Have you ever heard a board member say “I want to help, but I don’t know how,” or, “I feel weird asking my friends for money”? Nonprofit organizations have many opportunities for board members to help fundraise; the key is making it easy – and non-threatening – for board members to engage. Creating clearly defined expectations for fundraising, as well as varied opportunities can help.
Most board members join a board because they believe in an organization’s mission, and they want to help make a difference. By giving board members a few simple tools, they can achieve their personal goals and help the organization reach its goals.
Here are a few simple strategies to help define board expectations:
For starters, the entire board should have a clear understanding of your organization’s board fundraising philosophy and components of the development program. Each organization’s philosophy is unique, but should require that each board member make an annual personal financial contribution. You and your board can decide if there’s a minimum dollar requirement, or if each board member should make a gift personally significant to them.
A philosophy might read like this:
Collectively, the board plays a significant role in helping ensure ABC Organization’s financial health, and its ability to fulfill its mission. Individually, board members can help by giving their time (e.g. attending meetings, serving on committees), talent (using particular skills to help ABC), and treasure (making a personal financial contribution).
Concurrently, you must define the components of your organization’s program: what does your Annual Fund include? Do you count unrestricted and restricted gifts in the Annual Fund? What about events? Are board members expected to purchase tickets, or a table, to your annual gala? How do you account for in-kind gifts? Do you offer a planned giving option?
Once you’ve defined your philosophy and the various ways of giving, you can make it easy – even fun – for your board members to participate. A favorite strategy I’ve used, offered by fundraisers Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson, is to create a “Menu of Opportunities,” with your board fundraising committee. The “menu” includes many opportunities for giving, divided into categories: appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Board members are asked to select one item from each category that they’ll commit to, but can check as many as they like. For example:
ABC Organization’s Menu of Opportunities
All board members are expected to:
- make an annual financial contribution personally meaningful in size
- attend the annual gala, and strive to fill a table by purchasing or selling tickets
- make ABC Organization one of their top three charitable priorities
Board members should commit to one item from each category, but may choose as many as they like:
- provide names of donor prospects
- sign and personalize letters to current and prospective donors
- make thank you calls to donors
- host a cultivation event to introduce prospective donors to ABC
- accompany staff on donor visits/solicitation calls
- recruit new sponsors for ABC’s events
- secure financial support from my employer
- include ABC Organization in my estate plan
- donate items for the annual gala’s auction
- promote ABC organization through my social media
The “Menu of Opportunities” is a fun, non-threatening way to engage your board members, and to help them feel they are fulfilling their duties as your organization’s strongest supporters and advocates. With the philosophy, fundraising components, and menu in hand, you should never again hear a board member say “I don’t what’s expected of me,” or “I don’t know how to help.”
About the author:
Molly Galo, a Senior Consultant with Laurus Strategies, currently serves as Vice President of Advancement for Pillars. Molly has extensive development experience, with particular expertise in major gift fundraising, capital campaigns, and board development. During her career, Molly has worked for the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, and Chicago Public Radio, among other institutions.
Headquartered in Chicago, Laurus Strategies has a passion for helping nonprofits advance their mission. Laurus Strategies’ Non Profit and Public Affairs Consulting Group provides a wide range of fundraising, strategic planning, training and leadership services with a proven track record of success. Together, the team has over 80 years of experience and has helped clients raise over $650,000,000.