Ask most folks in the Nonprofit sector and they’ll tell you that Nonprofit board members are responsible fundraising and governance (usually in that order). Unfortunately, as revealed in Leading with Intent: BoardSource Index of Nonprofit Board Practices 2021, such a high emphasis on fundraising comes at the expense of organizational strategy, relevance and impact.
That said, fundraising is an essential responsibility for board members. It starts with each board member making a personally significant financial donation. Then, board members must participate in fundraising.
So, how are board members doing when it comes to fundraising?
There’s an axiom in fundraising that 5% of a Nonprofit’s donors account for 95% of the organization’s revenue. Almost the same can be said for board members and fundraising – it’s usually 2 to 3 board members doing 95% of the board’s fundraising work.
Why aren’t more board members involved in fundraising?
Two words: “The Ask”.
Too many Nonprofits equate fundraising with “The Ask”. They expect their board members to ask their friends and assign each board member donors to ask for gifts. But to most nonprofit board members – making “The Ask” rates up there with dentist visits, spiders, and public speaking.
Luckily, there are many ways to get involved in fundraising that don’t involve making “the ask”. In fact, “The Ask” represents about 4% of the fundraising cycle. That means 96% of the fundraising cycle provides many opporutnities for board members to get involved in fundraising that don’t involve “The Ask”.
Nonprofits run into trouble when these percentages are out of whack – when board members feel like they are only needed to provide their list of contacts and to make “the ask”. Moreover, donors feel like ATMs when the only time they are engaged by the nonprofit involves an ask.
It’s essential that every board member becomes involved in fundraising, somewhere in the cycle. Comfort levels need not be trampled, as there are many activities, and board members often gain confidence and seek out other activities over time.
This is why I created the Philanthropy Menu – to meet board members where they are and activate them in fundraising and donor engagement!
This menu lets board members explore and define their personal role in the nonprofit’s philanthropic activities. They select the activities they will participate in and quantify how involved they will be – e.g. I will invite 10 of my personal contacts to the breakfast event, I will raise $2,500, I will join the Executive Director in six meetings with donors to thank them for their recent gifts, etc.
Board members fill out the menu and track their progress throughout the year. It’s also a great way for the board’s Fundraising Committee to check-in with board members throughout the year to help each board member succeed.
Nonprofits using the Philanthropy Menu have dramatically increased their board’s involvement in philanthropy and fundraising. Board members realize that philanthropy is much more than “The Ask”, and the menu moves them past any fears they had of fundraising and replaces it with inspiration.
As a result, board members share their excitement and passion for the nonprofit with others, and become even more involved in fundraising and donor engagement over time. Moreover, the nonprofit engages their board in authentic donor engagement which raises more money and builds stronger relationships with donors over time.
Let us know how you put the Philanthropy Menu to work in your nonprofit!
Mike is a recognized expert, thought leader, advisor and speaker in the Nonprofit world. Over the past four decades, Mike served as an Executive Director, COO, see more