Involving your board in fund-raising: make sure these key community members are fully onboard with your development strategy.
Article Type: Organization overview
Subject: Boards of directors (Psychological aspects)
Boards of directors (Services)
Fund raising (Methods)
Fund raising (Psychological aspects)
Health boards (Management)
Nonprofit organizations (Human resource management)
Nonprofit organizations (Finance)
Nonprofit organizations (Growth)
Author: Stadter, Doug
Pub Date: 02/01/2009
Publication: Name: Behavioral Healthcare Publisher: Vendome Group LLC Audience: Academic; Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Vendome Group LLC ISSN: 1931-7093
Issue: Date: Feb, 2009 Source Volume: 29 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information; 200 Management dynamics; 280 Personnel administration; 250 Financial management Computer Subject: Company business management; Company personnel management; Company financing; Company growth
Product: Product Code: 8347000 Fund Raising Agencies; 8380000 Nonprofit Institutions; 8300000 Social Services & Nonprofit Institutns NAICS Code: 81341 Civic and Social Organizations; 813 Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations; 624 Social Assistance SIC Code: 8399 Social services, not elsewhere classified; 8300 SOCIAL SERVICES
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 196018674
Full Text: 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 development 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 100% 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 fund-raising, which includes supporting the foundation's needs to fulfill its mission. Agency board members also are expected to give an annual contribution. In addition, the agency board works through the joint membership committee to recruit new members for the foundation and to notify the foundation of any donor prospects.

Fund-raising strategies

Start with projects that build confidence. Be certain that your fund-raising strategies match your staff's time and skills. If your agency is relatively new at fund-raising, start with projects that will build confidence throughout the organization. Both staff and board members need to feel comfortable with this new challenge.

Hire the best people you can possibly afford. This is one area where it doesn't pay to be stingy (although my staff would say I am still too stingy!). This strategy will pay off in the long run. Don't be afraid to steal experienced staff from other local agencies. That's just a part of the development food chain.

Learn from your failures and your successes. Not every strategy or project will be successful. Prepare yourself for this reality and try to learn from failures as well as successes.

Learning from a failure. One of our failures was acquiring a financially struggling faith-based mentoring program. It had an excellent reputation in the community, but the founder and primary supporter was no longer able to be actively involved. We spent a great deal of time and effort trying to integrate the faith-based program into our secular organization. As we began to merge the two cultures, we noticed the previous support base was declining. Many donors felt their support was no longer needed since a larger, better-financed organization had taken over. Others did not feel that the program was maintaining its original mission, even though children still were being mentored. We also had underestimated the support based on loyalty to the founder and not necessarily to the program.

Therefore, ensure that agencies/programs you consider merging with not only fit your mission, but also your organizational model. Do your homework on the agency's past support network, and have some assurance that it will continue or even be enhanced as a result of the merger. Make as many personal contacts with the other agency's supporters as possible. Ask them why they support the program. Don't be afraid to ask them to commit to continued support. Make certain they understand what the program will look like after the merger. Be prepared to show them how the program and services will be enhanced to the benefit of clients.

Learning from a success. As I mentioned earlier, our boards meet at least annually at the board social. Previously, only current board members attended these events. This past year, however, we decided to reconnect with all of our previous board members. We planned a more formal setting at the chamber of commerce and used the event to showcase several of our newer programs and to discuss our vision.

We reconnected with many previous members who have since increased donations, but the most important result was totally unexpected. One former board member was excited about our vision for a community-wide family enhancement center. She linked us with another local organization and a donor with a similar vision. We merged with this agency recently (and, yes, we did our homework this time). The end result, we hope, will be a family enhancement center including programs for all age groups, a child-care center, after-school program using our parent skills training and behavioral management techniques, a full-service health and exercise facility, and access to other social services in the community.

Therefore, remember your past board members. They are an extremely valuable asset, so keep them up to date on what's happening at the agency. Ensure they are on your mailing lists and are invited to all appropriate agency events. You even might consider having your development staff and a current board member make calls on former members.


The board's role in fund-raising is an evolutionary process for all agencies. Wherever you are on the development activities continuum, great things are a head for your agency if you plan and execute a strategy that includes the board members in this endeavor.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Centers for Youth & Families

* Serves Central and Southeast Arkansas

* 325 full-time employees

* $20 M annual budget

* For current FY (ending 6/09), 5% of budget (slightly over $1 M) funded by fund-raising activities

For more information, call (501) 660-6801.


Doug Stadter is President/ CEO of The Centers for Youth and Families in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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