Takeaways from August's Good Advice Over Coffee on the topic of "Your Board's Role in Fundraising"


Every nonprofit knows how important their board is for programming, impact, and overall organizational direction. The staff knows this, the community knows this, and the board members themselves know this. What is sometimes lost, however, is how the board is expected to participate in fundraising. What is your board’s role in fundraising? How do the staff and board work together to maximize fund development? This was the topic for our Good Advice Over Coffee on August 8th.

Project Partners has worked with more than 250 (and counting!) volunteer boards, committees, and task forces to help raise tens of millions of dollars, so I was excited to lead this discussion. Narrowing the focus to provide a quick overview for this event proved difficult, though, as this task of board engagement requires both expertise and finesse – we could talk for hours on the topic. So, where did we start?

First, we shared that more than $410 billion was donated to nonprofit causes in 2017 (per the Giving USA 2018 report). That’s quite a statistic, really, and it’s useful when paired with this mindset that we share with our clients: “Our cause is important, our organization is impactful, and people are giving – so let’s go get our piece of that pie.” Then, we narrowed our focus onto staff and volunteer roles and how they work together in this world of philanthropy. Borrowing a metaphor that I’ve used for years from Paula Parrish (now of the Fort Worth Opera), I explained that if you think of fundraising as a train, the nonprofit professionals are the engineers and the board volunteers are the engine. One can’t race down the track without the other.  

The nonprofit professionals (your Vice President of Development or Development Director) live, eat and breathe your organization’s strategic and development plan. They know how fundraising, program delivery, community engagement, campaigns, and events work to attract and retain donors. It’s their job to drive the train.

But if you want to go anywhere, the engine must move the train along. And that’s the role of the board members. They are the energy, the influencers, and the advocates of the mission, first showing their support, then engaging others to do the same. So what exactly can they do?

Lots of good advice was shared by the mix of staff and volunteers around the table, especially about some proven, tangible ways that board members can better fulfill their role in fundraising, such as: 

  • Make a personal gift to your nonprofit.

  • Provide names of donor prospects.

  • Personalize letters to current and prospective donors.

  • Introduce staffing team to members of the business and philanthropic community.

  • Follow, like, and share your nonprofit’s posts on social media.

  • Help research and clean data for potential donors, companies and foundations.

  • Advocate personally for your nonprofit; share the story with your community.

  • Accompany Executive or Development Director on donor and potential donor visits.

  • Recruit new board members with fundraising experience and connections.

  • Support fundraising events and campaigns and involve others.

  • Join the thank you calls list; when donors give, you personally call them (script provided).

  • Visit campuses or sites where your nonprofit serves. Encourage staff, clients, and beneficiaries there. 

We hope you can apply a few of these ideas as you work together for fundraising success!

Are you looking for more Good Advice? Join us September 12th for our next Good Advice Over Coffee on the topic of Strategic Planning and THE best visual to help focus your efforts. Also, check out the latest episode of Your Podcast for Good on this subject, hosted by our own Scott Smith. Here, we continue the conversation on Your Board’s Role in Fundraising and share more good advice discussed during this event. Enjoy!