Tag Archives: board

Fundraising Starting Point: Commitment

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Commitment is at the heart of all successful nonprofit fundraising. It needs to be developed and sustained. It starts with the organization’s leadership – the executive director or CEO, board members, as well as leadership level employees and volunteers. The purpose and vision for proposed fundraising needs to be carefully discussed by these parties, ideally through one-on-one conversations with time for challenging questions and clear answers.

After individual conversations have occurred, dedicate time during board meetings for group discussion. Invite grappling with the proposed fundraising initiative, the asking of questions, and the raising of doubts. Encourage new ideas along with expressions of enthusiasm or caution. Allocate enough time for a full discussion. As appropriate, schedule a retreat focused on fundraising. Many organizations host such retreats annually. Others will host a retreat when planning for a capital campaign or other fundraising initiative of special significance. Always leave enough time for all parties to fully understand and commit to a proposed fundraising goal. This is the most important fundraising prerequisite — without full commitment, there is greater potential for fundraising challenges.

We also suggest the executive director set aside time for similar discussions with senior staff. Employees often have insights and suggestions that can positively transform fundraising – ideas that may not be accessible to the organization if they are not invited into the fundraising conversation. A staff retreat may be a good investment of time and resources.

You will also want to gain the support of your organization’s informal leadership — those stakeholders who have supported your organization over the years with their time, money, and talent. Ideally you will talk with major donors, your most consistent donors, and volunteers, consultants, and staff as you develop a fundraising initiative. Remember, fundraising requires more than money. Talking with your extended leadership will help engage the best thinking, involvement, creativity, and networks of those closest to your organization. These individuals can provide ideas and resources that extend beyond those you thought of originally.

Another thing to remember is that prospective donors and funders always ask about the involvement of key stakeholders, particularly board members. In fact, many will shy away from initiatives that do not have demonstrated internal commitment and engagement. For example, many foundations explicitly ask about board giving. They want to know the percentage of board members who give, total dollars contributed, and funds raised through the efforts of board members. The feeling is, “If those closest to you don’t support the project, why should we?” For educational institutions, there is a focus on the rate of alumni giving, the retention of alumni donors, and total funds contributed by alumni.

Are you engaging the leadership within your nonprofit before approaching people outside the organization? How will you ask your fellow leaders for financial gifts and in-kind resources? Do you have a goal for board participation? Let us know.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow then @saadshaw.

No Subsitute for Commitment

Commitment

Successful fundraising for a nonprofit requires the full commitment of board members, the executive director, staff, and volunteer leadership. Without this commitment, it is very difficult to meet fundraising goals. People may say they are committed and that is good. What is more important is the extent to which people embody that commitment.

Consider the following. Do all leaders understand how much money the organization wants to raise, and what the funds will be used for? Can each articulate the impact the organization makes, and how it is unique? What about the strategic plan – do leaders understand the plan and how proposed fundraising ties to it? Does each believe the fundraising goal is achievable? Do leaders understand where the projected revenue will come from, and what plans are in place if initial solicitations are not successful?

What about their actions? Do your leaders embody integrity? Are they accountable? Do they encourage transparency? Do they come prepared to meetings and remain in contact with other members of the organization’s leadership between meetings? In the area of fundraising, do they make their own financial gift and ask others to do so? Do they generate enthusiasm for fundraising? Do they help secure in-kind resources that can offset organizational or fundraising costs? Do they share their creativity, resources, and problem solving skills to help advance fundraising? Most importantly, do they follow through on agreements?

While it takes time to cultivate and secure full commitment, this step cannot be pushed aside. If a fundraising initiative is executive director’s vision she should take time to meet individually with board members and share her vision and commitment. She will need to let board members know what it will take to make the vision a reality and ask for their support. She should be prepared to answer questions and overcome objections.

Likewise, if a project is the vision of the board of directors, the board chair should take the time to meet personally with the executive director to share the board’s vision and explain how the project will advance the organization’s mission and strategic plan. The board should be prepared to answer the executive director’s questions, and to provide her with the resources, support, and leadership that the proposed fundraising initiative will require.

The questions and objections raised by board members or the executive director may not be different from those that will need to be overcome when talking with prospective donors and partners. These comments, questions, and/or objectives can be most helpful in developing a strong case for support.

Regardless of where it originates, all leaders need to be engaged in the process of defining a fundraising project and its financial goals. What are you doing to engage the leadership at your nonprofit? What actions will you take to inspire commitment and engagement that will help secure funds, involvement, partnerships, and in-kind resources? Let us know.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow then @saadshaw.