Welcome back to the Major Gifts Challenge! If you’re unfamiliar with the Challenge, check out the introductory video here.
Board member participation significantly improves donor giving. The evidence is abundant.
Despite the evidence, one of the most frequent complaints development directors make is, “My board members won’t help raise funds.”
Now, add in one of the biggest complaints from board members… “no one told us we were going to have to raise funds,” and the problem comes full circle.
There’s a disconnect between board member and development staff expectations.
Board Members Must Know What’s Expected of Them
The solution to the disconnect begins with board recruitment. To have board members who will help raise major gifts, you ought to recruit them with that expectation from the get go.
Tell board recruits they will be expected to help with fundraising. Those who really don’t want to help won’t join the board.
Many organizations feel desperate for board members. It’s important to realize that members that don’t participate don’t contribute to the success of the organization. They’re just a body, but they’re of no more help than nobody.
I’d rather have a room of 3 board members who are actively engaged than 20 people who barely lift a finger.
Start With a Good Job Description
Recruiting good board members begins with a good job description.
Here’s an example:
- Attend and participate at regular board meetings (approximately 8 per year).
- Commitment to and passion for the mission and programs.
- Serve on at least one subcommittee of the board.
- Advocate for the organization to your contacts and networks.
- Give a significant annual donation ($10,000 minimum).
- Attend and bring people to organization fundraisers.
- Help support fundraising activities of the organization.
- Provide financial oversight and governance.
Simple, straightforward and clear. It spells out exactly what you expect and need.
How to Hire the Right Board Members
Now that you have a good job description, it’s time to identify potential board members.
First, identify skills and characteristics you want to have on your board. They include things like professional skills, networks, and diversity. Every board should have a lawyer, accountant, someone in finance and marketing. You also want someone who is an expert in your field (in other words, an educator in an educational organization and a doctor for a healthcare organization).
Next consider diversity…
- sexual orientation
If you don’t have anyone under the age of 40, it’s time for some young people. If you don’t have any women or people of color, you know what you need to do.
Diversity is important to your organization because diverse views will provide a well rounded and balanced perspective. Not only that, adding diversity to any board will broaden networks and connections to people and resources..
Once you have a list of qualities and skills you want on your board, look to your current board members to see what skills and characteristics are already represented.
Now you know what you need and what you already have, so you’re ready to start recruiting.
Without a supportive board, raising major gifts is far more difficult. This week’s Challenge Yourself action item includes two steps to help you start building a better board.
Challenge Yourself Action Item
Step 1: Prep a board member job description.
Write a board member job description that includes fundraising. When looking for new board members, be sure they receive a copy of the job description.
Keep this and all things related to board members as simple and straightforward as possible. Board members don’t have time to read through a detailed job description, and you don’t want to scare them off with needless detail.
Step 2: Identify skills and characteristics, and start recruiting.
Make a list or grid of the skills and characteristics you want and need on your board. Then, check off those already represented on your board. Now you know what skills and characteristics are lacking, so you can look for new board members based on those qualities.
Remember — fundraising is always part of the equation, so whether you’re looking for men or women, young or old, black or white… you’re looking for people who understand that fundraising is an integral part of their role as a board member.
Going Further with Major Gifts
Board members are such an important part of the fundraising process. That’s why my online course, Mastering Major Gifts, includes a full module dedicated to engaging your board members. The course goes much deeper into recruitment strategies, too.
So if you’re ready to take the next step in working with your board on raising major gifts, check out Mastering Major Gifts. It will help you and your board succeed.
Act, Comment and Participate
Now it’s your turn to comment and participate. Have you successfully recruited board members to help with fundraising? What challenges have you faced? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.