You’ve been asked to serve on the board of a nonprofit you believe in. It could be a college, a local advocacy organization or a healthcare center. Do you say “yes?” What would you actually be saying “yes” to? What do you need to know to make an informed decision?
Board service is more than a resume-builder or image enhancer. It is work. In these times that work includes responsibility for fundraising as well as oversight of the fundraising process. In order to make an informed decision, request a meeting with the board chair and the executive. Requesting such a meeting communicates the seriousness you attach to board service. The answers you receive will let you know what is expected of you. They will also make visible the organization’s fundraising strengths and challenges – something you need to know as many boards now find themselves having to make hard decisions because of changes in available funding. Note: if the leadership doesn’t have time to meet with you as a prospective board member, that may signal their accessibility and/or the seriousness they attach to board membership.
Here are some questions you may want to ask. Add or subtract from the following list as appropriate. Use your list when meeting with the board chair and executive.
General questions could include the following. Is the institution working from a strategic plan and a fundraising plan? What are the fundraising needs of the organization and what will it take to raise the required funds? What methods of fundraising are being used and how successful have these been? What percentage of funds is raised using what methods? What percentage of the budget comes from earned income, fees or tuition? What are the opportunities and challenges the institution faces in the area of fundraising? Is there a reserve fund or endowment? What is the skill set of staff responsible for fundraising? What percentage of the CEO’s time is spent on fundraising? What is the track record over the last five years?
Board-related questions could include: What are the fundraising-related roles and responsibilities of board members as individuals and as a collective? Are there requirements for board members to give and fundraise? What percentage of annual funds is raised by the board? Are there orientation sessions to inform and equip board members for fundraising? What data management system is being used and what information is available to support board members and their fundraising? What is the average gift from the board?
What you learn by asking these questions can help you gauge how you can be of greatest support. At the end of the day fundraising is absolutely critical to the survival of every nonprofit organization and institution. Don’t be afraid to ask – the answers will help you provide the best leadership and oversight possible.
© Copyright Saad & Shaw. Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.