Fundraising and your board

by Jini Stolk

It was recently my pleasure to present a webinar on Fundraising and Your Board for Business for the Arts Mentorship program. Two hours (which felt at first like a very generous timespan) flew by, with interesting questions calling up new thoughts, perspectives and avenues for discussion.

I’m hoping that I may have the opportunity to integrate some of what I said into a live workshop – stay tuned for details – but I’ve become a convert to the power of webinars to reach people in far-flung communities with information they need to develop their professional skills. Interestingly, many of the webinar participants were arts board members, which reinforces my feeling that boards are yearning for information and advice to develop their skills – all in service of our many vital community-based arts organizations.

Without giving everything away, I believe that the major messages around boards and fundraising are: that board members must be empowered and enabled by professional staff to succeed at fundraising; that a detailed fundraising plan should be developed with board member participation; that board members can be essential in identifying prospective donors, sharing the passion they feel for the organization, and ensuring that donors feel thanked, involved and engaged so that they give again; that each board member should be helped to identify where they can best contribute, based on their skills and desires; and that fundraising is all about relationships, starting with clarity, trust and shared values within the organization.

A few thoughts to ponder from the wonderful Simone Joyaux:

“Fundraisers complain about board members who don’t help fundraise. Executive directors complain about poor governance. Look in the mirror, I say! In general, board members fundraising and board members governing are only as good as they are enabled to be. And enabling is the staff’s job.”

“Enabling is the process of empowering others. Enabling means giving people the wherewithal, opportunity and adequate power to act. When you empower someone, you distribute and share your own power. And power shared is multiplied.”

‘Every single board member can help with fund development—but only if you, the staff, enable them well. Every single board member can be successful in fund development—but only if you, the staff, understand that fund development is not about money. Rather, fund development focuses on helping donors and prospects fulfill their aspirations”.

Ponder away.

And if you’re wondering why board members should become involved in donor retention, think about this:

It is a well-known rule of fundraising that it costs less to retain former donors than to recruit new donors, but do you know how well are you doing at retention? Do you know how that measures up in comparison to others? The Urban Institute and the Association of Fundraising Professionals have just released their enormously useful 2014 Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) Survey Report. The study is based on donor data from 3,576 survey respondents, covering year-to-year fundraising results for 2012–2013.

During this period, although respondents raised more than $2.44 billion from 2.2 million donors…

For every $100 gained, $92 was lost from lapsed donors and smaller gifts from current donors. (This net $8 is up from a net loss of $19 in 2009.)

For every 100 new and returning donors, 102 lapsed (an improvement from last year’s report of 105.)

43% percent of 2012 donors made gifts to participating non-profits in 2013 (up from 39 percent in last year’s report.)


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