Answers to questions about boards and fundraising

Whenever two or three nonprofit executives gather together, fundraising and board members are sure to come up. And based on conversations to which I’ve been privy, there’s not a lot of bragging going on. In fact, most of the nonprofit leaders with whom I work assume that every other board in town (the nation, maybe even the world) is more engaged than theirs – but without solid facts on which to base the assumption.

It’s no surprise that topping the list of frequently asked questions coming my way is, “What’s an appropriate expectation for my board and fundraising?” I do my best to answer, but although I get around more than a lot of folks, my sample is limited to the twenty or so boards with which I interact each year. And as good researchers know, it’s risky to extrapolate very broadly from so small a pool.

So imagine my delight to come across Engaging Board Members in Fundraising, a report released in September 2012 by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. Billed as the “first study . . . that looks at board members, fundraising practice, and whether a charity reached its year-end fundraising goal,” it analyzes data from more than 1,600 nonprofit organizations in the United States.

I encourage you to click on over to the full report, if for nothing more than the recommendations in the final pages. In the meantime, here are a few of the findings that caught my fancy.


  • A strong 83 percent of reporting organizations engage board members in fundraising.
  • Fifty-five percent of organizations where board members are involved in fundraising saw gifts increase between 2010 and 2011, and 60 percent reached their fundraising goal.
  • Among the responding organizations, board members typically contribute less than 10 percent of an organization’s total gifts received (this was true at least two-thirds of organizations surveyed).
  • About 56 percent of organizations required a contribution from each board member, and most (91 percent) tell prospective board members about that requirement in the recruitment process. A relatively small percentage of organizations set a minimum amount, just 35 percent of the 56 percent that require a board contribution.
  • Religious organizations are the least likely to require board member giving.  Overall, 57 percent of responding organizations required a gift from all board members, as compared with just 40 percent of faith-based nonprofits.
  • In smaller organizations, meeting fundraising goals occurred more often when board members helped gain access to prospective donors by sharing names, making introductions, and hosting events.
  • Generally speaking, the methods used by the highest percentage of organizations are those that are easy for board members to do – providing a contact list, making an introduction, allowing use of a name. One easy approach that is less often used, however, is asking board members to thank donors for past or recent gifts.

Armed with these and other factoids from Engaging Board Members in Fundraising, the next time the subject of comes up (and believe me it will), you’ll be ready to amaze.

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