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To Know Is Not To Do
We've all heard the directive by now:  "Board members must raise funds." 

But even though many board members know this is their responsibility, boards across America aren't living up to this dictum.

Enter a boardroom and announce a new board fundraising campaign, and watch board members freeze like deer in the headlights. 

They want to do their job - but they just can't move off the dime.

How can we "unstick" our boards?

Why Precedes What
The first step in liberating board members from their chairs is to clarify the "why" - why board members have to reach out (other than because best practices say so). 

Beyond the case for the organization, there needs to be a case for why board members are needed for fundraising - and why now.

For many years some nonprofits moved right along relying on government contracts, foundation grants and occasional corporate donations, but not asking their board members to give or get.  Filling board seats with colleagues valued for their professional expertise, these nonprofits have thrived based on the quality of their programming, but not because of a specific value-add provided by their board.

We are in a different era now.

But staff have to help board members recognize that the status quo has to change.  A case has to be made based not on nonprofit management theory but on mission - through a concern that critical pieces of the program will be lost or never realized without board members giving and getting on all cylinders. 
Build on Board Strengths
Don't start unsticking the board by assigning overwhelming tasks - the cold call, pressuring an honoree, recruiting an employer as a major sponsor.

Start with the easy stuff.  Sitting next to a donor at the annual dinner and finding out why they care.  Thank yous. 

Create and celebrate quick wins - bringing prospects to a cultivation event or setting up a meeting over drinks with a colleague and the Executive Director.  Set process goals as well as hard numbers (percent of board members hosting a cultivation gathering as well as actual dollars pledged in the gathering's aftermath). 

Success breeds confidence which breeds competence.  When board members experience fundraising as friendraising, their shoulders relax a bit, their jaws unclench.  "This isn't so bad," you can see that little inner voice whispering in the back of their minds.
Supply the Right Tools
Case statement, talking points, training, practice - those are the obvious tools.

But people - your allies in this process - are your hidden assets.  Work on a few board members who might step out ahead of the crowd.  When others see them modeling successful fundraising, more will follow.  

Partner board members with each other - or have them hear from peers on other boards.  Accompanying a seasoned fundraiser teaches, more than any words can, that fundraising is doable, based on familiar social behavior (friendraising), and can even be fun.

And consider adding some new voices to the table.  People untainted by years of tradition, unused to the rejoinder "we don't do it that way."  Even a few additional hands raised for fundraising assignments will begin to make it all seem possible - and inevitable.
Tales of Governance Success:  Violence Intervention Program

Violence Intervention Program, Inc. (VIP) supports Latina survivors of domestic abuse and their children who, as immigrants, often find themselves in unfamiliar and often inhospitable territory; and serves as an advocate for families affected by violence. VIP came to Cause Effective to transition from a board of community volunteers to a board that could govern strategically and raise the funds needed to fulfill its mission.


Cause Effective worked with VIP's board and staff leadership to clarify what the board was looking for in new board members; and to build the recruitment, nomination and onboarding structures that would make board service attractive to a seasoned board member. With Cause Effective's coaching, executive director Cecilia Gastón was able to raise her sights to approach individuals who might lead VIP to board prospects with clout and resources. According to Ms. Gastón: "Originally, I was looking in the wrong places - to people I know who are already overextended or working in nonprofits. But by shifting my own thinking and going out of my comfort zone, I was able to ask for help - and to bring in the people we need."


VIP recruited a new chair with fresh energy and several new board members, and has another group of board prospects teed up to join later this Spring. And the board members who remain "have all stepped up," according to Ms. Gastón. "They're energized because they see the progress."  So is she: "I can see that all this work is starting to yield a visible difference. We're already engaging our new board prospects - and we look like a real board now!"

Want more ideas?

Download this Cause Effective "Unfreeze Your Board" Tipsheet, drawn from Cause Effective's years of experience helping boards discover their inner fundraiser.  Share it with your closest ally on the board, and give some of the suggestions a whirl. 

And drop us a line - we love to think through knotty board problems.  We have the patience, and the perspective,
to imagine a new solution...and we'd love to try. 

Thank goodness it's Spring - now get off your seats and get going!
Judy Levine 
Executive Director  
Cause Effective Around Town
Peer Learning, Board Trainings and more coming up soon...  

Join the Staten Island Nonprofit Association for a full day of learning and networking with Staten Island's not-for-profit community. Cause Effective will be leading this one-hour workshop as part of the conference - guaranteed to provide plenty of ideas to freshen up your fundraising!


Click here to register. 

Bringing the Tools of Gen X to Board Fundraising:  

What Board Members Need to Make Crowdfunding Wildly Successful


Thursday, April 16

6:00 PM to 8:00 PM


Join Cause Effective and ioby to learn how crowdfunding can serve your nonprofit as a fundraising and community engagement tool. 


This workshop is tailored for board members and will cover crowdfunding from a board perspective, including how crowdfunding fits into the overall nonprofit development toolbox, best practices in crowdfunding, techniques to mobilize board members to be involved in crowdfunding - and more!

 Click here to register. 

How did your annual appeal do this year?
From the Cause Effective Blog:
The Excitement of Victory

It's event season for many nonprofits - that no-holds-barred sprint to the finish line. Now's the time to harness that sense of accomplishment, the excitement of success, and board members' inner confidence that they can get the job done - to set up your fundraising program for the year to come.


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For over 30 years, Cause Effective has strengthened the nonprofit sector by increasing the capacity of more than 5,000 nonprofits to build sustainable communities of supporters.  We provide carefully tailored counsel to help nonprofits diversify funding, raise more money from individuals, activate boards of directors, and get the greatest value from anniversaries and special events so they can achieve long-term, community-based change.

To learn more, please visit www.causeeffective.org.