Build a board that brings the bucks | npENGAGE

Build a Nonprofit Board that can Bring the Bucks

By on Sep 25, 2013


For those of you who don’t know me, I am a fundraiser.  I actually LIKE to raise money.  I feel like it is a worthy calling and something I’m rather good at as well.  I realize that I’m a rare breed – which is why I get asked to serve on boards very often.

The real situation is that I love to raise money for causes that I care about.  I am also really picky.  I want to see the financials including a salary report.  Now, of course, I have an advantage.  I work at Blackbaud, have my CFRE and more than 12 years of experience working for nonprofits.  I get it.  Without fundraising, nonprofits cannot survive.  We as nonprofit professionals have to remember that not everyone “gets it” and few are really good at it.

We all get cranky when boards don’t see fundraising as part of their job, including those of us who carry the load for those folks who can’t be bothered.  At the end of the day, though, some of us are just better at it than others.  There are ways to get them involved.  It takes a little more than just saying it

When you first learned how to drive, someone had to teach you.  You observed, you studied, and you learned.  Then you drove.

We have to take the same approach with our Board of Directors.   We have to be teachers, be coaches.  We have to:

Be focused.

Does every board member understand your mission and what you really do?  If not, bring them in for a hands-on session.  Let them shadow your staff for a day.   Help them SEE what you do.  This will help focus their energy.

Also, every year as part of your planning , there should be a development plan done that accompanies your strategic plan.  Think of it this way, how are you going to do the things you want, if you don’t have the money to do it?  Then stay focused on the plan.  How much will be brought in through direct mail or on-line giving and how much through other programs such as events or your annual giving campaign?  Now, make assignments.

Be thoughtful

Matching the skills of your board members to the needs of your campaign will help them stay engaged.  But this takes thoughtful consideration on the part of the primary fundraiser in your organization.  Just because Mrs. Jones is very affluent doesn’t mean she has affluent friends.  She probably does but she may not be comfortable asking them for support.  What DOES she like to do?  Help match her skills to your needs as a focus of your development plan.

Be innovative

There is a process to fundraising and it’s not just about making the ask.  There is cultivation activities, research, introductions that should be made, letters to write and the list goes on.  It helps to include some innovation in your fundraising that can help people get excited.

Many nonprofit professionals complain about the lack of fundraising support from their board buy they don’t take the time to educate them on the process of fundraising.  Conversely, most boards don’t understand what they should be doing.  Make fundraising an agenda item at every board meeting and allow your members to share their success.  Next thing you know, you will have that board that can bring home the bucks.


Debbi Stanley is manager of the Blackbaud client success team. As certified fundraising executive, Debbi has raised more than $15 million for nonprofit agencies and is a recognized expert in strategic, succession and resource development planning. During her nonprofit career, she served in many positions including development director for health and human services agencies and she was a successful consultant teaching nonprofits approaches to organizational development that properly leverage resources for project sustainability. Her expertise in situational leadership and her knowledge of funding strategies has helped hundreds of nonprofits do more for their communities. An avid fan, Debbi is blessed to have two sons who are great athletes at both forms of football – the American and the International version.

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