As we approach the end of the year, many nonprofit organizations are gearing up for the year-end fundraising push. Considering that nearly 30% of nonprofits raise 26-50% of their annual funds from their year-end appeal, and that nearly a third of annual giving across the United States happens in December — with nearly 12% in the last three days of December — it’s crucial to have all the pieces in place to effectively capture this flood of support!
While many of the pieces of an effective year-end fundraising push may seem obvious, what should be the most obvious resource in execution often goes unnoticed our underutilized. Any guesses what that resource might be?
I’m talking, of course, about your board!
If you are serving on the leadership staff of your organization, a prudent question to consider as the year draws to a close, is how your board could take your year-end giving to the next level. Account to BoardSource, a nonprofit resource organization purposed with inspiring and supporting excellence in nonprofit governance and leadership, the most successful organizations know that their boards should play a critical role in their fundraising and have built a strong collaborative partnership between the board and leadership staff.
So let’s get specific. How can nonprofits better engage their board in year-end fundraising?
Establishing fundraising (and giving) as an expectation
According the most recent edition of Leading with Intent, establishing expectations for board fundraising is linked to stronger board engagement. In fact, this study found that when fundraising expectations are not clearly articulated (especially during recruitment), only 12 percent of executives report that their boards are actively engaged in fundraising efforts.
With this in mind, make sure to take time with and without your board to examine what expectations have been and are being set for board involvement in fundraising. This candidness in expectation will communicate the level of involvement you wish to see from your board in your organization’s fundraising.
Tapping into your board’s personal networks
Undoubtedly, each of your board members has been recruited for their knowledge and expertise, both of which lend themselves to the responsible and effective governance of your organization. And while both knowledge and expertise are certainly key qualifiers for an effective board member, it would be a mistake to stop there!
What I mean to say is that the civically engaged and undoubtedly kind-hearted folks on your board also bring with them a robust network of potential donors!
In your next fundraising strategy board discussion, consider dropping the question of who in each board members respective networks may be a future donor. With your board members’ personal relationships with these individuals, bringing them on as donors will be all the easier as a connection to the organization is primed and ready to be established.
Thinking beyond “The Ask”
A common issue cited when it comes to board fundraising is that some board members are not comfortable “making an ask,” which is totally understandable and legitimate! The good news here is that there is no shortage of ways individuals who meet this description can support your organization’s fundraising.
- Advocating for the organization by sharing its mission and why it is personally important
- Attending board training opportunities related to fundraising
- Participating in board discussions to assist in developing and evaluating the organization’s fundraising strategies
- Identifying and evaluate donor prospects
- Thanking donors for their gifts
- Attending and inviting guests to fundraising events (how about that year-end gala coming up?)
- Cultivating gifts by discussing the organization’s work and successes with colleagues, and informing the necessary individuals about potential donors’ level of interest
- Hosting fundraising events
- Participating in face-to-face meetings with staff members and potential donors
To conclude, Leading with Intent has reported consistently over the past several years that board chairs and chief executives ranked fundraising as the biggest challenge area facing boards today, and less than half of chief executives surveyed in this study responded that their boards actively participate in fundraising. But this doesn’t have to be the case as we close out the year!
As your drafting your next board meeting agenda, consider making the board’s involvement in your year-end fundraising priority number one. When 2019 arrives, you and your new, motivated team of fundraisers will no doubt hit the ground running.