Engaging Board Members in fundraising is a recurrent problem for non-profit organisations. But this challenge can be seen from a different perspective: fundraisers should be involved on a non-profit board. Our Senior Fundraising Consultant Wayne McKenzie explains why.
How many times have I heard over the years, and even thought it myself at times, that the Board “don’t get it”? They don’t understand fundraising, and they often don’t support what fundraisers do.
The “Under-developed” report published in 2012 highlighted some key shortcomings.
All too often, non-profit organisations pin their hopes and dreams for fundraising on one person – namely the development (fundraising) director.”
And it emphasised:
Organisations need to make fundamental changes in the way they lead and resource fund development in order to create the cultures and systems that support fundraising success. Fundraising can’t be a priority for just one individual. It has to be a priority, and a shared responsibility, for the board, the executive director and the staff alike.”
Can you hear the shouts of approval from fundraisers?
So, why should you join a Board of a non-profit organisation?
1. The Boards need a fundraiser amongst them
Most Boards choose people for their expertise. They appoint people with specialist knowledge of the cause:
- Hospitals have medical personnel,
- Schools have educationalists and alumni,
- Charities have people who have experienced the service
And they all seek someone with legal and financial acumen to help them deal with the ‘hard stuff’. Yet, very few Boards have people with expertise to help guide and promote a culture of philanthropy. They need fundraisers.
At a Board meeting I attended recently, the financial experts could only see the solution to a particular problem from one perspective: how to become more efficient – i.e. how can we cut back expenditure even more?
With the injection of a few pertinent questions and ideas, the discussion changed direction to positive alternatives. In the duration of just one meeting, funding development moved from a ‘necessary evil’ to one of the top three priorities alongside the work they exist to do.
Boards are by their nature very risk averse. The entrepreneurial, zealous, mission-minded pioneers who founded the work are long gone; and too many trustees see themselves as gatekeepers.
Every Board needs more passionate people who can articulate what the organisation stands for, who understand and know the donors and can bring this to the Board table and change the agenda.
What else do they need fundraisers on the Board for?
- to bring an expectation of fundraising involvement when recruiting Board members
- to ensure adequate orientation and training for Board members, including fundraising
- to be an ally and support for the fundraising staff. You of all people know how isolated and difficult it can be
- and perhaps to help them when recruiting fundraising staff.
Serving on a Board won’t necessarily be easy or plain sailing. There are issues you and all Trustees will need to keep in mind: the distinction between governance and management, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. The level of tension between these will differ depending on the organisational culture and size.
Serving as a Trustee will not only benefit the organisation. There’s another side to the coin.
2. Fundraisers need experience on a Board
Serving on the Board of another institution can help your personal development and career.
You will gain insight into the scope of challenges every Board faces, the breadth of agenda, the tension of priorities, the constant pressures, the level of understanding, and you will better understand your own work environment too.
It will impress your CEO. You will gain mana and respect from your work superiors, and it will look good at your next recruitment, especially as you bring a broader perspective to your work. And if it happened, you wouldn’t be the first Board Member to be employed in a key role in the organisation.
It will help you gain the necessary points for volunteer service for CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) international accreditation, the highest ‘qualification’ available for fundraisers in New Zealand.
And with all of that, it can make you a better, more enlightened fundraiser.
The “Under-developed” report highlighted the sad fact that many fundraisers resign their job because the CEO and Board do not understand and support fundraising. By joining a Board, you can help to change that.
Are you currently serving on a Board of a non-profit organisation? Join the discussion on LinkedIn to add your own reasons or experiences to encourage others.
Latest posts by Wayne McKenzie (see all)
- Why No One Should Work in Administration in Non-Profit Organisations - March 15, 2017
- Fundraisers, this is Why You Should Join a Non-Profit Board - November 10, 2016
- These 5 Books Can Help You in Your Fundraising Career (recommended by Wayne McKenzie) - June 8, 2016