The importance of involvement in fundraising by nonprofit board members is espoused by the class readings. Lilya Wagner states that “effective boards promote the causes of their organizations by securing the resources that support programs and services” (p. 34). Ms. Wagner’s view is that it is paramount that the board becomes involved in fundraising efforts for the organization since “board members are responsible for the financial viability of their organizations” (p. 33). If the board is hesitant, then it is up to management to get the board involved. Board members need to be shown the significance of their roles as fundraisers and trained by the staff if necessary. Many times board members simply do not know their roles because they have not been clearly communicated. This is where management and staff of the nonprofit must take charge. Roles and expectations must be communicated clearly and established. Usually, board members are passionate about the mission of their organization. It makes sense that these board members would be very important fundraisers since they can take their enthusiasm and support of the organization into their communities. It was clear in Wagner’s research that board members were not very agreeable to participate in fundraising efforts. While a vast majority would participate if they were asked, you would not want a board member to contact potential donors if they are doing so grudgingly.
Too often the board considers staff as having the main responsibility of fundraising. I can imagine most people do not enjoy asking others for donations. In fact, a recent article in The NonProfit Times says that 26 percent of fundraising professionals are uneasy about getting their boards involved in fundraising and 25 percent fear calling a prospective donor themselves (2011). How can we expect the board to be excited and effective at fundraising if one quarter of fundraising professionals are scared to ask the donor themselves? The answer is simply more training, in my opinion. Most people are afraid of public speaking, but many do it effectively. They may have to practice continuously to be able to do this, or they may have mastered techniques that allow them to be effective public speakers. The same should be true for fundraisers. There should be constant communication about expectations and training to foster the necessary skills to raise funds effectively. It may be the responsibility of the board to raise funds for the organization, but it is the responsibility of the staff to train the board in how to raise funds. It is telling that over one quarter of respondents in the article were not comfortable getting their boards involved in fundraising, I can see how this would be difficult. In a way, it is a little ambitious to assume that staff will push their bosses, as board members ultimately are, to be more active in fundraising and then offer to train them. This may not go over well with the board at first. It all comes down to communication. The staff has to approach this as working with the board and not training them to do work for the staff. It should be all about the success of the organization. The sooner both board members and staff get on the same page in supporting the organization’s goals, the better the fundraising efforts will be.
Wagner, L. (1994). The road least traveled: Board roles in fundraising. New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, No.4, Summer 1994, 33-47.
The NonProfit Times. (2011, May 10). Fear And Loathing In The Fundraising Office. Retrieved June 5, 2011, from http://www.nptimes.com/11May/fear-and-loathing-in-the-fundraising-office.html