I will admit to you that I’ve been critical of boards in this blog. I guess that is because I’m with non-profit leaders and MGOs so much that I see how they struggle mightily to get their boards “on board” in helping them with major gifts.
Now, I’m not going to say that I’ll be less critical of boards in the future, but after spending a couple of days with one recently, I definitely have more empathy with them for their lack of performance with their non-profits.
After getting to know this board in particular over the last few days, what I came away with was the fact that, in many cases, there was simply a lack of communication and understanding about the role they were expected to play in fundraising. But, once that was figured out, the willingness I saw by board members to actively participate was shocking!
Quite honestly, board members have the ability to take your major gift program to a completely different level. This is why I want to share this two-part series that will focus on, 1) what board members can do to help your organization become successful at major gifts and, 2) what YOUR organization can do to help board members become successful.
Yep, you heard me right. What can YOU do to make YOUR board members successful? I don’t hear that question being asked much. But first, let’s start with how BOARDS can help YOU. Imagine yourself in front of the entire board of directors. They are there just to hear YOU talk about how they can be of service to you. These are the three points you want to make directly to each board member.
- Personal Philanthropy—Every board member of a non-profit should give of their own resources. There is not even a question if this is right or not. If you are on a board of directors of a non-profit, you must give. The amount, of course, is up to you…unless the organization has a minimum amount for its board members. Depending on the size of the organization this is perfectly acceptable. There is no give or get. There is give AND get. I’ve talked to many board members who get offended when I say this. That’s fine, but if you feel this way, don’t sit on a board. If you can’t give at least $1 of your own money to the non-profit on whose board you sit, something is wrong. How can you ask others to support the organization if you, yourself, aren’t giving? This is critical. All board members need to give of their own money. Period.
- Steward, Cultivate and Ask—Another way a board member can help the major gift program is to work alongside the staff to steward, cultivate and ask a donor for gifts. In other words, as a board member, you need to be open to working with your organization’s staff to help nurture relationships. And, in some cases, you may actually go on donor visits, which could include a solicitation from YOU. Think about it. If you have the best relationship with a donor, why shouldn’t you, as the board member, make the ask? You should. To know that you, as a board member, are willing and able to help the staff is a HUGE help!
- Be an Evangelist—All board members should be out there telling the story of their organization to everyone in their sphere of influence. Yes, evangelizing the mission is critical for the major gift program. MGOs are out there cultivating donors…not hunting for prospects. This is where you come in. Helping your organization find new, qualified major donors is just a tremendous part of your work as a board member. Whether you know it or not, YOU have influence. Use it for good. Bring those who you know would benefit from partnering with your organization into the fold.
There you go. Now, after you deliver your speech to the board, you can sit down and feel good that you have communicated very clearly what their expectations are to help you grow the major gift program. Believe me, your board will be very appreciative.
Next time we’ll get into what YOU and YOUR organization can do to help your board members be successful. I can’t wait!