How can you meet your goal of 100% board participation in fundraising?

ThermometerIn most successful nonprofits, giving begins with the board. Your organization may have a board policy that stipulates 100% contribution participation. The policy alone is all you need to encourage or remind most board members to contribute, but how do you handle those who don’t? Here are some ideas that other nonprofits have successfully implemented:

Provide board members options to fulfill their commitment
Agree upfront whether board members’ time and talents qualify toward the 100% contribution goal. Allow board members (and anyone else you can find!) to sign up for a monthly giving and/or estate planning programs. Does participation in the nonprofit’s annual event qualify? Sometimes removing ambiguity as to what qualifies and what does not is all you need to meet your 100% participation goal.

Include it in their annual board member agreement
Many organizations require board members to sign a board member agreement, either annually, or upon joining the board. These agreements can clarify roles and responsibilities of board members. Often, they include a 100% participation requirement, and what types of contributions qualify, avoiding unnecessary confusion or surprises down the road. It is frustrating to join a board, only to learn later of requirements that were not mentioned during the recruitment process.

Implement a plan to personally ask each board member to contribute. Board members are very closely involved in the organization and deserve to be asked on a more personal level than the general solicitation materials sent out by the organization.

Provide context
Celebrate all contributions. This avoids someone feeling ashamed that they were “only” able to contribution $50 when another member can afford contribute $5,000. Emphasize that the amount should be meaningful to them, and that amount is different for every individual.

An annual “give” meeting
Incorporate it as part of a specified meeting every year and ideally, the same meeting annually. During the fourth quarter of the year is common timing as many donors are already in the process of their annual giving considerations. Some organizations “pass the hat,” or distribute contribution agreements while others are less public about it. The methods you use should match the culture of your board.

Report on participation regularly
Some board members might not recall if they have made their annual gift this year. Reporting on overall board participation can provide a subtle reminder to make their contribution. Care should be taken not to turn this into a public shaming of any individuals.

Do nothing
Many organizations set 100% participation as a stretch goal, but do not feel it is necessary or appropriate to follow-up to meet that goal. Again, the culture of your organization and board plays a large role.

Ultimately, consideration of the culture of your organization and your board will direct how you approach encouraging board members to meet your 100% participation goal. Remember that most board members provide valuable resources, time and expertise to your organization. Regardless of the approach you choose, be sure to communicate expectations upfront so there are no surprises.

– Dave Studebaker

Administrative and Fundraising Expenditures

pie chartNonprofit organizations are generally very aware of their percentage of program expenditures to total expenditures. This program efficiency ratio is often used as an indicator of the organization’s effectiveness in its delivery of services, resulting in an assumption that the greater the allocation to program, the better.

This logic doesn’t really work. An organization devoting an extremely high percentage of its resources to program is likely not spending an appropriate amount of time and resources on the activities necessary to keep the nonprofit sustainable. Without fundraising, how will the community and new donors learn about the organization and the work it is doing?

Administrative expenditures provide significant benefit to a nonprofit organization. A minimum level of administrative activity is necessary to keep the nonprofit running, but a healthy sustainable organization invests in its internal controls, its employees, and its future.

Nonprofits can assist donors when making contribution decisions. Describe the mission, relationships, and organizational strength of the enity and how the program efficiency ratio supports operations, growth and sustainability.

Declines in Charitable Giving

Chart-Downward-Trend-1635446Many organizations rely heavily on year-end giving to meet their fundraising goals. What can they expect as 2012 winds up?

The Blackbaud Index, which is a broad-based index reporting on the charitable giving trends in almost 3,000 nonprofit organizations, released its October 2012 index. Their findings indicate that overall giving declined by 3.8% during the three months ended in October 2012 compared to the same three months in 2011. The rolling 3-month revenue change over prior year had been improving, but the October results continued a three month period of declines.

Is this indicative of a long-term trend, or will there be a return to comparative increases in year over year giving? It will be interesting to see whether year-end giving meets or exceeds prior year results.

Board Members and Fundraising

Nonprofit board members have a number of different roles and responsibilities, and these can vary significantly. 

Some boards have significant fund raising expectations of all their members, some boards have different expectations for individual board members, and some have limited fundraising expectations. Regardless of where a board and its members fall on the continuum, it is important that expectations are clear and that board members have the tools they need.

Many board members find it difficult to ask for money, but there are other ways they can provide valuable assistance in the fundraising process.

  • Board members can introduce the organization to prospects and give management the information necessary to forge a relationship.
  • They can use their business expertise to assist the organization in developing an earned income business plan.
  • Saying “Thank you“ to donors is critical.  And using board members to contact donors on a timely basis to express appreciation sends a strong message and often results in additional gifts.
  • House parties can be a fun way to introduce the organization to potential donors. A brief introduction to the organization and an offer to provide additional information creates interest.
  • Board members may have contacts that are willing to donate goods or services to the organization.

There are many other ways a board member can assist with fundraising without having to ask for money. By being strategic and identifying roles, every board member can participate in the process.