Dr Gavin Nicholson, an expert on non-profit governance, spoke recently about the need for individual and collective accountability in board members. The occasion was the ACPNS/Windsor Recruitment careers night and he also spoke of the responsibility of those on the board with specialised skills to use those skills. In this context he raised the possibility of recruiting fundraisers to sit on non-profit boards.
I am interested in this idea because my experience is, and Australian and US research concludes, that there is significant dysfunction in many organisations between the fundraiser, the CEO, and the board. Too many fundraisers leave their job ahead of time complaining “the board doesn’t get it.”
Boards often look for specialists — for finance, law, mission, and governance — so why is it unusual that a fundraiser be appointed? Some organisation that are very dependent on fundraising will appoint a major donor to the board, or an eminent philanthropist or executive of a charitable foundation, but the approach and skill-set of a funder are not the same as those of a fundraiser.
At the same event, I spoke on what board members should look for in fundraising reports to the board and recommended reporting against the annual fundraising plan (yes, there should be one!), a set of indicators that measure income, effectiveness of current actions on present income, and on future income.
Insistence on proper scrutiny of the fundraising report is one of the assets that a fundraiser would bring to the board. I expect they would also bring a fundraiser’s perspective to strategic planning, CEO reports, and capital planning.
You might think that the above points are self-evident and that fundraisers are overwhelmed with requests to serve on charitable boards. They are not. In fact, many fundraisers, when applying for the CFRE credential or when recertifying, find it hard to achieve the required points for “ongoing volunteer leadership role” because they do not have the board roles that their counterparts in North America would have.
Fundraisers should serve on non-profit boards other than the one for which they work. They should do this because of the benefit they can bring to those boards, but they should also be aware of the personal benefit of this. These benefits are: greater awareness of how boards function and the challenges they face – leading to greater patience with one’s own board; greater likelihood of moving from fundraiser to CEO with board experience; and a wider professional network that can be career-enhancing.
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