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Why Does the Board have to Fundraise?

The majority of Independent Sector organizations have a need for their boards to fundraise .  This is why you see an abundance of Board fundraising trainings, tools, and efforts throughout the sector.  However, there’s something else we still see – many boards and/or board members that don’t, won’t or can’t fundraise.

For those Boards and Board members that struggle with the idea of fundraising or still don’t understand “why” we have to fundraise, consider this:

  1. Funders Expect It: The overwhelming majority of grant applications from corporate, foundation  and even government funders ask a similar question, “What percentage of your board financial contributes to the organization?”  Why do they ask this question?  Simply put, they’re not as close to the organization as the board is – and if the board won’t financially support the organization why should they?  I can’t overstate how impressive it is to a funder when you can claim 100% of our board financially contributes to the organization.  As a matter of fact I know of a few organizations that can claim 100% financial participation from the Board and staff. Wow!!!
  2. Increases your Credibility & Confidence during the Ask: How can you ask others to do what you don’t do?  Imagine approaching a friend or colleague to seek their financial support for the organization.  They look you in the eye and say, “Great, I’d love to support the organization.  By the way, did you give? “ If you can’t answer this question with a resounding confident yes,  you just lost credibility.
  3. Increases your Sense of Ownership: We are more likely to pay attention and care for those things that we own versus those things we don’t own.  Making financial contribution increases your sense of ownership and commitment.  When I was a kid, the phrase “put your money where your mouth is” was very popular.  In other words if you believed in something enough you’d put your money up.  Board members need to “put their money where their heart is”.  If you’re enthusiastic and believe in the cause this will come easy for you.

Finally, there are two ways we’ve seen the expectation of Board member financial support communicated:

  1. A specific annual amount is determined by the Board and agreed upon when board service begins. (i.e. Board members will contribute $2,500 annually..)
  2. The  specific amount is determined by the individual.  (i.e. Board members will contribute a financial amount annually commensurate with their ability.)

Bottom Line: Effective, high-performing boards don’t view fundraising as an obstacle, they view it as an opportunity – an opportunity to advance the mission that they committed to serve.

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Don’t Bother the Board

I recall a meeting with a Board Chair in preparation for a project.  Part of the project involved the deliberate engagement of the Board.  Individually and collectively the Board had to  commit the time that this effort demanded if it was to be successful.

The Board Chair had a concern – The Board members time.  I realize I’ve heard this before from other Board Chairs and CEO’s that wanted to protect their Board’s time.  Here are some common things I’ve heard:

“The Board is busy, we don’t need to bother them with this.”

“Our Board doesn’t have time, they’re just volunteers.”

“I’m trying to make it easy for my board.”

“The Board has better things to do.”

“Can’t we just do it and bring it to the Board.”

“My Board is full of busy people, they don’t have time.”

“Let’s not trouble the Board with this.”

Though I appreciate the fact that someone is protecting the Board’s time (by the way, a resource worth protecting), I’m concerned that in many instances  we are robbing the board of the opportunity to exercise their responsibilities and perform their duties.  Let me be clear, I’m  not for wasting time, I’m not for “meeting just to meet”, and I’m definitely not for engaging the Board in matters that don’t pertain to their roles, responsibilities, or expectations.  I am for the Board fulfilling their duties of Obedience, Loyalty, and Care.   I am for the Board providing proper over-site.  I am for the Board being engaged.

So what does this mean?? The Board is there to be bothered.  The Board isn’t there for the easy work, they’re there for the hard work. There’s nothing better for the Board to do than govern the organization and fulfill their roles, responsibilities, and expectations.  Yes they’re volunteers, but they’re accountable volunteers.   If the Board doesn’t have time to be the Board then they don’t have time to be on the Board. 

Bottom Line: Stop trying to make life easy for your Board.  Stop tricking people to serve on the Board by telling them “there’s not much to do”.  Stop depriving your board of the time, space, and opportunity to be the Board.  And most importantly, if you’re a Board member, stop letting your Chair and CEO let you off the hook – Be Aware, Be Engaged, Be Bothered!!!!!

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