ALL Board Members Need to Fundraise

ALL Board Members Need to Fundraise

Not too long ago, I received the following push-back about my position that all board members need to help raise money:

We should value all the skills that Board members bring to their service, not just fundraising. Boards need people with different contributions to offer, such as folks who are particularly good at outreach, organizing volunteers, and mission-related activities. It would be great if everyone on the board helped substantially with all mission critical functions, but that’s not the real world or real people. We shouldn’t pick out one function and say everyone on a board is required to do a lot of it, without risking the loss of board members who have valuable skills in particular areas but no interest – or perhaps even an active dislike – for other functions.

In my view, there are two Board level responsibilities for which there is simply no escape – Fiscal oversight and Fundraising. Not everyone who wants to volunteer for an organization they care deeply about needs to be a Board member, but those who do serve in that capacity are personally and collectively responsible for ensuring that resources are not misspent and for ensuring that the organization has sufficient resources to do its job – in other words Fundraising. Organizations with Boards who take personal and collective responsibility for fundraising are also stronger and more sustainable than those who don’t.

I like the point about the real world and real people, and I agree that different people bring different skill sets to their Board service. However, I don’t often find Boards with an imbalance in favor of fundraising. Most often, I find Boards populated by members who would rather do anything but fundraising. What they miss is that once a Board accepts fundraising as something for which all members are equally responsible, everything they do is related.

The outreach specialist tailors communication messages to the needs of all groups, including the major donors who might be wondering how their money is being spent. The volunteer organizing specialist takes the time to notice when a $1,000 member is in the group, finds a quiet moment to express the organization’s gratitude for their largesse, and writes them a personal note afterward. S/he might also notice a member whose membership is due or lapsed, and take a moment to reinforce how much their continued support is appreciated. The field ecologist recognizes that donors are motivated to make large gifts when they believe the work is worth doing and that the people involved can get it done. S/he designs newsletter articles and field trips to emphasize both. And every Board member knows the names and faces of the organization’s top 100 donors, notices and greets them at organizational events, and takes the initiative to introduce them to other members of the Board and staff.

Having said all that, I do differentiate between responsibility for “fundraising” and responsibility for “asking.” When I hear distinctions made between various skills and interests on the Board, sometimes I think folks mean that some Board members are, or should be, “askers.”

Take a moment to look critically at your own Board. Are the skills represented by your members balanced? Is “asking” well enough represented to get the job done? Do your askers know and accept that role for the organization? Do they talk about their efforts and accomplishments equally with other Board members and activities at Board meetings? Are they adequately supported by staff and other Board members? And finally, and most importantly, is the organization raising the money it needs from their efforts?

My guess is that the answer to all of these questions is “of course not.” In that case, you might be better off by asking ALL board members to get more involved in fundraising.


Photo credit: Stream at Bow in the Clouds by Randy Counterman, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.

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