Board members as fundraisers? It’s okay to just have a few.

As I’m a bit of a heretic in the profession, my belief that fundraising is a discretionary choice rather than a mandated responsibility for boards of directors in organizations with professional staff comes as something of an unwelcome surprise to some development staff and executive directors.

For years, fundraisers have bought into this unrealistic dogma: it’s the board’s job to fundraise. Which gets translated into: all board members have to fundraise. Which gets interpreted as  “my lack of success fundraising is really the board’s fault.” Which I think is a lack of accountability by staff.

But when I say to development directors, fundraising is your job, sometimes it is a welcome surprise.

In my workshop “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Working With Board Members,”  I discovered that many good fundraisers have felt for years that they were somehow failing because they couldn’t get 100% of their board members to participate in fundraising (not giving, but fundraising).  One experienced development director told me that even though she had a half dozen! board members she could count on to support fundraising, she still didn’t feel that she was succeeding.

Why, even the guru of fundraising Jerold Panas says “If you have three to four really great fundraising volunteers, you are luckier than most development officers! You will be successful.” See 15 Things I have Learned in my years of fundraising

Let’s be real. Fundraising is not a volunteer job that people jump onto a board primed for success. Or even want to participate in at all.  (Sure, sure, every board member can help thank donors… but will everyone?)

So, if you, the development professional whose job it is to raise funds need some board members to assist, you are going to have to work very very hard, one-on-one, to help them be successful. I’ll share some tips in my next column.

So start with a few – beginning with the ones who are ready and willing to step out of their comfort zone. And congratulate yourself on the successful progress you have made.


More reading on this topic:

How two volunteers plus gutsy determination equaled $11 million.

Banishing your expectation of board fundraising. Or, why does it feel so good when I stop?

If fundraising is a profession, why are we so angry with our amateur board members?

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