Nonprofit Board Duties: How to Get Participation – Not Just Ideas


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Image of the author, Mary Sumners

Mary Sumners, Vice President of Annual Giving, Kennari Consulting – Mary’s areas of expertise include annual giving strategies, capital campaign management, and board and volunteer committee support. She has tremendous knowledge on managing the day-to-day challenges of fundraising and enjoys facilitating the decision-making process with clients. She is especially passionate about helping boards become more inclusive and intentional in representing the communities they serve. She is also BoardSource certified, which has given her greater insight into how nonprofit boards can best support their organizations.

A nonprofit’s board of directors can be its most powerful asset for fundraising growth. In addition to fiduciary and governance duties, nonprofit board duties also include playing a lead role in the organization’s fundraising and advocacy efforts.  An effective board not only reviews and approves financial documents, but they also work hard to have an impact on those metrics. But how do we turn our biggest fans into joyful fundraisers? By letting them tell us where they can help—and helping them thrive in one or more of the four roles of fundraising:  

1. Providing Intel  

Even the most robust and experienced fundraising teams with the very best wealth data can be enhanced by the information board members and other fundraising volunteers can provide. The more information the development team has about prospective donors, the more successful their cultivation and solicitation efforts will be.  

Board members can help us understand which project or program might interest the donor, or what other types of organizations they support.   A trails organization might use their board to help them understand whether or not the donor prospect enjoys a particular trail or park. A symphony orchestra might learn whether or not the donor played an instrument as a kid.  Even the smallest bit of information helps us navigate the right cultivation pathway for the donor.   

Bringing new prospects forward is also a great example of intel that board members can provide. If board composition work is done right, the board represents a variety of skill sets and networks within the community it serves. Their work as connectors is key to bringing new ideas for funding partners forward. The responsibilities of nonprofit board members  will always include being actively engaging in their communities, always thinking about building the next new raving fan of your organization.   

2. Inviting 

Everyone who loves their community has a list of their favorite organizations they enjoy supporting.  None of these relationships typically begin with a self-led google search. Rather, someone probably invited you personally to get involved. As core leaders of the organization, board members can help provide opportunities for people to support the organization by inviting donor prospects to participate in some way. This could be an invitation to a fundraising event, a tour of the facility, a personal note on a newsletter or fundraising appeal or just inviting their social network to like the organization’s pages and posts. 

Sometimes board members are reluctant to invite their friends and contacts to come to a fundraising event. To help ease those fears, it’s important to equip them with the information and tools they need to feel confident. Within the training process, remind them of the things they’ve been invited to by their friends and colleagues.  They can use this experience to craft an invitation strategy that incorporates all the things that they liked about other invites. We know they committed to being a board member because they believe in your cause. Help them to communicate that passion to others! 

3. Asking 

Asking seems to be the task a lot of volunteers and board members shy away from the most. Admittedly it can be difficult. But in many situations, having the board member or volunteer make the ask means the difference between a yes or a no from a prospective donor. Many people like to be asked by their peers or friends, and even having those peers or friends in the room for the ask can be a great way to show the donor just how important their support is to the organization.   

Asking comes in many forms too! It’s not just the individual face-to-face ask that board members can do. They can deliver an ask at an event, make a follow up call to a corporate sponsor, or share the organization’s social media post that includes an ask.  Whatever the vehicle—board members can make a deep impact on the results! 

4. Thanking 

Perhaps the most rewarding opportunity to support the fundraising process is helping thank the donors.  Board members can serve in a variety of ways as they thank their supporters. They can sign letters, write handwritten note cards, send a quick email, or call them. Many board members find that they’re able to learn a little bit about the donor and why they give. They also get a chance to hear what is important to the donors, and what they are looking forward to as the organization moves ahead. These conversations also play a key role in the donors’ continued gifts to the organization.   

A board of directors should have a good understanding of their investor base. While they might not know each donor personally, they certainly should be privy to depth and breadth of the base, as well as the organization’s top twenty donors. Working with the development staff to participate in thanking and stewardship helps fulfill their important role as board members.   

Final Thoughts 

Now that we know the roles they can play, the next step is putting it into action! Board members can be more successful when they have a clear understanding of their nonprofit board duties and the related tasks. The best way to do this is to have an annual one-on-one meeting with each board member to talk about how their fundraising goals for the year. Which of these roles are they willing to take on? And what tools and training do they need to get this work done?  Helping each board member set and meet their own goals shows that they are part of your team and keeps them focused on activities that produce results!    

Looking for additional tips on working with your board? Check out the resources below! 

About Kennari Consulting

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We value relationships and are proud to connect nonprofits to our partner network and hope this helps increase your nonprofit’s effectiveness and success. Kennari Consulting helps nonprofits build relationships with donors by creating passionate advocates.

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