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

  1. 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.
  2. 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 other trustees, have special skills enabling them to contribute their valuable expertise and leadership to your organization’s marketing, finance, law, accounting, etc., activities.
  3. The minimum amount might be much less than some trustees could actually give. Being asked for donations well under what they could provide usually means your trustees will settle at those lower amounts. In those instances, when you ask small, you get small from trustees who have the capability to give you much bigger gifts.
  4. A “give and get” minimum requirement combination of personal giving and personal raising of funds to be a trustee, is also not a good idea. The minimum total amount “quota” you set for them could be far less than some trustees might account for in total by way of their own gifts and from what they could personally raise from other sources. As a result, they will most likely relax their efforts when meeting their lower “goal.” They will, in effect, have done the job as you asked—and chances are they will not do more.
  5. A “give and get—something”—or go off the board, is a good idea. Even those trustees with limited resources should be able to contribute some modest amounts of money. As well, they should be in position to provide their endorsements and participation to assist in solicitations of prospects assigned to other volunteers.

General Guidelines

External giving to your annual fund will be positively influenced if you can demonstrate to non-board prospects that your trustees support the campaign with their 100% participation. The philanthropic spirit is infectious. Giving is definitely influenced by the example of others—and your board is capable of setting the very best example for others to follow.

  1. You should not readily accept from any trustee—one capable of making a sizable cash contribution but does not choose to do so—the idea that the giving of his or her time is the same as the giving of money.
  2. Try to have each trustee personally solicited by the board president, rather than by his or her peers. Trustees were brought on the board by the president, and that is where the accountability lies. If this is not practical due to a large number of board prospects, other officers of your organization may assist the president with the solicitations.
  3. It would be desirable to have the trustees’ total gift amount represent 20% to 33% of the total annual funds raised.
  4. Look to other similar size and/or similar-mission organizations for their trustees’ average gifts to their annual fund campaigns which could justify setting a higher average level donation for your own trustees to target. This could help to reinforce and rationalize your individual ratings of the trustees. The premise of comparing favorably with organizations similar to yours is usually a compelling selling point with boards of trustees.

When it comes to successfully conducting your annual fund-raising campaign, you need an attainable goal, a plan for getting to that goal and the tools to execute that plan. But in the end, the success or failure of that campaign hinges on leadership and pace-setting contributions, and that governance responsibility and financial commitment starts on your Board of Trustees.