This article is excerpted from Andy Robinson’s new book, Great Boards for Small Groups, published by Emerson & Church. For more information about the book, visit www.emersonandchurch.com or call 508-359-0019.
A big barrier to successful board fundraising is the tendency to require all trustees to participate in the same activities and meet the same benchmarks: identify 20 prospects, sell 20 raffle tickets, apologize 20 times when asking for money, and so forth. Since we all begin with varied interests, abilities, and levels of commitment, a regimented approach like this is bound to fail.
To remove the barrier, help your board members create personalized fundraising agreements that meet their needs, honor their limitations, and encourage them to participate in a meaningful way.
Here’s how it works. After putting your heads together to develop the menu and prioritize options as discussed in the last chapter, board members take turns choosing:
- Their preferred strategies
- Timing – when they would like to be involved
- How much money they believe each activity will raise
- Any help they might need from other trustees and staff to complete their commitment
To make this work, you’ll need to identify and prepare a few board members to speak first, show some enthusiasm, and be specific. These leaders set the proper tone, which helps other trustees to get over any resistance or self-consciousness about verbalizing their commitments. Your goal is to develop an agreement that looks something like this:
I, Andy Robinson, agree to:
- Donate $50 per month for the next year, for a total annual gift of $600. I will provide my bank account information so the gift can be deducted automatically each month from my account. I will need the staff to help with the paperwork.
- In November, I will mail holiday letters asking my friends and family to make contributions to our organization instead of sending me more holiday gifts I don’t need. I will write the letter, but would like someone else to look it over before I send it. I expect that 10 people will respond with donations of $25 each, for a total of $250.
- Join staff on five major donor visits between January and March. I don’t know how much money these meetings will yield, but I hope that one donor will give $500 and another $1,000. I’ll do my best to help identify prospects, but I am willing to meet with individuals I don’t know, as long as staff sets up the meetings.
The conversation continues around the table with each person laying out his or her individual fundraising plan. While this is happening, someone types notes into the computer. After everyone has spoken, print these documents and have them signed by the chair and each respective board member. Then make photocopies for the individual trustees, the staff, and the board leader – perhaps the chair of the fundraising committee – who will oversee follow-through on these commitments.
The board fundraising agreement reinforces the idea that everyone must participate, but allows a range of choices in how they participate. It shifts the discussion from, “Will you help with fundraising?” to “How will you help with fundraising?”
For a more detailed description of this strategy, see the article “53 Ways for Board Members to Raise $1,000” by Kim Klein, available from the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, www.grassrootsfundraising.org.
Setting Goals for Board Giving and Getting
With any volunteer activity, including board service, there is often a gap between intention and results. Board members tend to make commitments they can’t keep. Most people want to do the right thing, but it’s also easy to avoid tasks they don’t really want to do, such as raising money. To encourage accountability and follow-through, consider setting collective goals for:
- Board giving – how much trustees donate from their own pockets – and
- Board fundraising – how much you collectively raise from other sources.
These goals can be included as specific line items in your annual operating budget.
The first goal requires a frank discussion at the beginning of the budget year. “If we combine our personal gifts,” the trustees are asked, “how much do we think we can give? Are we a $2,000 board? A $10,000 board? What number should we shoot for?” If desired, each individual’s gift can remain confidential because it is blended into the shared number.
The best strategy is to debate the number, set a tentative goal, hand out pledge forms, ask each trustee to write down the amount of his or her annual gift, and collect the forms.
The board chair, perhaps joined by fundraising staff, leaves the room, tallies up the gifts, and returns to the meeting to report the total. If the goal is met, everybody cheers. If not, trustees can choose to dig a little deeper, which is usually the best choice, or lower the target to reflect the current reality.
The second line item – board fundraising – can be handled in a similar way: add up each individual’s fundraising commitments (see the previous chapter) to reach a collective target for how much money board members will raise on their own initiative.
For example, trustees can decide to seek donations to underwrite a specific line item in the budget – maybe you want to fund a new part-time staff position, or there’s a piece of equipment you really need in the clinic – and then create a fundraising campaign around that line item or project.
By designating budget lines for board giving and board fundraising, you increase accountability. Each time trustees review the budget, these line items stand out. If the board benchmarks aren’t being met, it’s nearly impossible to blame the staff.
About the Author: Andy Robinson is the author of Great Boards for Small Groups, a companion volume to Big Gifts for Small Groups. This article is excerpted from the former. For more information on either book, visit http://www.emersonandchurch.com or call 508-359-0019.