Issue Number 1: Fundraising for Nonprofit Board Members
The number one issue I hear from nonprofit leaders relates to the fundraising efforts of their Board of Directors.
My goal in this issue of the Nonprofit Board Series is to share ideas and information about how nonprofit board members can most effectively help in the fundraising efforts.
Let’s start by defining the fundraising and sharing the responsibilities that board members should commit to.
According to Nonprofit Quarterly, “Fundraising is generally defined as the process of soliciting financial support and is an essential way for most nonprofits to bring in revenue for their organization’s mission. But it’s also about a lot more than just asking for money. It also consists of ways build relationships, bring in foundation support, and attract new donors.”
In plain English, fundraising is about bringing money, relationships, and expertise to the nonprofit you serve.
One of the first things you may hear as a nonprofit board member is their expectation of a ‘give or get’ policy in their by-laws. This simply means that all board members are responsible for either donating a certain, and pre-determined amount or getting equal donations from other sources. If the nonprofit doesn’t have a written policy, no doubt you’ve heard them ask you for help in their fundraising efforts. At a minimum, you should expect to become a paid member, if that is an option, or to make a small cash donation.
That’s the obvious first step in board member fundraising. In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, where can you open doors for the professional fundraising staff to follow up on.
You may be asking – but who are these people, and where do I find them? Here are a few ideas!
1. Open your contact list and go through every name. Look for at least five people who might be interested in the cause that you’re representing. Reach out to them with a quick note or call to suggest that they take a call from the nonprofit you’re representing. Don’t forget those that may not be in your contact list, like neighbors, church friends, extended family, or friends with whom you share a hobby or special interest.
2. When networking, and yes that is being limited right now, promote the mission of your nonprofit. I have found it so much easier if I just pick one networking opportunity each month where I can focus these efforts. While you may not be attending many, if any, professional meetings, you are probably attending a lot of online meetings. Instead of the typical introduction, “Hi, my name is Ann Ranson. I work with nonprofits on their strategy and with their leaders through executive coaching”, try this: “Hi, I’m Ann Ranson and I’m in my 2nd year on the Board of Directors of the (name of your nonprofit). Our mission is to . . . Today, I’d like to invite you to visit our website and consider getting involved. Our work has (one line about the impact it provides), and it’s really important to me.”
3. Approach the executives where you work about offering a matching grant or giving you approval to organize an internal fundraising event. And if you are the ultimate decision-maker, how can you get your company involved in supporting the cause?
4. If you serve on multiple boards, explore whether there is a logic and opportunity to collaborate and raise funds together, or support each other in another way.
Lastly, fundraising is about bring your full range of talents and skills to benefit the nonprofit. Perhaps you’re a marketer; how can you or others you know help them have a stronger brand presence? Perhaps you’re a financial wizard; can you offer financial planning services that are not a conflict of interest?
No matter your talents, bring them all to the aid of your nonprofit. I’m repeatedly shocked at the really smart people who seem to leave their business acumen in the parking lot outside the board meeting. Contrary to what many remember, a nonprofit is a business, and largely requires the same resources, strategic thinking, and innovations of any company.
Nonprofit best practices ask that you do all you can to sustain and grow the mission you serve. And, if you’re not sure how best to do that, ask. And then ask again. Your efforts will make a huge difference and may even save lives.
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Thank you for your service!