Board Biz

Much of my professional life has been working with Boards, helping them to define and be successful in their roles. Almost unanimously, the role of fundraising is the one that causes most concern.

”If I ask my friends and colleagues for support,” I am told over and over again, “then I know that the next step is they will ask me to support their organization.” It’s a fair, and probably true, statement.

These musical dollars really don’t benefit anyone, and they cause more than a few Board members to practice fundraising avoidance tactics at all costs.

This, in turn, causes staff to grumble. “The Board isn’t doing its job,” is a typical refrain. “They are not raising any money.”

But, should they?

I think that a better, more realistic, job for Board members is to create an environment where fundraising can occur. What I really want my Board members to do is to introduce me to people they believe have the ability and the interest in supporting my organization.

Mind you, I don’t want just any introduction. I want my Board member to set the stage so that we can turn his or her contact into a viable prospect (and eventually, donor) for my organization.

Set the stage how? Get me in front of the prospect with my Board member. At that meeting, I want my Board member to talk about his or her commitment to my organization and tell the contact how gratifying and important that commitment has been.

What happens at the meeting will, of course, vary, depending on a host of things. What really matters is that I-- and by extension, my organization--will now have a connection with this prospect. My ultimate goal, of course, is to turn the prospect into a donor, but I want a committed, in-love-with my organization and a frequent donor, not just a single gift.

Beyond introductions, I want my Board members to thank our donors for their generosity. A personal, handwritten note or a phone call to those they know and those we want to know better from a Board member can be extremely meaningful, both to the recipient and the writer. Personal invitations to events can get otherwise hard to meet people close to the organization.

Speaking of events, I expect my Board members to attend events…and to be working the room, not just sitting or standing there.

In other words, I want my Board members to think more about development than fundraising as a prime responsibility. I want them to develop, grow, widen and expand the number of people closely involved with our organization. And I want my Board members to create a culture of philanthropy among those who they are helping to connect with our organization.

Janet Levine is a fundraising consultant. She can be reached at Her online grantwriting class is available at