Involving Your Board in Fund-Raising

By Stadter, Doug | Behavioral Healthcare, February 2009 | Go to article overview

Involving Your Board in Fund-Raising


Stadter, Doug, Behavioral Healthcare


Make sure these key community members are fully onboard with your development strategy

Does the word fund-raising strike terror into the hearts of your board members, or do they jump for joy over the opportunity to ask friends, family, and business associates to donate to a great cause? I suspect that their reactions are similar to those of members of other nonprofit agency boards. Board members know they are expected to have some role in fund-raising, but some certainly would prefer to forget about it if you would let them. Others really do have a passion about development activities and making an "ask" for the agency.

Board members can be effective fundraisers for your agency in many ways. The key is finding the right fit for each person and organizing your agency to best meet the demands of raising money. Our agency has had a good deal of experience in this area during the past ten years, as we made a strategic decision to modify our agency's organizational composition to maximize our fund-raising ability.

Our evolving fund-raising journey

The Centers for Youth and Families began in 1884 as the Children's Aid Society in Little Rock, Arkansas. Through the years, we have had a history of fund-raising and capital campaigns to grow the organization. Today we have a $20 million annual budget and approximately 325 full-time employees. We operate child and adolescent behavioral health programs in Central and Southeast Arkansas.

Like most nonprofits, our develop- ment program has evolved. From 1970 to 1995, we operated with a one-person development office. We had several persons in the position during that period, but we never had a strategic fund-raising plan.

In 1995, we became a little more organized. We hired a new development officer and added three staff positions. This board decision aimed to make a concerted effort to raise funds in an organized and consistent manner.

From 1995 to 1999, the development office operated as an agency unit. A board development committee, reporting to the board, advised and assisted staff in fund-raising. Then in 1999, the board established a separately incorporated foundation with its own 25-member board of trustees and separate committee structure. The foundation was designed to focus totally on raising money for the agency.

The new board began with a core group of agency board members who had been active in fund-raising (primarily the old development committee's membership). This group recruited new foundation board members who were, or could become, major donors, as well as individuals with connections in the community to major donors. The foundation's membership committee developed profiles of individuals who met specific needs, such as attorneys and accountants involved in planned giving, people with experience in planning and executing special events, and people with strong media connections.

The foundation board was designed to ensure communication between the two boards; 25% of the foundation board's trustees also serve as agency board members. The membership committees of both organizations were combined to select new recruits who were most appropriate for each organization. We also hold an annual board social at which members from both boards and our volunteer auxiliary board socialize and discuss their roles.

I serve as president and CEO of both organizations, and the foundation's executive director (the former development officer position) reports to me. The foundation is segmented into four functional areas:

* Grants research and preparation

* Annual giving and volunteer recognition

* Major gifts and planned giving

* Administration, which is responsible for maintaining the donor database

Board responsibilities and Individual expectations

The foundation board's key responsibilities are:

* Participating in developing the annual plan for coordinating all fund-raising and solicitation activities

* Overseeing and coordinating grant proposals

* Overseeing gift/contribution receipt and acknowledgment

* Ensuring restricted contributions are disbursed in accordance with the donor's wishes

* Managing disbursement of undesignated funds in accordance with the direction of the agency's board of directors as demonstrated through our annual budgeting process based on programs' needs

Individual foundation board members are expected to:

* Be knowledgeable of the agency and its programs (We offer monthly updates on our services and ongoing, scheduled tours of all programs)

* Serve on at least one committee (Members are selected for the board for their expertise, which is best put to use in the details of committee work)

* Attend quarterly board meetings

* Serve as the agency's and foundation's ambassador to assist them in connecting with community resources

* Give an annual contribution commensurate with financial ability (It is critical to have 1 00% participation from the board, as this is a powerful message to potential donors)

* Avoid conflicts of interest with their occupation and other community agency support

* Accompany foundation and agency staff on solicitation calls, when requested

Even with the foundation in place, the agency board still has a key role in fundraising, which includes supporting the foundation's needs to fulfill its mission. …

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