It was an awkward moment.
I was sitting across the table from a board member - and all of a sudden, there was an embarrassed silence.
We had been having a perfectly pleasant chat, when I asked him what we can do better as a staff team to engage the board in fundraising.
Did they need more training? Better tools? What could I do to help?
He cleared his throat, and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
And then he blurted out the words no fundraiser wants to hear:
“No one ever told me I would be expected to fundraise when I joined the board!”
Too often, board members simply don’t have clarity on expectations when it comes to fundraising.
And I believe that lack of clarity is the #1 reason your board isn’t actively participating in your fundraising efforts.
What’s the cure for this common ailment?
Get specific about what you expect from your board members, and do it right from the start.
I get the opportunity to speak with a lot of board members when I work with clients on fundraising strategy projects, and it’s very common to hear them talk of unwritten rules, or unspoken expectations.
For example, they may believe that board members are expected to make a donation to the organization, but it’s never openly discussed, and no one ever asks them for a gift!
It’s time for us fundraisers to bring an end to these unspoken expectations, and help our boards get really clear on exactly what it looks like to actively participate in fundraising.
The best place to start with this? Right at the beginning of your relationship.
Too often, we don’t talk about fundraising during the recruitment process - or we skim over it for fear of scaring off candidates.
We don’t include it our board director position descriptions, and it’s not a part of the process to assess board effectiveness.
Organizations that are most successful at engaging their board members in fundraising do three things:
1. They set specific expectations early, and reiterate them regularly.
2. They discuss fundraising expectations openly during the recruitment process.
3. They revisit those expectations regularly during board meetings, so that board members hold themselves and one another accountable.
I know, I know – you’re already being pulled in a zillion different directions as a fundraiser, and now I want you to get involved in board governance on top of everything else!?
To paraphrase the amazing Simone Joyaux, the most effective fundraisers aren’t just great fundraising technicians – they’re also organizational development specialists.
If you want to take your fundraising to the next level, it may be time to start managing up, and get more involved in influencing your organization’s governance structures and processes.
Are you interested in hearing more about working with boards, and getting them engaged in your fundraising efforts?
I’m writing new articles and filming new videos to help you with your fundraising, I want to know exactly what you’re struggling with right now - leave me a comment below, and let me know, so I can go to work and help you!
Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert
with 20+ years experience raising millions of dollars across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. If you want to raise more 5, 6 and even 7-figure donations your non-profit, you can download Emma’s free Blueprint for Major Gift Success, and learn the 4 crucial steps to raising big gifts (at any size shop!)