We hear often about the opportunity for Boards and nonprofit executives to work even more effectively together to consistently raise money and resources. Nonprofit executives cite the “usual suspects” as trouble spots, including buy-in and engagement, and challenges in achieving give-and-get success. While these are certainly valid concerns, there are other stumbling blocks, including the comfort level of Board members with the entire fundraising process and their role in it. When enthusiastic and supportive Board members are active but the money is not rolling in as you’d like, consider that there may be some room to positively impact and support the Board in their efforts. (There may be other challenges as well of course, and we’ll explore those in upcoming posts.)
Some steps to consider taking:
- Lay a solid foundation. Presumably, people are on your Board because of who they are and what you and they believe they bring to the organization. Even the most insightful Board member will still benefit from a grounding in the organization’s financial needs and obligations, and depending on their background, some groundwork in nonprofit finance more generally. Consider sharing this article, ‘The Looking-Glass World of Nonprofit Money’, which addresses some of those issues and highlights the differences between private sector and nonprofit finance. Having facts at your fingertips can be very reassuring, particularly if you are expecting someone to ask you lots of questions.
- Get everyone to the starting line, fit, hydrated, and ready to go. It can be hard to ask for money if you’re not comfortable doing that. For example, my background includes significant experience in raising funds for a variety of initiatives. To me, fundraising is a familiar process, with specific steps that are deliberately tailored to the development effort underway. I’ve done enough of it that I don’t have a lot of sensitivity about a “not now” answer. This is not everyone’s reaction. Board members new to fundraising in general or your organization specifically may understandably have trepidation about BOTH the fundraising process and personally asking for a significant donation from others they know. Because the fundraising process is remarkably similar across causes and categories of donors, we can lay out the steps in the process that are specific to your nonprofit and the donors from whom it is seeking funding, and work on gaining strength specifically at the points in the process where it is needed.
- Give everyone a great story to tell. A baseline requirement for raising money for anything is being comfortable with and passionate about telling the “story”. Story components include: why this nonprofit is important, why funds and the organization are meaningful now, how the funding will be used specifically, and the Board member’s role and personal passion for the organization.
Today, we know a lot about how people think and make decisions about their money – including why asking for it can be a challenge. That knowledge creates opportunities to increase the effectiveness of the development team, including the Board. If your goal as an Executive Director/CEO or development executive is to empower your Board to be an active partner in your fundraising and development process, be sure to set them up for success.