Why is it “easy” for some organizations to raise funds and a “challenge” for others? Three words contribute to this reality: influence, wealth, and power.
Those who truly understand fundraising, know that fundraising depends upon the answer to this question: “who is on your board?” Board members are expected to give and raise 20% or more of an organization’s budget. They are expected to sit at tables with those who give or influence gifts and grants. That means they personally know people with family wealth or successful careers; people who are elected officials, business leaders, philanthropists… While this may be changing, and doors are opening, it is still often board members who open those doors.
For example, it is hard to get the attention of a grants committee when there are hundreds or thousands of organizations competing for funding. The organizations that stand out are those that are already known to committee members. This doesn’t mean that strong programming, impactful work, and/or a well written proposal aren’t important. They are. But if you “know someone” the process is easier. Committee members will see your organization’s name and remember hearing about it from people they trust.
People with money give to organizations they know about. And who do they primarily know? People of like means. This is especially true when it comes to major gifts from individuals: most have a personal connection to the nonprofits they support. Often that connection is through a current or former board member. That’s because people want to know who believes in you, who is guiding your orgnaization, and who is putting their money behind you. Those questions are answered with the unrelenting question: who is on your board?
Before we get to board building, take a moment to look at your current board: who is serving, and what is the culture like? Look inside yourself as well. Are you and your board comfortable around people who are wealthier or more successful? Will your organization welcome and support new board members? Is there enough diversity within your nonprofit for new members to feel they are working with their peers? Does your organization have a case that attracts and energizes board members?
You can build a board that includes people of influence, power, and wealth by being deliberate. First and foremost, identify individuals who truly believe in the mission and vision of your organization. Then look for a cross section of people that includes those who can make and influence major gifts. Think about who in your community – or from across the region or country – meets these criteria.
Increasing the number of people of influence, power, and wealth on your board takes time and the involvement of your executive director, board chair, and community leaders. You need to personally invite people – one at a time – to join with you. You need a board that represents those you serve as well as those who can provide money, resources, and expertise. Open your doors and diversify your board.
Want to know more about growing a successful board? Purchase your copy of Strong Leaders, Better Results: Learn to Optimize Your Nonprofit Board
Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.