Listen up, Boards!

Deborah Halpern of DGH Communications in Chicago draws our attention to a bulletin she received from Weisman Hamlin Public Relations in Los Angeles (how did we live before the Internet?), laying down the law on the role of nonprofit Boards:

The Board Hates To Raise Money

Most board members hate to ask for money. Yet, it is their main function as board members. It is their fiduciary responsibility to the organization. Failure to fund raise should be grounds for ejection from serving on the board.

When the board says they want to hold a fund raiser, make sure they understand they will be the main resource for raising those funds. It is illogical and unethical to rely solely on staff to do the fund raising. Staff can support fund raising efforts, staff can and should do grant application work, but raising funds is the main responsibility of the board.

Contact your local or statewide non-profit association for help on this issue. Such associations often hold workshops for board and staff on fund raising matters.

By Sydney Weisman.  From Good Press for Nonprofits: Elevate Your Media Profile, Weisman Hamlin Public Relations 2114 Fifth Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90018 323-730-0233 Contact: David Hamlin, david@whpr.com (c) 2005.  Used by permission.  WHPR’s Free Tips really are absolutely free and available by subscription at www.whpr.com.  These Tips, which cover a full spectrum of media management, marketing and PR as a fundraising tool, are available to one and all.

"Grounds for ejection from serving on the board"!  How nice to encounter someone even more doctrinaire on this important subject than the Nonprofiteer.

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2 Responses to “Listen up, Boards!”

  1. Edie Canter Says:

    I’ve got to disagree on this one. Some boards and some board members are not charged with fundraising as their principal responsibility. That may be appropriate. Take the case of an organization serving an impoverished community that includes members of that impoverished community on the board. Sure, those board members could “ask” for money for the organization. But given their own financial straits and their likely lack of connections with people of means, how much money are they likely to raise? Still, there are undoubtedly many good reasons to keep those board members on. They may have much to offer the organization in the way of direct community experience, volunteer abilities, guidance in programming, etc. Finally, “illegal and unethical?” Show me the law that says it’s illegal for board members not to raise money. And show me the basis for saying it’s “unethical.” Sure, if you agree to raise money as part of your board responsibilities, it may be unethical for you not to try. But I don’t agree that there’s any blanket “ethical” rule requiring board members to raise money no matter what.

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    Community or client representative Board members shouldn’t actually be given a pass on fundraising–they’re often the most effective and persuasive voices in doing so. No one expects them to rely on their own fundraising connections but there’s nothing to prevent them from making calls on prospective donors along with other members of the Board or the Executive Director. In any case, it’s well-documented that poor people are more generous to charity than their monied counterparts, so I wouldn’t be quick to assume that community or client representatives aren’t interested in donating themselves. A good rule: never count the money in other people’s pockets.

    And their knowledge of the community or volunteer abilities are needed in addition to their fundraising efforts, not instead of them. Or, as it is written: time is not money. Nonprofit groups can’t pay their light bills with time.

    But your point that it’s not illegal for Board members to fail to raise money is well-taken: I glanced over that too quickly in my post. It is, however, a failure of duty, and I’ll agree with the Los Angeles writer that it’s the most important duty a nonprofit Board member has.

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