Board Members Scattered Far and Wide

Dear Kim,

I manage the major donor program for a small national women’s issues group. After many years of resistance, our Board of Directors is finally willing to get involved with fundraising and has begun making visits to our major donors. But geography is a big problem. Our board members are concentrated on the east and west coasts. Some of our donors live far away from any Board members and some Board members live far away from any donors. How can we include everyone in our major donor effort?
—Wondering About the Wide Open Spaces

Dear Wide Open,

Yours is a common problem for national organizations. It is fairly easily solved. First of all, congratulations to your board for finally being willing to live up to their responsibilities on fundraising. Now, even though each board member has agreed to do personal visits, not all may be able to. Board members who live far from current donors will need to call them. Certainly someone who gives $500 or $1000 who lives in Davenport, Iowa, does not expect that someone from Seattle will fly in to see them. A phone call will take the place of the personal visit. On the other hand, if 10 donors live in Davenport and a board member has a cousin there she would like to see anyway, a trip would be a good idea. Many national organizations try to involve the major donors themselves in solicitation. Playing out our Davenport scenario, your board member goes there and meets with a few people. She then asks one or two of them if they are willing to be the “liaison” to your group and once a year or so to call or visit all the donors in their area. People are often willing to do this, even if they are not willing to solicit the gift. Just getting that personal touch in there is enough to keep the donors giving, with, of course, actual direct solicitations from someone in your group.

While I accept that some of your board members don’t live near current donors, I do not accept that board members don’t live near any potential donors unless they don’t live near anyone at all. Board members who have no current donors to visit will have to identify some new donors from among their friends and colleagues. Everyone lives near major donors–some have already given and some are going to give once they are asked. Hope this helps to get you started.
—Kim