Fundraising is to nonprofits what sales is to business. It’s where the money comes from. In business the sales team secures revenue to cover expenses and generate a profit for shareholders. In nonprofits it is the fundraising team that raises the – money you need to deliver on your mission.
For example, increasing the number of local residents qualified to fill current, local job openings requires resources – including money. Partnerships with government agencies and businesses can provide resources needed to fulfill this mission, but money is also needed. The question for nonprofit leaders – both staff and board members – becomes “where will the money come from?”
Staying focused on why funds are needed is one way to change your relationship to fundraising. It is not about begging. It’s about making a clear case for why an individual, foundation or corporation should give to your organization. You need to know how much money your organization is seeking to raise, how it will be used, and what the impact will be.
Back to our example: if your organization seeks to prepare 100 young adults a year with the skills required to obtain a living wage job, you will need to be able to communicate what it costs to operate the program; which employers you are partnering with; what types of jobs you are preparing your students for; and what it will mean for each student, their family and the local economy when your students are employed.
You don’t have to come up with these answers on your own. You – as a board member – can help create a culture that encourages your fellow board members – and staff – to bring fundraising into the center of most conversations and activities. Here are a few examples.
When programs are discussed consider asking: how much does it cost to operate this program? Where does the money come from? Are we on track to secure the needed funds for this year? How can I help make sure we reach our goal? Can I accompany our director to meet with current or prospective funders?
Raise these questions in a spirit of open inquiry and wanting to be part of the solution. They can open the door to meaningful activities. For example, if you want to go with the director to visit a donor, staff will need to help get you prepared. This will create an awareness within staff about what board members need in order to be effective advocates and solicitors. Providing board members with information and materials that support fundraising, can help reduce board members’ reluctance to fundraise. Talking about the realities of how much money you need and where it is coming from (or not coming from!) brings board members into the process of securing the resources needed to deliver on your mission. And, at the end of the day, that is what fundraising is about. You can make a difference.