by Keith Curtis of member firm The Curtis Group
For years, we have conducted board training workshops and presented “The Role of the Board in Fundraising” to clients and nonprofit leaders. The one thing we try to emphasize: effective fundraising boards don’t just happen; they are built and developed – strategically.
A major philanthropist once told me, “an organization’s nominating committee is the most important committee.” Ultimately, they will build a board of fundraising leaders. The nominating committee should meet throughout the year to discuss a clear and strategic recruitment process for potential members. They should not wait and meet the last two months of the year in a haste to fill vacant seats.
The nominating committee must identify and cultivate candidates with fundraising ability; once recruited, board expectations must be clearly articulated, be sure to explain what the member’s role in fundraising will be; a proper board orientation should be conducted; and lastly, continue to educate and engage the board. For example, offer fundraising training to members and provide regular updates on the organization’s fundraising activities and needs.
I have enjoyed reading the recent board-related, Giving Institute blog posts written by Michelle Cramer and Kim Hawkins. When I came across a new study conducted by Cygnus Applied Research, I felt that the information we have all been providing was backed with hard facts. Of 17,500 donors surveyed, nearly 3,500 were current or recent board members. The study showed that charities provided little fundraising training and did not provide clear requirements and other basic resources for those who serve. Here are a few quick statistics from the study:
- Nearly 60% of board members surveyed said there was no orientation program when they joined the board.
- Only 39% of board members said they had attended a fundraising training session
- 6% of trustees said that their organization had a budget for trustee training
- 47% of trustees at organizations with paid fund-raising staffs said board members are required to participate in raising money; while just three in 10 of their counterparts at nonprofits with no fund-raising staff are subject to that requirement.
Recently, we facilitated a panel discussion on Making a Successful Major Gift Ask. Our representing board member shared his perspective on his own position within a nonprofit board. He gently explained that he has a full-time job. When he steps into the role of board member, he is volunteering his time. Use it wisely and utilize the skills that he, or any board member, might be able to provide. “Make sure I have all of the arrows in my quiver, so that when I go out on a call, I will hit the bulls-eye.”
We often remind our clients to think of their board members as the organization’s link to the philanthropic community – people give, to the right people. Organizations need to intentionally scout out strong, fundraising leaders. Orient them with transparent expectations. Provide them with the materials and information they need to do their job. Educate them on the organization’s current and future, development activity and needs. And remember, the key to successful fundraising is leadership.