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Nonprofit Board Fundraising Best Practices

Nonprofit board fundraising best practices are all about the people, the passion and the purpose. Nonprofit organizations must have the finances to fulfill the stated purpose of their mission. Fundraising doesn’t always come easy, especially when nonprofits don’t have a plan. What nonprofits do have is a fair amount of volunteer power. The right volunteers can lead to very successful fundraising efforts.

Nonprofit board members should know their expectations for fundraising before they accept a seat on the board. Training on fundraising for board members and volunteers will greatly enhance fundraising efforts. Best practices for fundraising also means that boards need to be good stewards of the funds that they raise. This will instill trust and confidence in donors to form solid and lasting relationships.

Nonprofits that develop solid fundraising policies and practices leave a legacy for future board members who will have the benefit of a solid foundation on which to continue building.

Engaging the Right People and Preparing Them for Success

The first steps that boards can take to get their fundraising efforts off on the best footing is to get the right people in place and train them for success, beginning with succession planning.

Nonprofit boards should work to develop a well-composed board that has a variety of talents, skills, backgrounds and experiences. Since fundraising is one of the primary activities of the board, boards should look for candidates who have some fundraising background or experience, in addition to the other talents and abilities they may have to offer.

Board member candidates who don’t have fundraising experience may be able to compensate for it if they have a lot of passion for the mission and a little training in how to raise funds. Boards will find board member candidates all around them in their personal and professional networks. To find the right candidates, start by looking at who listens intently when you speak about your nonprofit. Also, pay special attention to who attends the nonprofit’s events and who regularly donates to the organization.

Some boards prefer to “test” their potential board members to get the chance to see what they can do with their boots on the ground. Boards can always ask a board recruit if they’d like to serve on a fundraising committee for a while to see if they’re a good fit. Another idea is for boards to incorporate some orientation and fundraising activities into other volunteer jobs and watch to see who expresses interest.

It’s important to note that some volunteers will have fundraising experience and get up to speed quickly on what they need to do for any given fundraising event. Others will need some coaching, training and mentoring to succeed. The fundraising committee should set up their expectations and put them in writing, so the board can include them in their basic orientation and reinforce them throughout the year.

Developing a Fundraising Policy

All nonprofit boards should set up a fundraising policy that outlines the board’s fundraising expectations for board directors and others.

A fundraising policy should state in specific terms the board’s expectations for board member giving. Boards can set up the terms in various ways, depending on the size and other demographics of the organization. Board members should be aware that donors often ask whether board members are giving personal contributions. They’re looking for assurance that the board is personally invested in the nonprofit.

The policy can state that board members are expected to give an annual donation and leave the amount up to them or the policy can state a minimum donation amount. It’s also highly acceptable for boards to leave the amount open and just ask board directors to give according to their means or give nothing and raise their share of the expected contributions.

A fundraising policy may also list suggestions as to how board members can help increase donations. A policy may suggest that board directors provide the names of potential donors, be willing to write fundraising letters, thank donors personally or attend other fundraising appointments with senior board members.

Some nonprofit organizations prefer to use a special pledge form that helps them remember the various fundraising activities that the organization hosts throughout the year. Knowing event dates ahead of time helps some board members budget so they can give a little of their yearly allotment at each event.

A board portal is a useful tool for storing fundraising and other policies, as well as for tracking donations.

Establishing Various Funding Sources

Mapping out various channels for fundraising helps boards to know where their funds are coming from and how best to maximize giving in each area. Best practices indicate that board directors should give something. The fundraising policy will map out the nuances as to how much board members should give and how often. Board members may be business leaders in the community who can also sponsor nonprofit events.

In addition to personal giving, board members need to be willing to ask their family, friends and colleagues to donate to the organization. Boards may list an exception in their fundraising policy that explains that they can fundraise what they’re not able to contribute personally.

The expectations that board members should make personal donations to the organization shouldn’t come as a surprise. Board members should let recruits and nominees know that they’ll be expected to give from their personal funds before formally offering them a board seat. Board members who weren’t told at this juncture should learn this information at their orientation.

Overall, board members should lead by example. In this way, the organization builds fundraising momentum from within, which eventually radiates outward.

In addition to board member giving, nonprofits can raise funds by charging a membership fee and expanding their memberships. Most nonprofits look for regular sources of donations and participate in applying for grants.

Establishing a Fundraising Committee

The primary activity of the fundraising committee is to set up and organize fundraising events. Boards don’t have to limit their involvement to event planning. Board members can put fundraising committees to work training board members and others on how to improve their fundraising skills.

One useful idea is for the fundraising committee to set up a training program of one or two sessions. Trainers will give attendees the language and inflection to use when asking for donations. A training session also gives attendees a chance to practice their fundraising skills and improve them.

Use games and role plays to keep it light and fun. Include materials such as a fundraising handbook, contact sheet, list of best practices and a list of questions potential donors may ask. A training session will give attendees confidence and put them at ease.

Boards should ensure that the fundraising committee or some other designated person is accountable for knowing and enforcing federal, state and local laws related to solicitation, such as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

Useful Tips on Nonprofit Board Fundraising

Like most things, fundraising is a skill that most people can improve with the right knowledge and training. Fundraising is a staple of the nonprofit world. Don’t downplay it or portray it in a negative light. Focus on all the good benefits that will come from a financially strong nonprofit. Be supportive of fundraising board members and volunteers who are in the learning stages of fundraising. Most importantly, celebrate their successes, large and small.

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