When trying to answer the age-old question of how to get a board more involved in fundraising, the universal solution always seems to be to form a fundraising committee.
But putting the responsibility on an isolated and exclusive group comes with two potential drawbacks. First, you’re missing out on the valuable intellectual resources possessed by the other smart and committed people on the team. But more importantly, having a committee can remove the sense of responsibility from the organization as a whole, and accidentally inject the poisonous “that’s not part of my job description” mentality into the core necessity of raising money.
Task Forces: The Mini-Committees
Fundraising can and does work really well as a group effort — especially on smaller boards where it is genuinely possible for everyone to be involved. A great way to get everyone involved is to form smaller, more specialized task forces to spread the responsibility.
For example, Task Force A handles fundraising for events 1 and 2, and Task Force B is responsible for events 3 and 4. Or instead of establishing a general goal of raising $10 million by a specific date, break it up into $10,000 targets and assign them to each task force.
When each task force works toward its own target — with some friendly competition mixed in — goals become tangible and reachable, with a sense of ownership and accountability attached to each one. This can be much more efficient than striving for a single, larger goal that is distant, conceptual and overwhelming.
Do What Works
If you’re unsure, consider disbanding your fundraising committee for a year (or a quarter, or whatever length of time you’re comfortable with) and try the task force model to test the results.
Or don’t try the task force model at all.
The truth about fundraising is that strategies must be tailored to your specific board. The industry norm may very well not work for you. Malleability and elasticity in strategy has to be part of the equation.
Some boards will invariably have members who simply don’t want to or don’t know how to solicit funding. Some boards will simply be too big or too small to effectively allocate responsibility. Consider placing unique responsibilities on individual members, while continuing the theme of pursuing targeted, tangible goals.
If a board member is a social butterfly and great at follow-ups and thank yous, put him or her in charge of friend-raising — which is just as important as fundraising — and have that individual explain to donors how their money is being spent (also known as donor stewardship).
Fundraising can be polarizing. Board members tend to identify with either being a fundraiser or not being a fundraiser. Task forces and the assignment of specialized responsibilities doesn’t force anyone to take on a label that they’re not comfortable with — but it also doesn’t let anyone get away with not being a part of bringing in resources.
There is no right way to fund raise. A board is a team — but a team that is made up of individuals. Utilize them all in their own unique way.