As a nonprofit staff member, how can you help create a board of directors who are both willing and able to do their part in raising major gifts for your organization? Nonprofit consultant Keith Curtis, whose company The Curtis Group provides board development training, among other consulting services, says the process starts with board recruitment and continues with ongoing training and support.
Rather than wait until board member’s terms are about to expire to start looking for recruits, Curtis suggests making the search for board members a year-round process; further, he advises nonprofits should start by considering people who are already donors. “…and make your expectations (that board members help with fundraising) clear up front,” so they know they will be expected to get funds as well as give them. He recommends sharing the organization’s “Board Roles and Responsibilities” (which should be a concise written document) during the recruitment process.
Next, Curtis advises that all new board members be given an orientation that includes a tour of the organization, a chance to meet the nonprofit’s staff, and the experience of a few major gift meetings with experienced staff and board members. “Make sure they’re equipped to talk about your organization and its mission. Don’t just send them out [to raise money] the first time on their own – give them a chance to see how it’s done. On the job training is the best way to learn how to raise money,” he explains.
In addition, Curtis says, “Development should never be considered as an afterthought during your board meetings – it shouldn’t be the last item on your agenda, when everyone’s ready to leave. Instead, spend time at each meeting sharing recent fundraising success stories,” and take ten tofifteen minutes discussing the different fundraising roles that members can play. If it turns out that one or more of your board members simply cannot ask for gifts, that person can still play a role – for example attending donor meetings to tell your organization’s story or calling donors to thank them personally for their gift.
Finally, work with each board member individually to help him or her set three or four specific fundraising goals for the year – and then take specific steps to help them meet those goals. Board members want to meet success and it’s up to the nonprofit to help them achieve this and provide meaningful volunteer experiences.
“Staff must support its board members, provide advice and not be shy,” Curtis advises. “… Your board is comprised of all volunteers – you can’t just set goals and expect them to take care of it, you need to help them along the way.”
This article was written by The Major Gifts Report. Keith Curtis was the contributing consultant. The Major Gifts Report is a monthly newsletter that offers tips and techniques to help nonprofits attract major gifts. To learn more about this publication, visit The Major Gifts Report