In a law firm, a person who brings in new business — and, thus, revenue — is called a rainmaker. Nonprofits have their own counterpart: a fundraiser (the person, not the event). And this is one of the responsibilities belonging to the board of directors.
Successful fundraisers, like rainmakers, are not born, but made. Turning board members into effective fundraisers takes commitment and a full-fledged strategy.
It comes with the job
Some new board members find the concept of approaching friends, business contacts and strangers for money, even for a worthwhile cause, to be unappealing. They may even feel that it’s beneath them to “beg” and think this task should fall to staff. But, in one way or another, raising funds should involve everyone in an organization, especially board members, who often have contacts and respect in the community.
Before they even accept the position, let board members know that fundraising will be one of their responsibilities. One not-for-profit stated it this way in a recent newspaper article: “We are looking for new board members to support our strategic planning, including fundraising, to help build a sustainable future for the organization.” The nominating committee, if you have one, should look for candidates with fundraising experience or potential, as well as influence among different populations.
Orientation is key
Board orientation is a good time to educate new members about the organization’s mission, goals, programs and financial needs. It’s also the time to let them know how fundraising fits into the picture.
One nonprofit, for example, shows new board members a short film about its capital campaign to raise money for a new community center. The orientation ends with a tour of the new building. There, the board members see firsthand some of the activities that serve the community: from English language classes to the well-stocked food pantry.
Your organization should have a written document that describes board member responsibilities and includes fundraising as one of them. If your nonprofit expects board members to give annual donations themselves, as many organizations do, that also should be stated.
Training and support are essential
Once board members take office, there are a number of things a nonprofit can do to educate and support their fundraising role. Here are some ideas to consider.
Establish a fundraising committee. This will make fundraising an official and ongoing part of the job, and will likely attract the members who are most confident and interested in fundraising.
Develop a mentoring system. Senior board members who have a knack for fundraising can steer junior board members in the right direction. They can share insights and tactics that have worked well for them. The new members should understand that they’re not being asked to “trespass” on their relationships.
Give them a script. Let’s say that your organization is having a fundraising drive and it includes telephoning past contributors. Prepare a script for board members that thanks contributors for their past support, explains how the new funds will be used and describes how the activities or project ties to the nonprofit’s mission.
Look for training opportunities. Many consultants and some nonprofits offer training in fundraising and gifting-related topics. Board members need to fully understand the many types of monetary and nonmonetary donations that supporters can make. Many books and articles are available on these topics at low or no cost.
Recognize successes. Everyone likes a well-deserved pat on the back. Be sure to recognize board members’ fundraising accomplishments. Opportunities include writing a congratulatory note after a particularly strong fundraising achievement and recognizing laudable efforts at public events and board meetings.
An investment that pays off
A nonprofit benefits when its board members are successful at fundraising. Make sure that your board members have the skills and tools they need to “make it rain.”