Right on the Money: Six Tips for Fundraising With Your Board

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Photograph of a woman holding her hands out as money falls from the sky.

Cyndi Court, then a fundraiser with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, told us a few years ago that enthusiastic board members “are some of the best partners for fundraising staff. They have peer-to-peer relations with potential donors, they’re critical in opening up doors and introducing people to the organization, they’re terrific in recruiting other people as volunteers and they’re key to making solicitations.”

Over the years, we’ve featured a number of articles on enlisting board members in the fundraising efforts of youth and family services organizations. Here, we bring together our top five tips:

  1. Ask the board to make fundraising a priority. Start by winning over one or two influential board members then initiate a discussion with the others about the organization’s needs and the role board members could play, says David Sternberg, a fundraising consultant and author of “Fearless Fundraising for Nonprofit Boards.”
  2. Recruit board members committed to philanthropy. How do you do that? Sternberg suggests asking current board members to list their personal connections to potential sources of philanthropy, whether individuals, foundations or corporations. He also recommends meeting with the boards and CEOs of other nonprofits and asking for their help pinpointing potential board members. Perusing the board and donor lists in the annual reports of other charities is also a good start. Set expectations for new and returning board members and ensure that everyone understands their roles. Create a board member job description that includes both giving and getting financial contributions.
  3. Start a fundraising committee. Sternberg recommends that every board have one. Part of the committee’s role is to ensure that the entire board has philanthropic assignments, such as helping to identify and approach prospective donors.
  4. Train board members in the basics of fundraising and support their efforts. Board members should receive training on such topics as how to ask for gifts, how to identify potential donors, how to give an elevator pitch and how to be comfortable in the role of fundraiser. Finally, ensure that they have the staff assistance they need. For instance, help them prepare for meetings with potential donors, brief them about prospects’ interests and backgrounds, and accompany them on visits, if they request it. (For information about where to find training, contact your state’s nonprofit association.)
  5. Task the board with creating a fundraising strategy. It’s the board’s responsibility to ensure your organization has the money, supplies, people and other resources it needs to fulfill its mission, says Justin Pollock, former managing director of programs at the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations. For that reason, board members ideally should take the lead in identifying the charity’s needs and deciding how to meet them.
  6. Tap the board’s contacts. Talk to your board and find out if they have any connections with foundation or corporate funders, even if the funder’s guidelines don’t match the type of program you seek to fund. “You may discover hidden funding sources or a chance to speak with a foundation officer,” says Helen Brown, a fundraising consultant in Massachusetts.
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