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Board members help ensure that your nonprofit organization has the funds it needs to succeed. From making personal contributions to raising awareness for your cause, board fundraising can be a powerful force in your development efforts. However, for board members to fulfill their duties and positively represent your organization, you need to be forthright about what you expect from them.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to set board fundraising expectations that encourage them to drive results on your behalf. But first, let’s discuss the importance of setting clear expectations for board members.
Why board fundraising expectations matter
As organizational leaders, board members should be active in your fundraising efforts, whether they lead meetings, build relationships with major donors, or solicit donations. Their support can help expand your donor network and drive results. In a recent poll, 93% of donors who received a phone call from a board member said they felt more inclined to give again, and 84% said they would give a larger gift.
To achieve these results, you need to provide members with the right resources, inspire them to increase their support, and set clear expectations about their duties.
4 tips for setting board fundraising expectations
To engage your board in fundraising, try these tips to help members understand your expectations and increase their involvement.
1. Get the board chair involved early
Ensure that your board chair is prepared to coordinate fundraising committee meetings and guarantee that the board is on track to achieve their goals. A knowledgeable leader will understand how to boost other board members’ enthusiasm and get them invested in your fundraising campaigns.
Work with the board chair to set preliminary board fundraising expectations. For instance, consider creating a signed agreement for new board members that lists their fundraising responsibilities and includes a conflict of interest policy. When board members review and sign the agreement, they should have no doubts or confusion about your expectations. Plus, enforcing signatures protects your board from liability issues when engaging in fundraising.
2. Revise board member job descriptions
Next, review your board member job descriptions with your governance committee. If these listings don’t already include fundraising or donating as a responsibility, add clear language that articulates the level or range of gifts each board member should make and the fundraising activities you expect them to participate in.
You should also develop specific fundraising roles for each board member based on their skills and background. Common roles include:
- Ambassadors: Ambassadors attend events and reach out to donors to raise awareness for your fundraising campaigns.
- Connectors: Connectors seek out foundations and government agencies that can provide discretionary grants to your organization or advocate on your behalf.
- Solicitors: Solicitors oversee major donor fundraising by serving as a point of contact to prospects and making asks.
- Stewards: Board members tasked with stewardship are in charge of building relationships with donors through outreach activities like thank-you letters and phone calls.
Once the governance committee feels comfortable with these proposed additions, present the job descriptions to the full board for approval. Board members can then choose which fundraising activities they are best suited for.
3. Empower board members to succeed
Now that your board has agreed to embrace fundraising more fully, set them up for success. Throughout the year, your team should:
- Share a summary of your annual development plan to ensure that the board understands what your fundraising goals entail, how your multi-channel activities work together, and how they can get involved.
- Provide progress reports and point out specific ways they can help.
- Offer training on trends in fundraising and best practices in building long-lasting donor relationships.
- Create educational resources like checklists and sample elevator speeches for donor outreach activities.
Consider pairing new board members with experienced staff or more seasoned members to increase their comfort with fundraising and help them assume more responsibility over time.
4. Solicit feedback from board members
At the beginning of each fiscal year, sit down with each board member to discuss what their role will be in your upcoming fundraising campaigns. Ask them about their capacity to give and their availability to attend events, meetings, and training sessions. Then, confirm the types of support they will need from staff to fulfill their duties. For instance, if your board member serves as an ambassador to your organization, they may need assistance in finding appropriate event venues and curating guest lists.
Sample board fundraising expectations
[Name of organization] board of directors: Individualized fundraising plan
Board members of [name of organization] are each expected to make an annual gift in an amount that is personally significant to them. Gifts may be pledged and paid over monthly or quarterly installments throughout the fiscal year, paid by gifts of appreciated securities, or to include matching gifts from your employer.
My personal donation for [fiscal year]: $____________________
My company will match this amount: $____________________
Additionally, board members are expected to participate in donor development activities and set goals in those areas. It is important that each board member commits to at least one of the following donor development activities.
- Attend [name of organization] events and send information on donors and prospects to staff.
- Invite friends, colleagues, and/or relatives to [name of organization] events.
- Host an event to educate new supporters about our programs and raise money. As the host, you will find an appropriate venue and underwrite the cost of food and drink.
- Months that are best for me: _______________
- Provide a list of prospects for donor cultivation and solicitation. The development director and fundraising committee will work one-on-one with you to develop an effective strategy for inviting your family, friends, or colleagues to support the work of [name of organization].
- Arrange a prospective donor meeting with an individual, corporation, foundation, or governmental agency that can provide new funding to [name of organization]. Solicitation of prospective funding is more effective when personal contact is made.
- Scan through annual reports, newspapers, and databases for prospects and send them to staff.
- Take charge of major donor fundraising by serving as a contact, participating in meetings, and/or making asks. Raising unrestricted funds is an important component of [name of organization]’s fundraising plan, and solicitations from major donors are an important strategy.
- My goal to raise through major donor fundraising: $________________
- Solicit a sponsor for an event. Events are an important opportunity to solicit corporate sponsorship or to invite the support of other potential donors. We will let the board know in advance about the scheduled events so you have enough time to solicit sponsors.
- My goal to raise through an event: $________________
- Make thank-you calls to donors and supporters. This activity involves calling and/or emailing donors just to say “thanks.” It is an opportunity to acknowledge their support, answer any questions, and learn more about the donor. You will be given information and assistance to make these thank-you calls.
- Write notes to major donors on event invitations, annual solicitation letters, etc.
Please include other ways that you can help raise funds for the organization, such as procuring auction items or volunteering at events.
My overall fundraising goal: $______________________
I agree to fulfill the above-stated fundraising goals to the best of my ability.
Board Member Date
Next steps: Implement your board fundraising expectations
As you implement your board fundraising expectations, ensure that your own expectations are realistic. Expect the transition to take time, and set achievable goals for your board. This way, board members can demonstrate their progress in accepting a new dimension to their volunteer leadership and be empowered to drive a greater fundraising impact than ever before.
For more tips on board fundraising expectations, check out our webinar about how to Transform Your Board into a Team of Fundraising Champions.