Fundraising Q/A – Board Engagement

How can we better engage our board in fundraising?

Good question. And, without kicking and screaming, I might add!

Board-Engagement-FundraisingI’m reminded of a nonprofit that was eager to revamp its board, and actively involve it in the pursuit of a new strategic fundraising plan, including a significant capital campaign. The challenge was to rebuild board membership, and sound a call to action.

They began by creating a job description, for targeting, wooing, and engaging board members. (Fundraising roles and expectations were a key element.)  Here it is, disguised slightly to preserve the organization’s anonymity.

Board Member Description

Our Board is comprised of members dedicated to supporting and advancing our organization. Members of the Board volunteer their time, resources, and expertise in setting strategic direction, stewarding resources, and furthering our reputation.

Board members are selected on the basis of their individual interests, special expertise, vision, dedication to the advancement of our organization, fundraising capability and willingness to participate in special events, cultivation and fundraising activities.

Board members will work with the Development Director to set their annual “give” and “get” goals, as well as participate in sharing relevant prospect lists from their personal and professional networks.


Well, three problems, here.

First, “it’s all about us.” In my view, the board isn’t there to serve the institution; it is there to support the organization’s mission. As a prospective board member, I would be much more motivated by something that invited me to join an important cause, and make positive change in the world, through the institution’s work.

Second, the selection criteria. I use “the 5 C’s:” connections, capacity, care, community, and cooperation. You want people who are “stars” in your community (philanthropist, business leaders, etc.) and have strong networks. They should bring needed expertise, but you should be prepared to look for people to “fill in the holes” (consultants, etc.).

(I should mention, by the way, that I think nonprofits really need three different kinds of “boards.” Yes, you need a fiduciary board that will accept legal responsibility for the entity. But, there also are people who would be willing – if not prefer – to serve in an advisory capacity; think “active ex fiduciary.” Then, there are community representatives, a group offering the perspectives and support of your key constituents.)

Now, the third problem: the fundraising job. It’s a laundry list, a set of transactions, right down to the “give – get” dollar signs. I’m much more in favor of giving board members an opportunity to say “How can I help?”  A leadership gift? Great!  Hosting an event at your home? Wonderful! Tap into your board’s diversity, and what each person can bring to the party, and enjoy doing. Remember, fundraising should – and can – be fun!

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