Help! My board won't raise money, part 1

publication date: Aug 28, 2013
author/source: Janet Gadeski
This article begins a series on getting your board engaged in development and sponsorship. The ideas are taken from a GuideStar webinar by Kevin Strickland, president of the Not for Profit Group, who shared these solutions to common concerns.

My directors also serve on other charities' fundraising committees

You may be anxious about sharing the names of your key supporters with a director whom you know is also raising money for other organizations. Air your concerns and boundaries up front, Strickland advises.

Most board members don't want to lure your donors to other organizations. More than that, they want to be as helpful as possible for your organization. A friendly conversation about the need for mental firewalls as directors undertake their work for your charity and others will likely be all you need.

However, you may occasionally know that someone has revealed sensitive information in the past. That's the one instance, Strickland says, where you may want to reconsider whether a person's multiple commitments make him or her wrong for your board.

My directors don't want to help raise money

You'll always have a few directors with that attitude. Strickland and many other consultants urge you to begin by discussing their skills. Do they know how to refer potential supporters? Do they know what kind of people or businesses are likely targets for your organization, and why? Do they know how to open the conversation, cultivate, or speak convincingly about your charity?

If not, it's your job to give them the skills they need for any fundraising tasks they feel comfortable taking on.

When directors refuse to participate under any circumstances, it's wise to check their passion for your organization's mission. If they're truly uninterested in your charity's work, face the fact that you're not going to be able to motivate them, and offer them a graceful exit if possible.

However, though they may not even want to make a thank-you call to a donor, they may still be keen to contribute to other functions. Provided there is a clear role for those individuals, says Strickland, focus on their strengths and align their unique abilities with the needs of the organization.

My directors think fundraising means brainstorming ideas and giving me the tasks

"Most board members are well intentioned, believe in your cause, and will do what's asked of them if they consider your request reasonable," Strickland believes.

The next time someone offers an idea, he suggests saying something like, "Tom, that's a great idea you have. Thanks for your initiative in bringing that up. To have the best possible chance for success, let's discuss what support I'll need to implement this idea. Tom, could you give us your thoughts on how we should proceed and your level of commitment to work with me to see this through?"

After Tom outlines what he can do to move his own idea forward, Strickland suggests that you invite all the board to work together to ensure his idea succeeds, and state that you'll call each one of them to discuss their roles in making it happen.

My directors focus on the things we need rather than the emotional rewards donors need

In their own business, most directors understand that customer relations are about what customers want to buy, not what vendors want to sell. Ask board members how they create their own business relationships. They'll likely say that they first try to understand their customers' needs, then to fulfill those needs in a way that creates long-term loyalty.

That gives you an opening to explain that your charity has to connect with donors in the same way that they connect with their customers - and they have the skills to help, thanks to their business experience.

Read part 2 here.

Read the entire GuideStar article.

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