Want a Fundraising Board?

In Board Development, Fundraising, Introduction by Geoff Burns

Want a Fundraising Board?

By Guest Blogger Karin Cox, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Hartsook Companies, Inc.

We often hear nonprofit executives and directors of development complain that their board members don’t fundraise.

In their defense, think about all the years that go into making a good fundraiser—the reading, mentoring, seminars and schooling, research, asking questions, making mistakes and finally “getting it.”

The truth is, your board members are good at what they’re good at. They are bankers, accountants, salespeople (and no, sales people aren’t always natural fundraisers), academics, community volunteers, and business managers.

Understand, people aren’t born fundaisers. Most people—board members included—don’t like to fail. No one sets out to be bad.

Let’s assume your board members want to be good fundraisers.

Here are some tips we’ve come up with to help your board members become better fundraisers.

Tip #1: Thoughtfully answer the question, “Why am I here?” and share that answer with others. Your effectiveness as a fundraiser increases dramatically.

Tip #2: Generate the best returns on your nonprofit’s investment. Fundraising not only secures money, it creates visibility and expands the donor base.

Tip #3: Move beyond financial statements. Don’t just look at the bottom line; affect the bottom line.

Tip #4: Break the cycle of fundraising insanity. Consider what you can do to affect positive and proactive change through your organization’s fundraising operation.

Tip #5: Learn what your community really thinks about your organization. Don’t assume you know. What you don’t know can hurt you.

Tip #6: Be a problem-solving board member. Anyone can point out the negatives. Take a bold stand and make something happen. After all, that’s what board leadership is about.

Tip #7: Help “grow the bread.” Earn your seat at the board table by actively participating in fundraising – both in giving gifts and in asking for gifts from others.

Tip #8: Don’t let the size of an organization’s annual budget and/or the level of previous financial support prevent you from raising significant new dollars to advance your mission.

Tip #9: Understand that if your clients have needs, “now” is the best time to initiate a fundraising campaign.

Tip #10: Think of true philanthropy as a selfless act that makes a positive difference in the lives of others. While important, quid pro quo fundraising will not have a significant financial impact on the organization.

Tip #11: Tap into the lion’s share of philanthropy. Be sure to identify and cultivate gifts from individuals.

Tip #12: Make sure your organization’s fundraising operation is adequately diversified between individuals, foundations and corporations.

Tip #13: Think exponentially. Identify donors who have the ability to give substantial gifts and show them how they can make change the lives of the people you serve.

Tip #14: Create strategies for each of the four steps: identify prospects, cultivate relationships, solicit gifts and appreciate donors – then do it again.

Tip #15: Use a variety of means and methods for connecting with donors and prospects. Use high-tech, low-tech and no tech. Communication is essential to cultivation.

Tip #16: Insist on face-to-face solicitations. They demonstrate that you do not want donors to be kept at arm’s length. Draw them in and make them integral partners in the life of your organization.

Tip #17: Appreciate your donors. Delineate and adhere to your organization’s procedures for showing appreciation. Be creative and tailor your demonstrations of appreciation to personally fit each donor.

Tip #18: Use a systematic approach for tracking progress and challenges. Fundraising reports to bring structure and focus to your organization’s efforts.

Tip #19: Cultivate your donors with a thoughtful, targeted and personalized approach. Marketing strategies are reserved for mass communications that promote an image, programs and services.

Tip #20: Understand the difference between drives (annual funds) and campaigns. Both are important, but they are not synonymous.

Tip #21: Listen more than you talk. Learn why your prospects are at your door. Use that information to develop a personal, meaningful ask.

Tip #21: Update your database continually. Donors can be made or lost in the details. Don’t let little mistakes come between your organization and its donors.

Tip #22: Stop, look and listen for opportunitites. Only you can see what you see and know what you know. There people in your community waiting to be asked. Who are they?

Tip #23: Lead by example. Make your own stretch gift and challenge other board members to do the same. Only then should you leave the boardroom to solicit gifts from others.

Tip #24: Practice your solicitation word for word, over and over, so you don’t veer from the script. Set yourself up for success.

Tip #25: Ask for the gift with confidence, but don’t talk past the ask. Engage, ask, end and then let the donor respond.

Tip #26: Follow up. Don’t leave a great solicitation hanging.

Tip #27: Never forget it: fundraising is not about a building; it is about what happens in the building. It is not about an endowment; it is about long-term stability and security for your clients.

Tip #28: Use the “buddy system.” You are not alone. Use the resources of your organization and the staff and the support of your fellow board members when you connect with a donor.

Tip #29: Don’t take a “no” personally. Keep listening for the circumstances behind the answer so you can respond accordingly. A “no” today may only mean “not now” if you respond with sincerity.

Tip #30: Take it to heart. It is about Fundraising is not sales; it is service. It’s not marketing, it’s a mission. Fundraising is not a chance to be somebody special; it is a chance to do something special for someone else. And it is not about self-promotion; it is about improving the lives of others.