Creating a Fundraising Board

board development Feb 23, 2021

One way to build capacity for your organization is by strengthening the fundraising ability of your board. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “We can’t get our board to help with fundraising; they aren’t the ‘movers and shakers’ in town.” If this is a statement you have heard in your organization, read on!

While some organizations do not set fundraising as a priority for its board members, most nonprofits can benefit from having a board more actively using their connections to benefit the organization.

The key to getting your board to embrace fundraising lies in three simple steps—the recruitment process, assuring that board members are committed to the organization, and removing the fear of fundraising that is inherent in most people.

Recruiting the Right Way

 Often, boards are reluctant to fundraise because they have not been recruited with that purpose in mind. For many organizations, fundraising has never been a part of their culture for various reasons—perhaps in the past they relied on government funding, fees for service, or foundation grants. Then suddenly, when these funding sources shift priorities and income streams dry up, the organization decides it now needs to rethink fundraising and is stymied by how to introduce this concept to the board.

Even if the organization originally intended for its board to be involved in fundraising, many times, board recruiters are reluctant to use the “F” word for fear of scaring off potential board members. Many well-intentioned boards operate under the noble idea that, “once they get on our board and see the great work we are doing, they will want to go out and ask for money.” Wrong! If they have not been told up front that fundraising is a part of their role, they will not embrace it later when you decide to “slip it into” their job description.

One key concept to consider is who does the recruiting for new board members. Instead of a nominating committee that meets once a year to fill vacant seats, one recommended approach is to have a year-round board resource committee. (This committee can also be called the governance committee or the committee on directorship or any name with which your organizations feels comfortable) Whatever the title, the important things to remember about this committee are:

  • It should meet year round
  • It needs to be chaired by the strongest person on the board
  • Its duties include doing an assessment of board performance, both the board as a whole, and of individual board members
  • It is responsible for developing or refining board position descriptions
  • It evaluates the needs of the board and develops a profile of the kinds of people that are needed to fill vacancies on the board
  • It works with the board to help find the right people to fill board positions
  • It assures diversity on the board
  • It implements, along with senior staff members of the organization, board orientation
  • It is responsible for ongoing education of the board.

A board resource committee, working thoughtfully, diligently and on an ongoing basis can make all the difference in the world between an effective, enthused, and inspired board and a lackadaisical board that does not understand its role in advancing the organization's mission and is reluctant to get involved in the fundraising process.  One of the key roles of this important committee is to develop a board position description that includes a required financial contribution from each board member as well as the expectation that each board member be involved in the organization's fundraising efforts through attendance at events, planning development activities, and helping to identify, cultivate, and solicit potential donors.

This committee is also responsible for assuring that the position descriptions are not glossed over during the recruitment process and to make sure that each potential board member understands that fundraising is an important part of his or her role as a board member. They must be expected to deal with potential board members that are obviously reluctant to accept this responsibility.  It is better to turn away a prospective board member who is not willing to get involved in fundraising, than to ‘fill a seat with a warm body’ just so the committee can say it has met its expectation to bring on a certain number of new board members each year. The reluctant fundraiser may instead be invited to serve on a committee or in some other volunteer position, other than being invited to serve as on the board.

Once you have a board that understands its role in fundraising and consists of members who have a true passion for your mission, it will be easy to get them motivated to embrace this role.

Take the fear out of fundraising by providing ongoing training and education about fundraising for the board. You can provide a fifteen-minute segment at each board meeting on some aspect of fundraising and/or periodic all-day training sessions on important aspects of your fundraising program. You can also invite board members to attend the Be the Best Board Member You Can Be course offered by

Teaming up board members with another board member, a staff member, or a volunteer more experienced in fundraising will help put the reluctant board member at ease.

Once your board understands the art and science of fundraising, they’ll be more inclined to get involved.

If you want to learn more about building your board, and helping them understand the fundraising process, take my course, Build a Great Board, Sign up here


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