Today’s question comes from Melissa. Melissa asks:
Where do you start with a board that hasn’t had to previously participate in fundraising? What expectations do you set and how do you hold them accountable?
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Great question, Melissa.
I actually have personal experience with this one — not just as a consultant, but from when I was a development director.
The last, full-time fundraising job I held, before becoming a consultant, was with an organization whose board was recruited specifically without any expectation of fundraising. In that case, the founder of the organization had personally funded the entire budget, so he recruited board members and specifically told them that they would not need to raise funds because he was financing the operation.
However, a few short years later, the organization had grown so much that he was unable to personally finance the budget. So, the staff started writing grants for their programs, but as the organization continued to grow, the realized they would need to raise funds to continue on their trajectory, which is when they hired their first development director — me!
So I had the great opportunity, not only of creating a development office from scratch, but of working with board members who had never had to raise funds before.
Basic Expectations of Board Members
Some of the expectations I have of board members include:
- Attendance and participation at meetings.
- Participation on a sub-committee.
- A personal gift to the organization.
- Help with fundraising.
Two Types of Board Members
I will tell you that, based on that experience and many others I’ve had as a consultant, there are two types of board members that emerge when a board needs to transition from a non-fundraising board to a fundraising board.
The first type of board member understands that in order for the organization to grow, funds must be raised. They may not necessarily want to help with fundraising, but they understand that that’s the new direction the organization must take.
The second type of board member really doesn’t understand this, or abhors fundraising to the point that they are in denial about what must happen, and feels that the organization should just muddle along, doing what it has always done — no change necessary!
So, depending on what type of board members you’re working with (I’m guessing you have some of each), I have two suggestions.
Start by Asking This Question
I would start by asking the entire group the simple question:
Do we want this organization to grow or do we want to stay where we are, or even shrink?
It’s a valid question for a board to discuss, but ultimately, the board needs to decide if they are the board to take the organization to the next level or if they are happy with status quo (or even shrinking) if no additional funds are raised.
Resignation vs. Moving Forward
Once that decision has been agreed upon by a majority of the group, there are a few steps to take.
Resignation – The board members who don’t agree with the new direction can resign from the board. This may be painful for all involved, but is probably a necessary step for progress of the organization, and you will be better off in the long run.
Moving Forward – The board members who are in agreement with a growth strategy, need to be given an action plan and training on how to move forward.
Holding Board Members Accountable
The next part of Melissa’s questions was about holding board members accountable.
Remember, it’s important to recruit board members properly in the first place — with the expectation that they will give and help with fundraising. So moving forward, recruit all new board members with appropriate expectations. You can create a board members job description which includes these responsibilities.
With existing board members, you will want to start using a board member expectation form.
I hope that answers your question, Melissa!
This Week’s Task
At your next board meeting, ask your board members: Do you want this organization to shrink or grow? What can you do to help us grow?
What kind of challenges have you faced with board members that are new to fundraising? Join the discussion below.
This post is part of my Year of the Fundraising Board series. Check out the entire series to learn how to create a stronger, smarter, and super motivated nonprofit board.