Hello, Kim:

We are having a difficult time getting our Board to understand that they need to be more involved in fundraising. I’ve shared with them the information that I learned from your workshops about developing a donor base and the importance of board involvement, but they simply don’t want to do it. With the exception of one event, the board will not even participate on fundraising committees. Instead, they want event committee members to join the board. The board’s answer to our fundraising dilemmas is to hire a full-time fundraiser. We are a small nonprofit with a staff of four, one of whom is a development associate who wears many other hats. What can we do to

get our board be more active in fundraising?

–Despairing but Not Yet Hopeless

Dear Not Yet:

You have a classic problem, and almost every reader of this e-newsletter will identify with you. As you can imagine, your problem starts with how the board members are recruited. When they are not told fundraising is part of their job, they are far less likely to ever do it. It sounds like you have tried most of the usual remedies, and I would just suggest one more: hire an outside consultant for a board training. If you have a friendly and understanding major donor or foundation funder, ask them to put up a challenge grant that the board must meet with their own fundraising (and not their own giving) that would cover the costs of such a training. Then have an outsider do the training. This person can also explain the job of a development director, so that the board is aware that if they hire a full-time fundraising person, they will be asked to do even more than they do now. Outsiders have credibility that you don’t have for no other reason than they come from a few miles away carrying a briefcase and most people haven’t seen them before.

This remedy is unlikely to work, however, because of the adamancy of your board: “They simply don’t want to do it.” Until they are term-limited out (they do have term limits, I hope), I don’t think the culture of this board will change significantly.

So instead of trying to prod these unwilling people to do fundraising, work with anyone who will work with you—any board members who are less reluctant as well as other volunteers—to form a “Resource Committee.” This will be the team you need to help you with fundraising. Over time, do what you can to get members of that team on the board and to get the most stubborn anti-fundraising people off the board.

Eventually, you will have volunteer team of fundraising helpers who are mostly or entirely board members.

Good luck!

-Kim Klein