Earlier this week, The Hampton Roads Community Foundation gathered past grantees of its Building Excellence program to share ideas and discuss development challenges. The gathering not only produced very interesting conversation but some great ideas that we thought we’d share.
Board engagement was a reoccurring theme that presented itself over the course of the lunch. The conversation centered around not only how to keep current board members engaged, but how to engage past board members, and how to recruit the right board members for the future.
Continuing to involve and engage current board members in fundraising was a challenge that was mentioned by most organizations, specifically the difficulty of motivating the board if it is only staff’s role. One nonprofit representative brought up the concept of identifying one “champion,” either a board chair or a development committee chair, to really turn the tide for the rest of the board. If this one person truly understands the fundraising process and is excited by it then they could motivate their peers and help bring other board members along.
With regard to engaging past board members, one organization talked about how they had begun hosting special cultivation events where they invited them in for a “VIP” briefing on the state of the organization. This was only being done once or twice a year, which is typically about as much as past volunteers want to be involved anyway, but a great way to keep them in the loop and make them still feel as though they are a part of the organization.
The importance of continuing to recruit the right kind of board members was also discussed. In one organization, the executive director and director of development were actually playing a key role in board recruitment. Sure, the board needs to be involved in this process but the staff also knows exactly what the organization needs which can be extremely helpful in recruiting the appropriate volunteers. Another organization mentioned that when they recruited new board members they were bringing them on having already identified three specific things they could do for the organization (i.e. recruit another board member, obtain a key sponsorship for an event, make three major gift calls for a campaign, etc.).
The conversation then turned to the stewardship and cultivation of current donors and many organizations agreed that they are seeing a shift in the “we must find new donors” mentality to “let’s first focus on the ones we have.” For several grantees, this involved taking mid-level donors, currently in the $250 to $1,000 range, and ensuring that these people were receiving an adequate number of touches and that they weren’t all passive (i.e. making actual visits to these donors to move them along instead of a sending a letter).
Lastly, raising the visibility of development and fundraising within an organization was another theme that arose during the lunch. All of the grantees agreed that the Building Excellence grant process had raised the priority level and importance of development and fundraising within their organization. Some organizations even reported that they have this conversation at the board level every month to discuss how they are performing in development, etc. What a great way to keep fundraising top-of-mind for your board members.
We certainly look forward to meeting quarterly with these nonprofits to hear more about their successes in fundraising!