Campaign 101: The Board's Role
“Board members are the primary stewards of the nonprofit organization, ultimately responsible for securing adequate resources and overseeing the disposition of those resources. For this reason, a commitment to fundraising must begin with the Board.”
James Greenfield, long-time fundraising executive and author of
Fundraising Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards
Imagine: your organization is gearing up for a large campaign. You’ve done your research (Please don’t just read a book!) and you feel prepared and excited to officially launch your campaign. You might be ready but what does your board think? Do they understand what their role should be in a campaign? Success is unlikely unless the board fully understands their responsibilities before, during and after the campaign. It’s time to get your board on board!
Being a board member represents a commitment and an honor. Effective board members desire consistent expectations from the very beginning. A campaign can be an endeavor that could change the future of your organization, so strive for a unified board early starting with campaign planning. Being well-organized, committed to the goal, well-versed in the case elements and disciplined in following the campaign plan will assist in keeping the board cohesive as it fulfills its responsibility to secure resources and direct the campaign to success.
Each board member brings their own gifts and talents to the campaign. It is essential that you identify and build upon these strength areas. Here are some aspects to consider when thinking about how the board can and should be involved:
1. Board giving creates momentum: 100% financial commitment and a willingness to consider stretch gifts are vital to the campaign’s success because it sets a strong foundation. In fact, with the increase in competition, grants and large corporate donors are looking for 100% financial commitment from the Board of Directors of the organizations they support. If the organization’s board members, those who are closest to the organization, aren’t willing to give generously, it can be difficult to engage and encourage others to give in the same manner. One of the first “asks” to board members when it comes to a campaign is to consider their financial commitment and their ability/willingness to make a stretch gift. Members of the board should be among the first donors to the campaign! Board giving creates and reinforces a culture of giving that is not attainable by volunteering alone.
“When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game.”
Hamilton, the Broadway Musical
2. Involvement in the feasibility study for the campaign: This provides board members the opportunity to offer feedback on the case elements, indicate a level of support for the campaign, better understand the donor base (both capacity and inclination) and offers a better understanding of the campaign goal. Lack of understanding, trust, or confidence in the campaign goal and the underlying composition of the gift pyramid can quickly derail a campaign
3. Achieve a clear understanding of the campaign goal and the case for support: The board members should be able to offer compelling, mission appropriate examples of how your organization has made an impact in the community. It is much more compelling if the board members speak with enthusiasm, specificity and conviction about the impact of the gifts to the various case elements.
4. Establish well-defined and articulated roles for the board and other leadership: Each board member comes with their own set of strengths. Not all board members are going to excel at “making an ask” or hosting events. It is essential to identify each board members’ gifts and identify how their strengths can shine in the campaign. For example, if you have a board member who does not want to make solicitation calls but enjoys throwing dinner parties, perhaps invite him/her to host events that will increase awareness of your organization and campaign. There is a place for everyone in a campaign!
5. Engage with prospects and donors (i.e., “Making the Ask”): The majority of board members report feeling uncomfortable with fundraising and “making the ask” – that’s okay! While there may be some prospects that would be appropriate for a specific board member to solicit (with education and practice), the board can assist in many other ways.
Help identify prospects – this is one of the major areas the board can be helpful when it comes to the campaign
Assist in “opening the door” to major prospects
Have “listening” conversations with prospects to find out their hot buttons
Host small socials and cultivation events
Make thank-you visits to donor prospects
Engage prospects before the ask
Without the support of the board, your campaign will not be as successful as it could be. How exactly do you get your board on board? Engagement is a key component. Through studies and reports, it is clear that board members give more to organizations that offered substantive, meaningful board experience. Therefore, the more engaged, the more they want to support the organization financially. This is not surprising as people support the organizations to which they feel most connected!
In conclusion, boards that have “skin in the game” with their organization create stronger boards, more financially sound institutions and deeper donor pools that will help to advance and grow the mission of your organization.
 Perry, Gail, et al. “Help Board Members Understand: Capital Campaign Fundraising Is EVERYONE's Job: CCM.” Capital Campaign Masters, 25 Mar. 2016, capitalcampaignmasters.com/help-board-members-understand-capital-campaign-fundraising-is-everyones-job/.