Are You on Board?

Fundraising: Nonprofit board roles and responsibilities – Part 2

You’ve said “yes,” and now are serving on the board. What is expected of you? How do you demonstrate leadership? While we don’t have a crystal ball, we can provide guidance regarding your fundraising-related roles and responsibilities.

For many nonprofits fundraising is often the major method for securing funds and resources. As a board member, your leadership in this area makes a difference. Your roles and responsibilities fall into two general categories: policy and oversight, and giving and securing funds.

As a board member you will be asked to set fundraising policy. This includes items such as approving plans for a special fundraising campaign, and setting gift acceptance policies. For example, when the university you serve decides to launch a $150 million fundraising campaign, that will come before the board for approval.  You will want to ask informed questions such as, “What do the results of the feasibility study indicate?”Or “How many lead donors have been identified?” In the area of gift acceptance policies you may be asked to determine whether the organization will accept gifts of land, or cash gifts from gun manufacturers or tobacco companies.

You will also want to promote accountability and transparency. Support the adoption and implementation of policies related to conflict of interest and whistle-blower protection. Produce and distribute an annual report that shows how the organization uses the funds it receives. File your federal 990 on time. Communicate how the organization meets public needs and be willing to modify programs to help ensure best use of resources.

On a day-to-day level you will be responsible for understanding the institution’s fund development plan and in helping to bring it to life. For example, if the current focus is strengthening individual giving you will want to participate in house or office parties your organization hosts so you can meet new potential donors and supporters, and share with them the important work of the institution. As a board member your hospitality and words carry meaning and influence.

You should know the executive director’s or president’s vision for the institution. Talk with her. Ask questions. Then share that vision with other board members and most importantly with those who can provide funding and resources. Join your executive when she meets with leaders of local foundations or corporations. Meet with her in advance to understand the purpose of each meeting and then participate, showing support for her leadership and answering questions as appropriate.

Most importantly, make your own gift. Make a meaningful gift every year. Ask the company you work for to make a gift or sponsor an event. You have to give and advocate. Set an example. Stretch a little. Your community needs you!

© 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 or call (901) 522-8727.


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