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The Struggling Board Development Committee

How’s your board fundraising committee doing? They’re struggling? You’re not alone, believe me. BoardSource 2012 Governance Index reported that 46% of nonprofit CEOs gave their boards D’s or F’s for their fundraising efforts.

Here’s what I think about this issue: fundraising committees aren’t always necessary for effective fund raising. Really! When a committee is doing a poor job, it’s probably best to cultivate and support the few board members who do a good job.

It is important though to have board member involvement. Fundraising is supposed to be a joint responsibility of the board and management. It can’t simply be put on you and your staff. At the minimum, foundation proposals usually require assurances that the board is involved in funding. Some grantors may even want to meet personally with board members before and after providing grants.

Also, shared understanding and ownership of fundraising responsibilities can involve things that are inconvenient and time consuming. As result, these committee members don’t understand the value on joint fundraising.

I once was involved with a committee trying to develop an endowment fund. They were a small agency and had no volunteers who could assist. Each meeting became more and more tedious. One director took it upon himself to take action and look for current funding by himself.

This individual staff member raised about 1/3rd of the nonprofit’s yearly budget for a long time.

The point being: it’s not about trying to make this work fun for board members. I do believe there should be a strategic effort for you, the CEO, and your Board Chair to encourage boards members who view fundraising as a meaningful activity, to accept leadership.

If you’re an organization that wants to develop a fundraising dinner, recruit board members or volunteers who have experience in planning events. If you have board members who work for large businesses, provide them with the tools to make personal approaches to their donation office to determine if their donation priorities are in line with the nonprofit’s mission.

Takeaway: When the board fundraising committee isn’t doing what it should from a fundraising perspective, realize that 1-3 individual board members who are comfortable with fundraising can do much more that an under-achieving committee can. For you, the leader, devoting time to this isn’t easy, I know. Sometimes we just have to admit that a board fundraising committee, although the ideal approach, can get in the way of action-oriented progress.

Do you agree?

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