Eight Tips to Involve Your Board in Fund Raising

By Richard I. Male

1. Energize your board members at the regular meetings by starting and ending on time and showing specific and tangible progress on organizational goals. Conduct educational sessions to explain a community issue or teach specific skills so that your board members are constantly learning new information.

2. Conduct yearly retreats where you establish organizational and fund raising goals, review activities for the year, let people get to know each other better, and have fun.

3. Become as visible as you can within your community. An increased investment in public relations and marketing will create visibility so you will have name recognition when asking people for money. Ask board members to set up speaking engagements at their civic group, or their church or synagogue. Encourage them to write letters, articles or op-ed pieces for the local newspaper as a way to gain free exposure.

4. Bearing in mind the shift from federal government to state and local funding, find ways to position yourself better with local and state officials. Invite them (or their key staff representative ) to serve on your board or a committee. Remind your board members to write letters to their elected representatives about issues of importance to your organization.

5. Ask board members to give you the names of ten friends who might be interested in your organization and to write personal notes on the donor request letters. This will help to build your organization's database of prospective donors.

6. Survey board members and volunteers to find out where they bank, shop, conduct business, or attend church or synagogue. Contacts with service clubs such as Lions or Rotary can be particularly valuable. Use this information as a strategic tool to target new funders. Your board members will serve as "door openers" when you approach these places for resources. Remember that cash donations and in-kind contributions are equally valuable.

7. When recruiting new board members, set high expectations. Don't rely on the "trickle" effect of easing them in slowly. Make sure they hit the ground running and get involved in projects right away. If board members aren't actively working on important issues within three meetings, they fall into a routine of doing the minimum and you'll never get them energized to raise funds.

8. Remember the personal touch. Keep track of your board members' birthdays and other important anniversaries and send flowers or a card to mark the occasion. If a board member appears in the newspaper, reprint the article and share it with the staff and other trustees. Recognize their accomplishments publicly and provide any criticism in private.

Board members want to help. They want to raise money for a cause they care about. New board members are excited and enthusiastic about their commitment. Make sure that your expectations about raising money are clear and in writing for all board members. "I didn't know I was supposed to raise money" is a common complaint from reluctant board members. If the rules are clear and you provide the training and resources to help them in the job, you'll hear: "How much am I supposed to raise and where shall I start?"

Rich Male is founder of the Community Resource Center, which has provided leadership and training services to over 3,000 nonprofits nationwide. This article is excerpted from "How to Involve Your Board in Fund Raising" from the 2000-2002 New Jersey Grants Guide.