Impact of Listing Board Members on Nonprofit Letterhead
Nonprofit organizations often list their board members on their official letterhead. On the surface, this seems like a very minor thing. But as you dig deeper, it can cause a few hiccups when generating appeal letters, gift acknowledgments, and other types of communications.
Expert Opinion on Board Listings
Legendary direct response fundraiser Mal Warwick comments in Nonprofit World magazine:
“It depends how well your directors are known. In a small community where the board consists of the best-known names in town, a charity might well benefit by displaying its board list on the side of its direct-mail appeals. The same goes for a national organization that sports a truly star-studded board. But in any other circumstances, I believe that listing the board on the letterhead used in appeals is a mistake and is very likely to depress response.
The reason this is usually a poor idea is that lists of names invariably distract most readers. Lists get very high readership, and if your list isn’t calculated to increase the credibility of your appeal, you’re well-advised to leave it off. Many potential donors, seeing no names they recognize, will read no further.”
Donor-Centric Communication: Focusing on the Donor
Additionally, listing board members on letterhead takes away from one of the most foundational elements of good donor communications: making your letters and emails all about the donors. In the context of a letter to one of your donors, you want the donor as the hero, not your board. You don’t want to communicate: “Look how cool we are!” Instead, you want to communicate: “Look at how cool YOU are!”
Logistical Challenges and Exceptions
Think about what you are communicating when you list all of your board members prominently on your organization’s letterhead. Who are you making the focus? Additionally, whenever you have a change to who is serving on your board, you have to go out and print new letterhead or change all of your templates. The one potential exception, as Warwick says, would be if your organization happens to have nationally recognized figures on your board. But even then, your donor probably already knows this. Why put the focus back on your nationally recognized board?
Best Practices for Fundraising
Removing the names of your board members from your letterhead is a good first step in following proven fundraising best practice. Always remember to put the donor first, make them the hero of your story.