The FBook

Engaging Your board In Fundraising: Framing Your Perspective

In Discussables on October 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

So in my last post we talked a little bit about Passion in your Board being the driving force for Philanthropy. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Lets bring it back to the beginning.

In order to be open to new ideas, its essential we frame our own perspective on the boards involvement in fundraising.

Whats important to know is why bother? We all know that it is often easier to just do it ourselves. The board asks too many questions, is too resistant. Doesn’t believe, isn’t invested, doesn’t even give themselves. They are too judgemental, demanding and disconnected. They are naive and lack the fundamental education to be effective. They are more interested in the type of potatoes to serve at the next gala, or the color of the napkins. Maybe what time to tee off at the golf tournament, or whether its a scramble or best ball format.

Is this how you see your board?

A board’s legal role is to govern and act as fiduciary authority for the nonprofit organization. By their position, their involvement in fundraising is expected. Additionally, their presence on your board puts them on stage. The community is watching. If the community sees a board not raising money for the organization, then the community sees an organization that matters little with regard to their own donation. If the board isn’t involved, then why should they be. Board involvement in fundraising (not only giving of their money but being involved in raising it) validates the nonprofits mission. Nothing will kill an NPO faster than an invisible board of directors.

Also, no organization is an island. It would be virtually impossible for one Exec Director and a fundraising staffer to go out and raise all the money needed to survive. Its a Sisyphean endeavor. But with the board invested AND involved we have tripled and quadrupled our opportunities to get the job done. The network of your board and their networks network, act as a funnel flipped on its side to share the burden and increase the return.

Legal accountability, organizational validation and increased outreach/expanded return, three solid reasons why getting your board involved is critical to the success of fundraising in your organization.

So if its this important, then why cant they get out there and help?

Well here is the reason. And you’re not going to like it. Maybe I’ll lose my followers at this point, but the reality is:

Most board issues are not about the board, but about us.

There, I said it. And for those of you still reading, here is why.

If asked, here is what board members will say about why they are resistant to getting involved in fundraising. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a good representation of some of the most commonly heard complaints:

No education

Too overwhelming

Too embarrassing (no skill)

Not aware what they were signing up for

No money themselves

Fear of rejection

Or fear that they are asking too much of someone, something the other can’t part with.

Lack of confidence in plan, process, person, organization

Disinterested

I had a board member say to me once, she would rather shrivel up and die, than ask for money. That’s hard core resistance.

What they say and what they feel are actually two very separate things, but connected. Most boards resist fundrasing because we have not done our job in leading and administering the fundraising effort. We too often lack concrete goals, lack clarity in board roles, we offer hazy expected objectives/outcomes of their efforts, we develop poor organization of the donor pool, we lack research on prospects, we have ineffective communication of organizational success, and so on and so forth. When they say its overwhelming, we have to ask- Are we being clear and concise in our goals? Is the prospect information simply understood, specific and relevant? Is the process organized and direct, with concrete outcomes, strategy and actions steps? Do we have valid measurements to share? When they say they are embarrassed, have we done our job in bringing the mission into the board room, developing passion, choosing the right board members? I can hazard a guess that the early board members of Susan G. Komen Foundation were not embarrassed about fundraising, as they had the passion for the mission, they were the right people for the job.

Being responsible for our board not fundraising doesn’t make us bad or not worthy of support. It does make us take inventory of our internal operations, our strategy, our board development and our leadership, in developing the best possible framework for the board to fundraise within. And thats were our control comes into play.

In my next post we will talk about some of these controls, starting with developing our board of directors to be an engaged, passionate board.

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