Oh where, oh where is the proud fundraising board?

It’s like pulling hen’s teeth to pry a good word about fundraising out of board members’ mouths. But I don’t let that stop me. I’m on the hunt for boards that go proudly into the development fray. A rare breed, to be sure, but they’re out there — or so I want to believe.  

When I meet with a board for the first time, I usually begin by encouraging the members to talk about a decision they’ve made together about which they are particularly proud. Most often, boards cite the selection of a new CEO as their crowning moment.

Other times, board members comment on the hard, but necessary, decision to fire the executive director. Occasionally I hear about the board’s role in the planning process or how they gave the nod to a new program or outreach possibility.

Beyond these big-ticket governance items, however, the majority of board members are hard pressed to identify how their work has made a substantial difference in the forward movement of the organizations they serve. And almost never do board members mention their role in fundraising as something about which they take pride. In fact, getting board folks to even mention their involvement in the organization’s development effort takes considerable coaxing on my part.


Yet anyone who has been around the organizational block more than once knows that as the board performs, so goes the fundraising program. Writing in The Board Member’s Guide to Fund Raising, development guru Fisher Howe cautioned: “If the [organization] is having trouble raising money, don’t look at the development office, don’t look to the chief executive, first check out the board of trustees.”

I hate to sound callous, but if Howe’s words make board members uncomfortable, too bad. We dare not ignore the fact that successful organizations — faith-based or otherwise — are the beneficiaries of boards that understand their part in fundraising success.

Granted, getting and giving are far from the end-all and be-all of the board’s responsibilities. But money does matter. Whether we speak of “time, talent, and treasure” or prefer “work, wisdom, and wealth” as the way of stating our expectations of board members, we dare not drop the dollar sign from the equation.

So I push on, looking for that elusive board that lists the decision to beef up its fundraising prowess as a proud moment together. My hope springs eternal that next trip out, I’ll find it.

What do you say is your board’s proudest moment? How do you rate your board’s fundraising prowess?

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  1. Lee Solomon says:

    Wow, direct but much needed. Just a word of praise for one of our trustees who gets it! Tonight a trustee is hosting an event in his city for close to 50 of his peers who know little to nothing of our seminary. It will feature one of our faculty making a presentation to the group. We need more who get it!

  2. 50 peers! Wow! That’s terrific. Hosting events is a great way for board members to pitch in on the fundraising front. What’s your follow up strategy to the event?

    As we’ve heard repeatedly — and as I’ve written here at Generous Matters — the event is the beginning, not the end of the interaction with the guests your trustee has invited. How many of the 50 do you hope will become regular contributors to the seminary? What’s your plan for moving them in that direction? Inquiring readers want to know.

What's your take on this topic?

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