Trustees & Volunteers

The board of a nonprofit organization is crucial to fundraising success. If the board is not committed to fundraising, the organization cannot reach its fundraising potential. Nearly all fundraising campaigns rely upon a cadre of committed volunteers to solicit gifts and achieve goals.

To be a board member , a trustee, is to take on multiple responsibilities. Governance and oversight of staff are perhaps the two most important. But right up there with them is the responsibility to assure the solvency of the organization and its ongoing ability to fulfill mission.

Without committed volunteers a nonprofit cannot execute a traditional fundraising campaign. Volunteers, like board members, who in reality are volunteers themselves, are proof of the commitment to the organization of a community of interest. By their involvement they vouch for the organization and its fundraising efforts. By their actions as leaders and solicitors in fundraising campaigns, they provide the opportunity for success.

Articles about Trustees & Volunteers

Who Should Raise the Money
from within Your Organization?

The board of trustees must be the lifeblood of a non-profit organization’s fund-raising and development activities. They are the leaders who approve program initiatives developed from the organization’s long-range strategic plan. They authorize the expenditure of funds to carry out those initiatives. Those board-authorized expenses determine the organization’s operating budget. When that operating budget is greater than earned and endowment income, money must be raised to cover the resultant deficit. Therefore, it is trustees who establish fund-raising goals through their expense authorizations. An Alarming and Potentially Dangerous Trend Those leaders of non-profit organizations who establish fund-raising needs should carry the full responsibility for meeting those needs, but in recent years I have seen more and more organizations place the burden for fund-raising gift solicitation on the shoulders of executive directors and development staff. When staff members are given the responsibility of raising all or most of the money an organization needs, I have seen those non-profit organizations experience many serious and damaging consequences. In those instances, trustees failed to recognize that successful fund-raising officers do not ask for the money; they get others, beginning with the trustees themselves, to ask for it. As I have seen more and more heated discussion in recent years about who should be raising the money for non-profit organizations, I have observed a change in how we development professionals describe and perhaps even think about ourselves and how others see us. What’s In A Name? Plenty! There is a tendency in the development profession these days to describe our work as fund-raising and to call ourselves fund-raisers. To my way of thinking, volunteers are...

How Board Members Can
Become Effective Fund-Raisers

So, you’ve been asked to join the board of a non-profit organization, or maybe you’re already on the board. In either case, here’s some advice. Never sit on the board of a non-profit organization unless you are willing to express your leadership by asking friends, family, and acquaintances to make gifts of a size consistent with their ability to give. Board members must be eager solicitors of donors, especially those with the ability to make substantial gifts, and they must be willing to lead fund-raising efforts. In the end, the success of fund-raising campaigns hinges on leadership, and that leadership starts with the board. Board members are the campaign solicitors of first and last resort. They are the most important fund-raising resource an organization has. There is no greater strength in a fund-raising campaign than a board ready and willing to lead, and no greater weakness than one which sees fund-raising as someone else’s job. Yet far too many board members are, at best, reluctant fund-raisers. They’re quick to claim they don’t have the time, feel uncomfortable “begging,” don’t have the right contacts, or didn’t sign on to be fund-raisers—that it’s the staff’s job. Does that mean we have the wrong people on our boards? Would things be any different with different board members? The answer to both those questions is a resounding NO! Board Members Must Be Provided With The Fund-Raising “Road Map” From my experience, much of the fault lies in an organization’s failure to define and delineate for board members their fund-raising role. Board members need to be made aware of the fund-raising process and to...

In Search of the Elusive Major Giver

What a Major Giver is How to find them What you need to have in place before conducting a Major Gifts Campaign Your organization needs money. Big money. The kind of money you can’t raise by going out and asking for donations of $10, $20, $100, or perhaps even $1,000. Maybe you need the money to expand your services. Maybe you need it to build a new wing. Maybe you need it to match the largest grant you’ve ever been awarded. Maybe you need it just to stay alive. Raising big money is a different proposition from chasing down contributions to the annual fund. Let me draw an analogy. Money is the sustenance that nourishes an organization. Just as food nourishes our bodies, money keeps the organization alive, healthy, and growing. It is the lifeblood. The great majority of us get our food in restaurants a meal at a time and from grocery stores a bag or two at a time. That’s not unlike what we do in most of our fund-raising efforts. We go after small money—enough to keep us going for a cycle. That cycle can be measured in time—a few months or a year. Often it is measured conceptually—a specific project or program. Raising big money is more like growing our own food and then preparing every meal from scratch. That means we’d have to clear the land, plow the ground, plant the seeds, cultivate the crops, harvest the yield, and store it. And that’s if we’re vegetarians. I don’t even want to think about what I’d have to do for a steak. The point I’m...

How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fund-Raising Team

Volunteers are the lifeblood of a development operation, and trustees are the most important volunteers of all. The trustees approve an organization’s budget and they must accept personal responsibility for raising called-for contributed income. They are expected to set the pace in giving, recruiting other volunteers, and soliciting major donors. Too often I have been engaged as a consultant only to have the executive director of the organization or chair of the board of trustees tell me, “Our board doesn’t raise money. You’ll have to look elsewhere for fund-raising leadership.” That’s when I tell them they have to change the makeup of the board. A board must include individuals capable of leading a major fund-raising campaign. There is no greater strength in a fund-raising campaign than a board ready and willing to lead. There is no greater weakness than one which sees fund-raising as someone else’s responsibility. Leadership is the key element in determining the goal or deciding whether you should even conduct a fund-raising campaign. Be it this year’s edition of the annual fund campaign, a first-time attempt to raise endowment, or a first-ever fund-raising effort, leadership is what will make or break your campaign. At its best, a truly responsible and effective board will produce a volunteer development organization along these lines: BOARD OF TRUSTEES → DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE → FUND-RAISING CAMPAIGN LEADERSHIP (Annual, Endowment, Capital, Sponsorship & Underwriting, Governmental) → SOLICITORS The board chair sets the tone for the organization and its volunteers. Other trustees look to the chair for leadership, and the chair has primary responsibility for volunteer leadership commitment. However, a development director may have...

Annual Fund Giving & Getting
Guidelines for Trustees

All of your organization’s fund-raising campaigns must have the leadership and the financial support of your Board of Trustees. The most important of those development efforts should be the raising of funds necessary to maintain and enhance your organization’s programs and services year after year. This is accomplished through the Annual Fund Campaign. The annual fund provides the “bedrock” of reasonably predictable renewed support and is the entry-level for larger gifts possible for future endowment, capital, sponsorship and underwriting campaigns and planned giving programs. Thus, the annual fund especially requires that your trustees be in the forefront as they contribute their own funds and as they personally raise other money. To successfully raise money externally, you must first raise money internally, and that starts with your board. Principal Guidelines Know the giving capability of each of your trustees. Each trustee should be rated and evaluated for his or her best giving potential in the same way other non-board individuals are rated and evaluated for their suggested giving to the annual fund campaign. You always seek a realistically large—hopefully the maximum—potential gift from each of your trustees. A minimum gift requirement to be a trustee is usually not a good idea. The minimum amount could be more than some trustees are capable of giving who can provide other, non-financial, benefits to your organization. It is necessary to have as many trustees as possible on your board who have the potential to to make significant financial contributions. However, you should also encourage and accommodate a select and controlled number of others who, while they are not as financially able as the...

So, You Were Asked to Volunteer and
Work on a Fund-Raising Campaign!

As a businessperson, you are among the most sought-after volunteers for support of non-profit organizations. Officials of non-profits want you to take leadership positions with them because: They know that you are a natural leader and a strong advocate for charitable groups and their causes They know that as a good corporate citizen you are aware of their problems and needs and are sensitive and responsive to them. They are aware that you are able to help them gain support from other business and civic leaders because of your own stature in the community and through your friendships and contacts. They recognize that involvement in charitable organizations is in your own self-interest and that the networking opportunities they provide for you is good for your business. But where and how to you find the time to best serve those non-profits which look to you for your leadership and involvement? You look again at your watch and you finally say, “It’s time for me to go back to the office and help raise money for my own company.” You say this as yet another fund-raising meeting comes to an end for one of the several charities with which you are involved as a volunteer fund-raiser. This is a common dilemma for business and industry executives. It’s hard enough to balance the demands of career and family, much less those of the many worthwhile non-profit organizations that want your time and energy even more than they need your money. But successful businesspeople most often do feel the need to make such contributions of their time and efforts. So the issue of...