Sanford Institute of Philanthropy Blog

5 Ways Nonprofit Boards Support Fundraising

Nonprofit Board of Directors
It’s the job of every nonprofit board of directors to support the financial sustainability and health of the organization, so it’s important that they know what they can do.

Here are five tips to help your nonprofit board of directors be as effective as possible in supporting your organization’s fundraising efforts:

1. Make a personal gift

The number one thing that a board and each individual member of a board can do is make a personal contribution to the nonprofit on whose board they sit. Now, many people struggle with this because they want to invite people onto their board who maybe don’t have a huge amount of financial capacity. 

Sometimes, for example, nonprofits have students that serve on their board. How can you meet that requirement of everybody giving a personal gift, even if they don’t have a lot of wealth? One creative way you can do that is to create a policy that says every board member shall make a contribution to the organization that is one of the three largest charitable gifts they give to any organization. That way, if you have a student on your board who can’t give any more than $20 because that’s all they give to any other nonprofit, they can still meet the requirement. On the other hand, if you have a high net worth individual who can give a $5000 gift because that’s what they give to two other nonprofits, then they can meet the requirement as well. This ensures that every board member is giving. 

It’s very important that board members make their own personal contribution, not just ask for money, because the only way the organization can ask for support from other funders and donors is if they know that the board of directors has given themselves.

2. Know the organization

The second thing that is very important for a board to understand is everything about the organization. This may seem obvious, but I have seen many nonprofit board members who don’t really know about all of the programs or everything that goes on in the organization who they lead. And yet, they are expected to be ambassadors for the organization in the community. That’s part of the job of a board member. 

It’s really incumbent upon you, as a board member, to get to know the programs inside and out. Visit the programs wherever they happen–however you can see the mission work getting done. Be sure that you witness it yourself and can speak to it very fluently. With that, you can be a very effective ambassador in the organization and that is the first step to fulfilling your responsibility of fundraising for the organization.

3. Create a culture of philanthropy

The third thing you can do as a board member is to help the organization develop a culture of philanthropy. What is a culture of philanthropy? Many times, we as board members think that only certain people have responsibility for fundraising such as the development director, the development department, or the development committee. When you have a culture of philanthropy, you recognize that everybody in the organization has a role to play in supporting fundraising. 

If you build a true culture of philanthropy, it starts at the top with the board that shares that responsibility, and then, infuses that in the entire organization, invests in the fundraising capacity needed to be successful, and invests in professional development for staff to be effective in fundraising. That’s the sign of a very good, healthy culture of philanthropy in a nonprofit.

4. Connect with donors

The fourth thing you can do as a board member to support fundraising is connect with donors. Make a thank you phone call, write a thank you note, find an opportunity to meet somebody a major financial supporter of the organization in-person and thank them. 

There are many ways that a nonprofit can acknowledge and give thanks to its donors such as official letters or special events, but there’s nothing more powerful to a donor than getting a personal thank you from a board member who’s just like them–a community member, somebody who’s not paid by the organization, somebody who’s just passionate about the mission and supporting it. 

It means a lot for a donor to hear from a board member. Also, unfortunately, this doesn’t happen often, so you really stand out when you do that, and it’s something very easy for you to do in your role as a board member.

5. Introduce new donors

The fifth thing you can do as a board member to support fundraising at your nonprofit is to make introductions to prospective donors. People you know in the community, who you believe would be just as committed and passionate about supporting the organization as you are, or at least in terms of their financial support. It’s not that you have to close the deal. It’s about making the introduction. 

You’ll notice that I just mentioned five things that a board can do to support fundraising and I didn’t once say you need to ask for money. If you’re really good at asking for money from other people, by all means do that for your nonprofit, but most people who serve on boards aren’t comfortable with that. That’s okay. It’s important that you’re an ambassador for the organization in the community, and that you are thanking the current donors, and you’re making introductions to new prospective donors. It’s all in sharing your passion for the organization. 

With these tips in mind, you can be very effective as an individual board member and if everyone on your board does the same, you will be a board that really is supporting the fundraising goals of that nonprofit organization.

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Discover more about the author, Patrick McWhortor