Board Members Are Below Average Fundraisers

Nonprofit board members get their highest grades when it comes to understanding mission and financial oversight. They become under-performing students when it comes to community building and outreach, monitoring legislation and regulatory issues, increasing board diversity and fundraising.

In fact, most board members are rated “C” students if you ask organizational executives and only slightly better when the board chair is asked to give the board a grade.

That’s part of what Anne Wallestad, president and CEO of BoardSource in Washington, D.C., told those gathered for a session titled “Leveraging the Fundraising Partnership Between Boards, CEOs, and Development Staff.”

The board’s role in fundraising has three dimensions, according to Wallestad, ethics and accountability, planning and strategy, and making it happen. Ethics and accountability involves oversight and policy by the full board. Planning and strategy involves strategic partnership with the board committee. Making it happen is board members working in partnership with staff.

It’s all about a three-way partnership between the chief executive, fundraising staff and board members, she said. What makes a difference is knowledge of programs and clarity of expectations during board recruitment.

Wallestad said that board members must embrace the importance of investing in fundraising, which requires a high-level understanding of fundraising tactics and strategy. The strategic questions board members should be tackling include:

  • Do we have enough support to fund our mission?
  • Are our sources of funding stable?
  • Are we investing enough in growth?

The problem is that the question that gets most of the attention is: Are we spending too much money on fundraising Wallestad said that a new definition of fundraising effectiveness is enough money to fund programs plus a responsible balance of risk and reward equaling a healthy fundraising program. The low cost of fundraising just might come at a high cost.

For more on the topic, go to www.boardsource.org