings in their personal asks.

Watch for more highlights from Julia Walker’s book next week at our Page to Practice™ blog. If you can’t wait that long, purchase her book at or download our Page to Practice™ summary and author interview by joining CausePlanet or visiting our summary store.

See more about boards and fundraising

Photo credit: ACCCBuzz

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Every board member has a place at the fundraising table

Raising more money in an extremely competitive environment means tapping every resource you have, beginning with your board members.

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members is the most comprehensive guide for best practices in fundraising and the involvement of board members we’ve recommended to date. Author Julia Walker covers all levels of fundraising, real world examples, tips and techniques for the browser and the engagement of board members throughout the giving cycle.

Walker takes the “give or get” mantra and replaces it with a description of a more active and productive role board members can play in achieving modest or lofty development goals. This book aims to help you transform your passive board into a lively cadre of volunteers who’re ready to cultivate and close all kinds of gifts.

Four compelling reasons why a board must take an active leadership role in fundraising include:

The board holds fiduciary responsibility for resources to fuel the mission, which involves transparency, accountability and no conflicts of interest.

The board oversees all fundraising programs and opportunities. It approves all projects and assures all fundraising is ethical and money goes toward the mission.

The board sets the pace through its own giving.

The board sets the tone for the community’s view of the nonprofit.

Even with advancement staff to provide structure, expertise and support, the board needs to lead and inspire with fundraising. To achieve maximum fundraising performance and avoid burnout, every board member must be involved in some capacity.

The leadership in the organization needs to implement the following to ensure all board members will be involved:

Recruit diverse members with fundraising experience or connections to donors.

Write a job description that includes fundraising for new board members.

Recruit in a manner where expectations are clear and not perceived as orders.

Provide fundraising training for board members.

For an in-depth look at Walker’s book and an author interview, download the full Page to Practice™ summary by visiting our store or subscribing to the library. You can purchase the book at and view Walker’s other books on fundraising.


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