Clients often ask about how to engage their board in their major gift fundraising operations. I feel board engagement is essential to any nonprofit, with a true sense of urgency for those organizations with limited staff and budgets, or those embarking on a campaign. Below is a list of things to think about when it comes to involving board members in your major gift development program:
- Identifying willing participants: Start by identifying members of your board who may be willing and able to participate in your fundraising process. They need to have a thorough understanding of what you expect of them, both in terms of requested activities and time commitment. Clear expectations will produce better cooperation and overall success.
- Peer reviews/screening: Being well-connected is one of the many benefits of business and community leaders being on your board. Simply produce a list of identified prospects for your board to review and see who they may know on this list, or if they know someone who may know someone on your list. This list can be pulled from a query produced of recent and/or consistent donors, donors who have recently given over a certain threshold ($250+, $500+, $1,000+, etc.), or those who have recently increased their level of giving to your organization. You may also have a list of prospects identified from a modeling or wealth screening project, or you could simply have a list of suspects where you have some anecdotal information that suggests that they might be capable of giving larger gifts to your organization. Either way, if you have some research on these prospects from information you have gathered and/or from a wealth screening, see if the board can help with confirming what you or your screening vendor uncovered. Can they help with qualifying or disqualifying a prospect from your list of potential major donors? Below are some caveats to think about when sharing information on your prospects with your board:
- It is imperative that you establish protocols, both for ethical and legal reasons in terms of confidentiality, as to what type of information and amount of data you should share with your board.
- Specific assets are possibly best kept confidential within the organization and not shared with board members.
- Think about the format in which you wish to present the data to your board members – Electronic or paper-based access to abbreviated profile reports, etc
- Providing introductions: Can they warm up these prospects by providing an introduction and/or some level of access to these prospects and donors? Setting a timeline with suggested dates of completion behind these activities would be recommended vs. leaving it open-ended. Bottom line is to get buy-in and commitment from your board members to warm-up these prospects up for you to begin the cultivation process.
- Fundraising for your cause: I have been involved in some smaller grass roots organizations where board members were involved in asking for campaign gifts. Depending upon your organization’s policies and structure, this could be a critical role in helping you achieve your goals.
- Board leadership gifts: Board members typically provide lead gifts for campaigns. Even if you have board members involved who do not have the means to make leadership gifts, asking them to make a campaign gift at a smaller level is a way to ensure their commitment and involvement in your organization’s success. Too many times I’ve seen passive board involvement in terms of giving to the nonprofits in which they serve, and nothing sells the message of major and capital gift donations with statements like, “Please join me in helping XYZ organization with the ability to provide continuing service to our community by…”
- Power of the written word: Major donors and prospects gain confidence in your organization’s mission if your website, direct mail, email, and social media communications contain messaging from board members. Ask them to include a story about why they are involved in your organization and why they give to your nonprofit.
When all is said and done, having an engaged and active board will be an integral part to your organization’s success.
*Carol Belair is a consultant for Target Analytics and you may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.