Why Are Nonprofit Boards Unwilling to Fundraise?

Many nonprofit leaders are disappointed with the fundraising performance of their boards. Is there hope?

Whether there is hope depends on what is seen as the purpose of the board. Are they expected to be direct fundraisers, indirect fundraisers, or both?

If you expect them to be both, you are probably expecting too much. Most board members lack the time and the skills to do both. You probably lack the time to train each board member to do both. In addition, there are a limited number of people who have the background, experience, and will to do both.

Which would you rather they focus on being: active fundraisers or enablers of great fundraising success?

If you expect them to be active fundraisers, how will the governance responsibilities of your nonprofit be handled?

For most nonprofits, fundraising is the responsibility of the staff. It is reasonable to expect 100% of the board to make a gift to the nonprofit. After all, if a passionate supporter of the mission (board member) is unwilling to give, why should the average person?

A sound fundraising process depends on having 100% of the board making more than a token donation to your mission and ensuring your governance process:

Communicates – Communicate what the board is doing and why its actions are good for the mission and the clients (not the nonprofit). This includes ensuring all of the board’s actions are transparent and the board listens to outside suggestions.

Honors – Treat the donors as respected partners rather than sources of funds. This is often as simple as seeking donor input instead of being open to donor input.

Supports – Ensure the staff has the skills, tools, and guidance (policies) to enable them to be successful. It also means that the board will be present at fundraisers and public events.

Expands – Create plans and take steps to ensure the mission is reaching more people, doing more for the current clients, and increasing the impact the mission has on the community (outcomes).

Vivifies – Bring the mission to life for everyone. This includes using appropriate anecdotes and statistical evidence of success as well as having goals, which improve on past success. And if there is a guiding philosophy each board member lives by that philosophy.

If the governance process accomplishes the preceding five tasks, it is easy to see why the success of the fundraising will increase. Additionally, you will have a more engaged and purpose driven board.

Next Step:

Transform your governance process to encourage others to support your mission

Change your recruiting process to emphasize skills that will transform and sustain your commitment to support others while they support your mission

Create measurable expectations of the fundraising process (increase in the number of donors and increase in donor generosity for instance) that demonstrates the board is successfully encouraging others to support your mission

Holding the board accountable for the fundraising success may seem unfair since fundraising is a staff responsibility. However, fundraising is a team effort. The board must create an environment that encourages support (this includes ensuring the staff has the skills and tools to be successful).

Fundraising is one of the engines that drives mission sustainability. Your board is responsible for keeping the engine in tune.

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