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When preparing for a major fundraising initiative a nonprofit may think about all the people and institutions they believe will want to support their campaign. Someone is sure to suggest “Oprah” or “Beyoncé.” Others will ask, “How can we get MacKenzie Scott to consider supporting our work?” Still, others will mention upcoming government grant opportunities or new grant programs announced by major national foundations. All are potential sources of funding, but what about closer to home? What about the board?

When your fundraising goal increases so do expectations of the board. When approached about a gift, many funders and donors will ask two questions: “Do all board members give?” and “How much is the board giving?” They expect the first question to be answered with “100%.” The second question can be answered by sharing one of two responses, without obfuscation. “Total board giving is $_____” or the total that the board has given and raised is $________.”

If you share a version of the second response, some people will still want to know the amount the board has given. The thinking behind this is simple, and expressed by a foundation executive, “Why are you asking me for funds when your board isn’t willing to give in a meaningful way.” That may sound unfair, but it is a reality. Board giving – and engagement in fundraising – influences the size of an investment by those who can give at the highest level. BoardSource, an excellent resource for everything you want to know about nonprofit boards, restates this truth as “Many foundations only contribute to organizations where every board member is a contributor.”

It is understood that there are many skills and talents that need to be represented on a board and that everyone’s financial capacity and responsibilities are different. At the same time, financial support is a major responsibility of board members. Each board will make its own decisions regarding their board-giving policies. BoardSource provides some suggestions for how to approach this.

What’s most important is to understand that board giving and board fundraising are both critical to an organization’s fundraising success. We always recommend a board policy that includes a request for financial support, and for engagement in fundraising. Here’s one big reason: many nonprofits rely on their board members to “give and get” a total of 20% of their fundraising goal. That means there is a role for each person to play, in addition to giving. This can range from identifying and cultivating prospective major donors and funders to actually soliciting these individuals. Board members can serve on a campaign committee or host an event at their home or office. Some may be able to provide in-kind resources and professional services. Others may be willing to accompany the executive director on a visit to a foundation or corporate supporter.

If you are a board member, you must understand that giving and fundraising are part of your responsibilities. Your engagement is critical to your nonprofit’s success.

Copyright 2023 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2023! Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727.

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