To Meet Your Fundraising Goals, Engage Your Board Members

Posted on October 22, 2012

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Jono SmithWhat’s the key to your nonprofit organization meeting its fundraising goals? According to the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC), it’s having board members who are active donors and fundraisers.

That’s the punch line from a new NRC report, Engaging Board Members in Fundraising, released last month and based on an online survey conducted earlier this year.

Contrary to popular belief, board members’ most important contribution doesn’t come through their own giving. (“Board members typically contribute less than 10% of an organization’s total philanthropic gifts received.”) Rather, it comes from working their networks — e.g. sharing a contact list, asking friends and family to give, or making a personal introduction.

The survey also found that of those nonprofits with active fundraising boards, 60% reached their fundraising goal. In contrast, just 53% of organizations without board member engagement met their goal. (Given the sample size, this is a statistically significant difference.)

How to Do It
Among the report’s recommendations for how to engage your board:

  • Require board member gifts: “The signals sent when every board member gives are vital. In addition, foundations and other donors often expect to see 100% board member giving.”
  • Form a board development or fundraising committee: “Set goals and monitor progress during the year. Organizations with board development or fundraising committees were more likely to reach their [annual] fundraising goals.”
  • Give every board member specific fundraising tasks: “Every board member should be asked to send or telephone requests for support to friends and family. … When a board member cares about your mission, it can be a joy to make a gift and a pleasure to invite others to help achieve the positive change your organization works toward.”

The Big Takeaways
In terms of event fundraising, what are my big takeaways from the NRC report? One segment to pay particularly close attention to are the donors your board members recruit through fundraising events.

While event donors’ motivation to support your organization is often secondary to that of supporting an event participant, this is by no means a reason to disregard these individuals. In fact, these motivations can be changed — from having an affinity to the participant to having an affinity to your cause and organization. This may be especially true for individuals linked to you through a board member, potentially a stronger connection than your average event participant.

Also, don’t forget that with the recent launch of LinkedIn Board Connect, LinkedIn is giving nonprofit leaders tools to help them leverage their own networks and their board members’ networks to find the right skilled professionals to join their boards. The Board Connect program includes free access to Talent Finder (one of our premium accounts focused on finding top candidates on LinkedIn), access to an exclusive educational webcast and an invitation to join the Board Connect Group on LinkedIn. To participate, you must be a registered U.S. nonprofit.

Jono Smith is vice president of marketing at Event 360. You can find Jono on Google+Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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