The Board’s Role in Fundraising

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I recently wrote a series of posts detailing ways nonprofit organizations can ensure effective and engaged board members. How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards I would like to expand on this a little and discuss the board’s role in fundraising.  

Board members should know their fundraising requirements before they join the board. These requirements can include giving a contribution, getting others to donate, and attending fundraising and cultivation events. Whatever requirements you have should be included in your organization’s board agreement, which the member will sign before joining. Board Expectations and Requirements The amount of money you expect the board to raise should also be included in your annual fundraising plan.

Board members should make a donation
Even if you don’t have specific fundraising requirements, board members should give a significant donation, depending on their financial means, to your organization. Board members have chosen to serve on your board because they are passionate about what you do. They should want to donate. As ambassadors of your organization, they need to support you in any way possible, and that includes a financial contribution. Another motivator, grant funders like to see 100% giving by the board.

How much should board members give?
As I mentioned above, it should be a significant contribution. If they have the means, board members should give at the major donor level. Depending on the organization, that could start at $250, $500, or more. One way to make larger donations easier is to have board members give a monthly gift. A $500 donation may be more feasible if it is spread out over a year. Of course, if a board member is unable to contribute at a higher level, they shouldn’t be expected to, but they still need to give something.

Development Committee
If your organization relies on fundraising revenue, you must have a Development (aka Fundraising) Committee. The role of the Development Committee is strategic. They design and implement your fundraising plan, which will be carried out by the whole board and staff.  Here is more information on the role of this important committee. Role of the Nonprofit Board Fundraising Committee

Major donors
Board members who have connections to major donors should be involved in soliciting them. Securing major gifts is not something that can be done overnight and involves research and cultivation. If board members are meeting with prospective funders, they need to be well prepared. That includes being trained in fundraising and knowing how to talk about your organization. Here are some  ways your board members can help identify major donors. How to Get Your Board Members To Help Identify Major Gift Prospects

Annual appeals and events
Not all board members will know potential major donors, but they can solicit annual appeal donations. Encourage them to send a personalized annual appeal to friends and family. They should also encourage friends and family to attend or donate to your fundraising events.

Thanking donors
Donor relations is an important part of the development process. A great way to involve the board is for them to make thank you calls to donors. Donors are impressed by these calls, but nonprofit staff rarely have time to make them. The link below highlights examples of how making donor thank you calls can be successful and how to prime your board to do it. How Your Board Can Increase Donations by 39%

Other ways to get the board involved in fundraising
There are plenty of ways for the board to be involved that don’t include asking for money. They can identify prospective donors. They can also accompany the Executive Director, Development Director, or other board member when meeting with a prospective funder. I mentioned earlier that grant funders like to see 100% giving by the board. They also like to see board involvement. These links include additional ways your board can be involved in fundraising.

Your board needs to be involved in raising money for your organization. In whatever ways they are involved, they should know what is expected of them and be well prepared to carry that out.

Here is even more information about boards and fundraising.

How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards – Part Three – Board Member Orientation and Training

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How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards – Part One – Finding Good Board Members

How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards Part Two – Board Member Expectations and Requirements

Your next step to ensuring effective and engaged board members is to give your new members an orientation.  If you are bringing on more than one board member,do the orientation for all new members at same time. This can help them feel more engaged right away. Make it congenial and include food. You want your new board members to feel welcome.

The board orientation is conducted by the Board Chair,and a few other select board members,including the Board Treasurer to go over financials. The Executive Director should also be there. If appropriate,involve some senior staff,perhaps the Development Director and Marketing Director. This meeting should take place before the next full board meeting.

Give each new board member a board manual before the orientation and have them look it over before attending. This link contains a list of items to include in your board manual. What goes in the board of directors manual?  Don’t overwhelm people with too much information.  

During the orientation,go over some of the key parts of the manual. New members should be encouraged to ask questions.

Here are some items to cover in the orientation. Of course, you should tailor it as needed.

ByLaws and Other Organizational Documents
You don’t need to go over every bylaw, but make sure members are familiar with them,as well other documents such as the 990 and audit forms.

History and Mission
Briefly go over the history and mission of your organization. Give an overview of what your organization does and talk about key programs and accomplishments.  

Strategic Plan
Summarize the main parts of your strategic plan. Be prepared to answer questions the new members may have.

Expectations and Requirements
Revisit some of the expectations and requirements you discussed with your members prior to joining the board. See Board Member Expectations and Requirements  Now is a good time for them to sign their board agreement, if they haven’t already done so.


Discuss which committee the board member should join. This is often a requirement. The board manual should include committee job descriptions that will help members decide which committee is right for them.  

Key Messaging

Make sure your orientation material includes key organizational messaging – tag lines, talking points,and elevator pitches. Here is some information in case you don’t have organizational messaging  The 4 Cornerstones of an Engaging Message Platform Board members serve as ambassadors of the organization and often meet with funders and other members of the community. They must use your official organizational messaging.

Consider assigning new board members a mentor (someone who has served on the board for more than a year). The mentor can be available to answer questions the new board member may have. After the new member has served for a year, he or she can mentor an incoming board member. This is another way to help board members feel engaged.

New board members may need training in certain areas.Training is not limited to new board members and should be used on an ongoing basis.

If your new board members don’t have a financial background,give them a finance training. Board members are responsible for the financial well-being of the organization and need to approve the annual budget. Go over all financial forms and budgets to make sure they understand them. 

Board members are often required to fundraise. If your members are not familiar with fundraising, you will need to give them a training. Make sure the training is done by someone experienced in fundraising. Here are some things to include. How Board Members Can Become Effective Fund-Raisers

Consistency in messaging is crucial.You could conduct a training where board members practice their elevator pitches.Create role play situations, such as having them talk to potential donors. Here is a more detailed explanation of an exercise. Powerful Elevator Speech Exercise for Your Board Members This can also be an ongoing training.

Ongoing Training
Periodically use your regular board meetings for training. If your meetings are two hours,conduct business during the first hour and do a training during the second hour. Using a consent agenda can help keep your meeting on time. Here is more information What is a consent agenda or consent calendar? Seek input from your members to see what types of training they would like. Some possibilities include leadership,team building,or perhaps a quick fundraising training before your next annual appeal.

In addition to trainings, keep your board members updated on your organization’s accomplishments. Include a brief report with each board meeting agenda. 

Making sure your board members know their role and what your organization does will make them more effective and engaged.

Here is some additional information about Board Orientation and Training.
Orienting and Training Board Members

Board Orientation

In my next post,I will write about the role of boards in fundraising.

For everything you wanted to know about boards, go to Board Source

How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards Part Two – Board Member Expectations and Requirements

Now that you have found potential board members, you will need to go over expectations and requirements with them.

First, you need to understand the role of a  board member. A board member provides governance and financial oversight.They do not run the day to day operations of the organization. They are also responsible for hiring and evaluating the Executive Director,approving the budget,and strategic planning. 

Knowing what is expected of board members will help you find effective and engaged individuals, and help candidates determine whether serving on your board is right for them.

If you don’t have a set of expectations and requirements for your board members,you should put one together right away. Here are a few of the standard ones to include.

Time Commitment
Approximately how much time is a board member supposed to commit to your organization?  It’s usually several hours a month. Be reasonable in determining this. Remember that board members are busy professionals who are volunteering their time.

Board members should be required to attend a majority of full board meetings and committee meetings. This could mean being available for meetings at least once a month. Board members are also expected to attend organizational events. If you have a gala, they need to attend that. Let them know how many other events they should attend.

Most boards have some sort of fundraising requirement,and I will write a separate post about the role of the board in fundraising. At the very least, board members should make a substantial contribution, based on their income level, to the organization.

Serving on a Committee
Many boards require their members to serve on a committee. Different committees can include governance, finance, development, program, and communications.

Serving on a committee is a great way for a board member to feel more engaged, while providing their expertise and skills to the organization.

You may want to consider having potential board members serve on a committee for a period of time, maybe three to six months, before inviting them to join the board. This way you can determine if the person would make a good board member and the individual can decide whether serving on your board will work for them. You don’t want to bring on a great board member who serves for a few months and then realizes they don’t have the time to commit to your organization.

Term Limits
Many boards elect members to three year terms. Some include an option for an additional three years, and then the person is expected to step off the board. This ensures a fresh board. This is something you will need to determine. Will the person be expected to serve for three years?  At the very least, they should make a commitment of one year.

Once you have determined your expectations and requirements, prepare a board member agreement for both the board member and board chair to sign. Here are some samples you can  use.

The following link includes a sample agreement you can download.

After a board member serves for a year, the board chair should look over the agreement to make sure the member is fulfilling his or her requirements. At the same time, the board member can fill out a self evaluation.  Here is a sample.  Individual Board Member Self-Evaluation

If the board member is not fulfilling his or her requirements,the board chair will need to take action, perhaps starting off by talking to the person about steps for improvement. If nothing changes, the board chair can ask the board member to step down. 

This should be done every year for each board member. Of course, in order for this to work, you need a board chair or other board leadership that is willing to make these annual evaluations.  It will take more time, but will help keep your board effective and engaged.

In part three, I will discuss Board Orientation and Training

For more information about boards, go to Board Source

How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards – Part One – Finding Good Board Members

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards Part Two – Board Member Expectations and Requirements

How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards – Part Three – Board Member Orientation and Training

The ideal board member is someone who is both effective and engaged. When recruiting people for your board, look for individuals who are passionate about your mission and have skills and expertise that will help your organization succeed. You want someone who chooses to be on your board because they are committed to serving the community and not because it looks good on their resume.

There is a popular phrase in the nonprofit world that says board members should offer time, treasure, and talent to an organization. That’s sounds good, but don’t just recruit a potential board member whose only contribution to your organization will be a financial one.

One of the best ways to find new board members is for your current board to hand select them. You may have a nominating or membership committee to do this, but all board members can weigh in. Your board should have a pretty extensive professional network where they can find potential new members.  

You could also consider some of your current donors. After all, they have already made a commitment to your organization. If you do try to recruit donors, again make sure they are able to provide time and talent, and not just treasure.

The Executive Director (ED) sometimes recommends people for the board. This can be tricky, because the ED is accountable to the board.

I have seen some organizations post announcements on listserves trying to recruit board members. I’ve never thought this was a great recruitment method. You would have to spend more time vetting someone to ensure they will be a good match for your organization.

Your board should include people with a diverse set of skills. If your current board is lacking someone with a particular background, say law or finance, then that’s where you should focus your recruitment efforts. For the record, your board does need at least one member with law background and another with financial expertise (who may be your board treasurer).   

Of course, the ideal board consists of people who are reflective of the community you serve, and everyone wants a diverse board, but the top priority should be finding someone who is effective and engaged.

You can use this sample recruitment form to help you identify certain demographic groups and skill sets. Sample Board of Directors Recruitment Grid

After you identify potential candidates,conduct an interview process. This can consist of the applicant filling out a questionnaire and meeting with the nominating committee. At this time, you should go over any expectations and requirements.

In Part Two, I will discuss Board Expectations and Requirements. In the meantime, what are some ways that your organization recruits board members?

Here are some additional resources on recruiting board members.

For everything you wanted to know about nonprofit boards, go to BoardSource