Note: Remember the once-a-week Prince Spaghetti Day? From here on out on the Nonprofiteer, Thursday is Management Advice Day. So don’t get crazy, get M.A.D., and let the Nonprofiteer solve all your nonprofit leadership dilemmas! Send your questions as comments here on the blog, or click "E-mail the Nonprofiteer" in the left-hand margin, below.
My Board of Directors is a policy board, not a fundraising board. How can I get Board members to help with fundraising? Signed, Poor by Policy
I don’t know where this "policy board" idea came from–a nonprofit’s Board of Directors is financially responsible for the agency, by law. Board members can have all the policy opinions they like; these won’t prevent them from being personally liable out of their own pockets if, say, the agency neglects to pay Federal withholding taxes.
So, being an advocate of shock therapy, the Nonprofiteer thinks the first thing you should do is share this salient fact with your Board. If members of the Board truly don’t want that kind of buck-stops-here governance responsibility, they will tender their resignations, and good riddance to bad rubbish. (You may smooth this process, if you like, by creating an Advisory Board. Those venerable kicking-upstairs places really are policy boards–that is, groups of people expressing opinions to which no one pays attention.)
But cooler heads note the superiority of honey over vinegar, so the Nonprofiteer hastens to add that she suspects the mantra "We’re not a fundraising Board" reflects a fear of the unknown and, in fact, translates as, "We’re not a bunch of people in designer suits who can sit down with captains of industry, chuckle about our common prep-school experiences and walk away with a check for $50,000." The key thing to convey to your Board is that fundraising is not a mysterious black art practiced by people with those occult things called "contacts"–it’s something everyone can do. If you believe in an agency, you can persuade other people to believe in it. If they believe in it, you can persuade them to open their wallets for it.
Of course, "believing in an agency" means "putting your money where your mouth is;" so your real first step, PBP, is to get every member of your Board to make a gift to your group. If you already have a written statement of expectations about Board member donations, sit down with your Board president and work out how to enforce it; if you don’t, sit down with your Board president (or, if s/he doesn’t give, another Board member who does) and figure out how you two are going to ask for cash gifts from every member of the Board. Then, do it. You’ll be amazed how willing people are to impoverish others once they’ve impoverished themselves.
So, again, step-by-step: tell Board members they’ve already got financial responsibility. Reassure them fundraising is something they can do. Secure a gift from each of them–one at a time, please, no general "everybody give something" appeals at meetings. (People can hide in crowds.) Then ask each of them to give you the name of a SINGLE person to be invited to your next fundraising event, or included in your next fundraising mailing, or recruited to the Board of Directors for his/her financial prowess.
Then–to return to our advertising theme–it’ll be like that shampoo commercial where "you tell two friends–and they tell two friends–and so on, and so on." You create a fundraising Board one member at a time, one gift at a time, one friend-to-invite at a time. Go get ’em, tiger!