Susan's Blog: Building a Passionate Board

It happened again.

I had dinner with a friend this week who is involved with a wonderful organization and we spent most of the dinner talking through the obstacles facing this organization that is blocking it from doing effective fundraising. She wants them to do the kind of fundraising that will allow them to grow stronger and help them to realize more of their mission.

And yet, she can’t realize her fundraising vision right now because of many obstacles. She has passion and vision, but the organization isn't tapping into it right now, and they're missing out on a huge potential investment.

What does fundraising passion look like for a nonprofit board member? Why is it important?

People join boards for many reasons: but most join because they are passionate about the mission and work of the organization. They want to see that work continue, and they are willing to invest themselves (with time, ideas and money) in the future success of that organization.

It’s up to the leader of the nonprofit to engage with that board member, form a partnership and transform that passion into action.

How can the leader do this?
    1.    Know the top donors to your organization, and connect them with your board members to form a strong community among those who care the most. 
    2.    Work in partnership with the development staff to ensure smooth systems that keep donors happy. This will build trust among board members that any friends or colleagues that they invite to invest in the organization will be well stewarded.
    3.    Strategically grow and manage the board that will allow the organization to achieve its goals and fulfill its mission. Create a plan to orient and train new board members about their responsibilities, and keep them up-to-date about achievements and setbacks.
    4.    Guide the board member to become a natural fundraiser by giving them a clear understanding of your organization’s vital needs that they can easily articulate during a conversation with a friend.
    5.    Work in partnership with the active, passionate board members you already have. Are there board members who are ready to be persuasive ambassadors eliciting good will and soliciting great gifts? Use them.

Why should a nonprofit leader care about fundraising passion of board members?

Because when a board member feels passionately about your organization, when s/he feels connected and a part of your community [Jerry Panas calls this your ‘hug’], they will have you top of mind and continually engage with everyone in their circles of influence to help strengthen and grow your organization.

Because inspired board members will make your work easier. They can help with stewarding donors, making key asks and providing insights on the long-term direction of your work.

Be honest with yourself about your relationship with your board chair and board members. Are you getting as much out of your relationship as you could? Are you using their enthusiasm and focusing their passion for your work?

They can be and should be your most loyal supporters and fans. Start working with them today, and see how a great partnership can grow and flourish!