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12 Questions About the Role of the Board in Fundraising

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Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, recently joined us for a webinar in which she discussed the role the board plays on the development team. The presentation sparked a lot of discussion. Below, Linda answers a few pressing questions from the webinar attendees on the subject of the board’s role in fundraising:

1. How can the development director influence board recruitment when they are not responsible?

Be sure the executive director is part of the governance committee committee and understands the importance of the board’s role in fundraising.

2. Is it a normal procedure to have your development director be a voting member of your board?

I honestly have not heard of this before, but many groups have their ED as voting members. I advise against having any staff members be voting members of the board. It can cause conflicts of interest and put staff in an awkward situation when being asked to vote on issues like salaries, dropping programs the staff member runs, etc.

3. What are expectations around board annual gift vs. giving a campaign gift? Can/should the board annual gift be wrapped into a campaign?  

If you are running a “comprehensive campaign,” this works, but make sure you make a compelling case for annual giving so that when the campaign pledge period ends, you don’t lose the emphasis on annual gifts.

4. If 100% of Board giving is important, and some are not in a financial position to give a relatively large amount, should all board members’ donation amount be visible to the entire board?

If the board members are comfortable with it, it is fine to do that. If each board member is giving at a meaningful level, they should not mind sharing the amount, but give them the choice to remain anonymous and just share the grand total.

5. Many of our supporters arrange for their law firm, corporation to give to our annual event. Is it OK to ask that person for an individual gift? How do you feel about a board member who is responsible for an annual gift from an estate of $25,000, but gives nothing personally? Do you consider a gift from a board member’s family foundation to count as a personal gift?

A gift from a company which does not directly affect the board members income, is not a personal gift, however if a board member is a sole proprietor and gives from a company owned solely by the board members, that is a different story. Board members should be expected to give a personal commitment. A gift from an estate or foundation if the source of that funding  is the word member’s personal money that is fine.

6. How much does each board member ideally give?

The dollar amount is not as important as 100% of the board making a gift at a meaningful level. Use the option of asking board members to make your organization one of their top two or three charitable priorities, so for some if could be $100, some $1,000, or even $100,000 or more.

7. Who should have this talk about giving, roles, etc. with the board, the founders, CEO and development team?

Often an outside consultant is the best person to lead this discussion, or it can come from another board member. Sometimes a board member from another nonprofit can encourage your board to understand the important of board giving.

8. Should you aim for a certain percentage of your budget to be raised by board contributions?

I think that is an individual decision by the board of each organization. Some groups rely more on grants, others more on individual gifts.

9. What can we do if we have a board member who refuses to give?

I would ask the board chair to have an one discussion with this board members about the importance of board giving, If that does not work, I would ask the board member to step down because you need to have 100 percent board involvement.

10. We have board members who want to cut off two offices from our building plan because we have yet to raise another $30k. What should we do?

You might talk to your consultant about extending the time for the campaign or going back to exiting donors, asking them to consider increasing the pledge.

11. What is the best way to evaluate the giving potential of board members?

Have the board appeal committee look at past giving of each board member, giving potential, amounts each board member gives to other organizations. The development staff should help with this research and work with the board appeal committee to establish an ask amount for each board member.

12. If board members are chosen by default, can they become the governance committee and organize a foundation? Would that be a solution?

A foundation might be a good step, or you can appoint a strong development committee—less legal work involved.

What questions do you have about the board’s role in fundraising? Let us know in the comments below!

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