By Nanette Fridman and Jennifer Weinstock
The frustration of many executive directors and development professionals is palpable. They need their boards’ help to raise the much needed funds for their organizations. Most nonprofits report that upwards of 50% of all annual funds come from board members and their connections … and yet, more often than not, we hear organizations moaning and complaining that their boards won’t do any fundraising.
So how did we get here, and how can we fix it?
Our dear colleagues, professionals, executive directors and development directors … if you find yourself saying this about your board, it’s time to take responsibility for your role in the outcome.
- Were you explicit when asking people to join your board that all board members are expected to play a role in development?
- Have you provided development training so they understand the various development stages, roles and moves management?
- Have you given both solicitation training and individual practice opportunities and coaching?
Have you offered members various ways to contribute to the development efforts? Not everyone is comfortable soliciting and they don’t have to be.
- Are you and your leadership effectively managing and engaging board members between meetings?
Even if you do all of these things right, you still may find yourself frustrated and tempted to – or complaining – about your board. If these scenarios sound familiar, try one of our suggestions.
Scene: At a board meeting, you asked each board member to bring you the names of five prospects with whom you can follow up and cultivate for the organization. Everyone seems excited and nods their head. Then you get exactly ZERO emails from board members with names of prospects.
- Email each board member a form with a deadline.
- Ask the board chair – or the development chair – to call board members for their names.
- Ask board members to bring their names to the next board meeting where you will ask them to present their prospects so you can make a group list.
Scene: You assigned each board member 10 solicitations for your annual campaign. If you don’t assign them at least 10 solicitations, you will never get through all your solicitations. You gently nudge them each month to see how they are doing. After a few months, they stop responding to your emails and seem to be avoiding you in person. Three of the 10 donors you assigned to them self-solicit resulting in lower donation amounts than you were planning on asking for.
- Explain the cost in dollars to the organization of self-solicitations and not having solicitation meetings.
- Give a tight deadline for the solicitations to be completed by. Create a sense of urgency.
- Ask the board chair – or the development chair – to call board members and ask if they need help completing their solicitations.
- Ask the board members if they can’t complete the solicitations that they agreed to do, to please turn them back in to the development director.
- Be sure to thank and publicly acknowledge board members who do their solicitations at board meetings and in communications with the board.
- Report on progress and remind the board members of the impact that the campaign has on your mission. What might have to get cut if you don’t complete the solicitations and reach your goal?
Scene: Your board chair recruits a new board member because she has great connections in the community and will be a huge asset for your organization. At the meeting, the new board member says that she will join the board but can’t do any fundraising because she is involved with another organization and it would be a conflict of interest. The board chairs says, “No problem, you don’t have to do any fundraising.” Now you have a new board member who won’t do any fundraising.
- Clarify with the board member that she doesn’t have to do any soliciting, but it would be tremendously helpful if she would help with prospecting and cultivation either behind the scenes or as a convener and hostess.
- Be really specific and after the new member gets acclimated, be strategic and ask her to help you get a meeting with one or two prospects you have been trying to get to for years.
- Name drop! Use the board member’s name on your stationary, website, in newspaper articles, in blog posts and on social media etc. Leverage your association with the board member and with her circle even if she won’t.
Different tactics will work with different board members. Don’t give up and let your board off the fundraising hook. Keep at it until you train and make working on development together a board habit.
Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is founder and principal of Fridman Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching for nonprofits. She is the author of “On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service.” Nanette can be reached at email@example.com.
Jennifer Weinstock is the Senior Development Officer at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA and a Wexner Field Fellow. Jennifer can be reached at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org