Friday, February 1, 2013

What If My Board Won't Fundraise?

Simply put, if your board refuses to fundraise, you’re in a bit of a pickle. But, it’s not hopeless. The nonprofit sector functions because board members and staff fundraise side by side in their communities, and if you let the board off the hook, the organization is in jeopardy. The following offers just a few ways you can help the board become more comfortable with its fundraising role:
  1. Recognize that fundraising takes many forms. It’s not always a direct, face-to-face ask that is needed from board members, but they all need to find a way to plug into fundraising. Perhaps you’re planning a special fundraising event. Have a board-level task force produce the event in total, alleviating the burden on the director.
  2. During a board retreat, integrate training. Bring in a local development officer as a guest speaker or schedule a webinar during the retreat. (The dean for advancement at a local college or university would be an excellent speaker.) Introduce select readings, and find time for discussion. Be sure you create a continuum of training that both develops the existing board member and educates the new board member.
  3. Ask the board to thank people for you. Of course you will have sent the standard thank-you letter with a personal note, but ask board members to drop a personal note for certain gifts and/or contacts. While this isn’t an ask, it is a critical part of the fundraising cycle.
  4. Ask for names. As you develop a membership mailing list or other direct mail piece, ask board members to give you a list of names and addresses to include in the mailing. Everyone can do this; there really is no excuse for a board member to refuse to crack open his or her address book or Christmas mailing list and share some names. Make it an annual goal for each board member to provide five to ten new names for mailings and have him or her write a personal note on the letter before it goes into the mail.
  5. Get yourself and other board members invited to social events. Maybe a board member has an annual Memorial Day picnic. Ask her to invite the board so that members can meet new people and start to broaden the network. Have a board member host an intimate dinner party so that you can get to know his friends casually. As director you’re there as a guest, but you also have the chance to learn about interests and build relationships.
  6. Carry the torch. While the board’s fundraising skill set may take longer to develop than you would like, don’t stop fundraising. Sometimes the director will have to go the extra mile to secure funds, but the more success and ease of fundraising you share with the board, the more attractive the process becomes. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team, and when you’re hitting fundraising goals, you are winning!

Working in museums for nearly 20 years, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko has been a museum director since 2001. Cinnamon became CEO of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine in 2009. Before that, she was the director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where she led the organization to the National Medal for Museum Service in 2008. 

1 comment:

  1. I've really enjoyed reading this article - thanks for sharing! Tony Charalambides has a great fundraising blog, I recommend you check it out!