In the charitable sector executives are often asked, “Is your board a fundraising board?”
As a former governance volunteer and a professional nonprofit executive, I believe all charity board members should be active in fundraising and if not, they should resign. Sounds harsh?
Every charity needs a healthy culture of philanthropy and this starts with the leadership from each and every governance volunteer. Board members serve as role models to employees, donors and all other stakeholders and this includes demonstrating support with all facets of the fundraising cycle.
- Board members collectively set the strategic direction of the charity. Overall strategy cannot be divorced from the realities of fundraising especially now in a time of accelerated change and financial pressure on the sector and the economy. Fundraising is both a strategic imperative and a driver for future success.
- Governance volunteers working alongside executive management determine the charity’s business model. Boards need to be well-informed of current and future trends in philanthropy to make responsible decisions that can have a direct impact on meeting fundraising/ revenue goals.
- Annual operational budgets receive final approval from the board of directors and by doing so boards inherently accept the shared responsibility for the desired financial results. While executive management does the heavy lifting on running the operations, governance volunteers should have some level of engagement in fundraising.
- Included in the budget approval is an agreement of the revenue mix and operational expenditures for the year and for the years ahead. While engaging in this discussion, boards must align financial goals with mission, policy, service plans, board succession and other critical factors that impact financial accountability and achieving short and long-term results.
- Board Committees, such as risk management and audit, human resources, marketing and nominations, all have vital roles of governance impacting operations and fundraising. Through these committees and the board as a whole they make essential decisions that mitigate risk, steward a culture of philanthropy and ensure the elements are in place for the financial sustainability of the organization. Board decisions at every level should be framed with an ecological mindset.
- Through the nominations process a board member should expect to be a donor. Providing a personal financial gift sets an example to all stakeholders each board member is committed beyond that of their volunteer time. I believe deeply if you accept the role to govern then you agree to provide an annual gift.
- Board appointments are made because candidates bring their skills, knowledge and influence to serve in the best interest of the charity. It’s a relationship-based business world as it has always been for charities. Referral and donor stewardship are corner stones to effective fundraising and every board member needs to actively be engaged in supporting the process.
- Providing active leadership and support to the executive team and the fundraising professionals is a responsibility of each board member. This comes in many forms and should be discussed openly to ensure everyone is clear about their role in the process of fund development. These contributions can be in the form of donor referrals, accompanying staff on donor calls or leading the ask to other volunteers.
Board members are well positioned ambassadors to raise funds. Although not a primary function of a governance volunteer nonetheless fundraising is an individual and shared responsibility that needs to seize every opportunity.
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Author, Keith D Publicover is a Toronto based Charity Impact and NonProfit Management Consultant with more than 30 years in the Sector. He owns/operates the social enterprise – Resolute Clothing Co which raises financial resources from products sold to support vulnerable youth.