How to Increase Board Engagement in Fundraising

quote 38% of satsfied with board member engagement in fundraising

In a just-released survey by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, only 38% of fundraising professionals in the US are satisfied with their board members’ engagement in fundraising. I am sure Canadian statistics are no different. Rather than trying to encourage board members to participate in fundraising from the bottom up, I believe engagement should be accomplished from the top-down.

What causes this to be a pain point?

Staff worry about:

  • How can I get board members to take the lead for philanthropy in the organization?
  • How can I get everyone in the organization to understand and participate in fundraising?
  • How can we recruit board members who are willing to fundraise on our behalf?

Board members are fearful of: 

  • Not knowing fundraising expectations.
  • That fundraising is arm-twisting people to donate.
  • They do not want to be told “no” to their request.
  • Taking advantage of their friends or colleague contacts.

In my 35+ career as a fundraising consultant, board member, executive director and senior fundraiser, I witnessed staff shame and cajole board members into fundraising. I have also seen board members enthusiastically step up to the plate and excel through a broader, more values-driven approach. They go beyond the fundraising activity task – they have a confident, philanthropic attitude toward fulfilling their role as board members.

Pamela Simmons, CFRE, Barrett CTT Consultant

How do you create a philanthropic attitude?

Setting the expectation for this philanthropic attitude starts by re-writing the board members’ position description through a philanthropic lens. Board members are the leaders who set the philanthropic tone in the organization. While raising “philanthropic support” is everyone’s responsibility in an organization, it is the consistent “tone from the top” from the board and senior staff that leads the way. This view has led me to focus my fund development work on how values can influence philanthropic activity. 

Philanthropy is a voluntary action for the love of humankind and the common good. It is a tradition of giving and sharing that is primary to the quality of life.

Catherine Zimmer

A successful philanthropic leader lives their core values

Becoming a successful philanthropic leader is not about what you do, nor is it reserved for the wealthy. It is about how you do what you do. It is about living your core values and building trust with donors, staff, and the community you serve. And it is the first step to building strong relationships and a culture of philanthropy in your organization.

Here’s one example of the leader of philanthropy expectation from the seven points position description:

3. Inspire others to support the organization’s philanthropic mission 

  • Share your value story to inspire others on the board to be generous to the best of their capacity.
  • Ensure the successful fulfillment and management of fundraising; ensure sufficient staff support and financial resources in the budget.
  • Use the AFP Code of Ethical Standards as a tool to build transparency and trust with donors.
  • Ensure strategic planning reflects your organization’s mission, vision and values. 
  • Make goals measurable and achievable.

If board members were to adopt this approach to their role, I believe philanthropic support and fundraising engagement would significantly increase.

After, all improving the lives of those we serve and making our society a more humane place to live for everyone is what is philanthropy all about?

Are you interested in receiving a copy of the full Leader of the Philanthropy position description? If so, please sign up to receive news about upcoming fundraising courses for board members and executive directors using core values.

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