Fundraising is an essential part of a nonprofit board member’s work. Yet for many, the very thought of asking others for money makes them want to run for the hills! Meanwhile, most nonprofit CEOs say that what they need most from their board is help in expanding the number of individual donors, connections in the community, corporate ties and foundation relationships — essential Fundraising & Development!
A sector best practice includes board members fulfilling three primary roles:
- Setting strategic direction
- Monitoring and overseeing operations
- Ensuring resources
It is typically the last item — ensuring resources — that is the area nonprofit leaders need their board members to continually assist them with. Many people think of that most distasteful thing of “begging for money” when they think of fundraising. Yet it’s a program and process that has many pieces and parts. The asking part is a quite small portion of the total effort, and there is a myriad of ways board members can effectively help without necessarily doing a direct solicitation. These vary somewhat based on the nonprofit’s needs, but generally include doing the following:
First and foremost, making the largest possible personal donation (this sends an important message to all other donors that the organization is worthy of support);
- Introducing people and companies who could help provide monetary support, in-kind support or volunteers;
- Opening up their homes to host an in-home donor salon for prospective donors to get to know the organization;
- Thanking donors through phone calls or hand-written notes;
- Leaving a legacy by putting the nonprofit in his or her will or trust;
- Participating in special event fundraisers and bringing other people along;
- Using social media to get the word out;
- Forwarding fundraising appeals and communication to friends, family and colleagues; and
- Representing the nonprofit at important community events, including meetings and visits with donors.
Being part of a winning fundraising team that benefits your nonprofit’s clients will make your volunteer service even more gratifying. And sometimes if you have success and enjoy the work that leads up to or follows solicitation (donor cultivation and stewardship), you might be more likely to dip a toe into donor solicitation. Being around donors and having the right mindset for making an ask will help enormously. Understanding that rather than taking from a donor you are giving … an opportunity to make someone’s life better and leave the planet a better place. And who doesn’t want that?
If you appreciate a nonprofit’s work and mission but don’t want anything to do with a fundraising program, that’s okay! Typically, there are all sorts of volunteer roles you could fill: advisory role, committee participant, program or event volunteer. But, alas, the role of governing board member takes dedication and a desire to help attract the necessary resources. Like the saying goes, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Nancy Grace is the principal in her own consulting practice, Graceful Fundraising, LLC. She regularly works to educate and inspire nonprofit staff and boards to become active and effective fundraising participants.
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