A camel is a horse designed by a committee. Heard that one before?
Heeding that adage to the extreme leads, in fundraising, to letters drafted and polished by staff alone – indeed, entire campaigns planned and executed by the development department, with its superior fundraising expertise.
Board members’ jobs, in this model, are to send the darned thing out – not to critique its components. Easier for everyone concerned, yes?
But so much less effective, for many reasons.
Board Development Committee members should be full partners in fundraising planning, particularly as it relates to donors in your board's networks. They should be mobilizing the whole board to be the organization's “askers in chief” as well as its dedicated ambassadors.
This means having ownership over decisions on messaging, timing, intent…as well as implementation.
How often are board members told when the annual event is happening, the content for the end-of-year appeal, even how a cultivation touch will occur? They’re expected to simply share names and comply.
And often they do, though sometimes grudgingly. But how much more enthusiastic might they be – and how much more productive their outreach – if they had a say in the activity under design?
This does mean that you have to allow more lead time in activity planning and pre-implementation. You can’t expect true feedback if you give board members a draft with less than 24 hours to review before it’s headed to the printer.
And in this world in which everyone is always juggling and just a little behind, getting board member feedback is one more element to add to the mix. It can be frustrating! Staff has worked hard on a flyer, only to have board members report back that it’s too dry, or not compelling enough. Who asked them!
And it’s essential to getting board members fully vested in fundraising success.
But don't stop there. Why not convene a group of donors to advise you on donor concerns (including reactions to your fundraising materials)? Who better to give their opinion than those squarely within the target audience for your appeals? And what better way to get them into the inner circle, than to ask them for help?
Hint: It's just a short step from advising your organization on fundraising messaging to suggesting new recipients for those messages.
Fundraising: It’s more efficient done solo, but more effective carried out as a group…