Please Don't Ask Me To Do That?

| by Bert Armstrong

In my 25 years as a fundraiser, nonprofit administrator, and consultant, one of the most often heard quotes from members of nonprofit boards is some rendition of “I will do anything else you need me to do, but don’t ask me to raise money.”  Such statements from new board members don’t surprise me as much as the responses to these pronouncements by many of my nonprofit brothers and sisters:

  • Hearing board chairs and executive directors downplay the importance of this critical board role while recruiting a new board member.  As a long time development director, I’ll admit to a love/hate relationship with the statement “we’ve got a terrific development director so you won’t have to worry too much about that.”
  • Sitting in development committee meetings and listening to rarely challenged excuses why no calls were made on the campaign prospects that a board member agreed to visit at the previous meeting.  We’ve all heard responses like, “I sent them an email but never heard back from them” or “We should take them off the list because I don’t think they will give.”
  • Watching entire board meetings go by without any meaningful discussion about fundraising – except to ask the executive director or development staff what they are doing in regards to grants, events and the year-end appeal.

As we continue to adjust to the new political and economic realities in our communities, nonprofits must strengthen their fundraising effectiveness.  Achieving greater philanthropic success starts with having a board that is committed to this work.  Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some thoughts on building a board culture that embraces fundraising, the importance of setting reasonable fundraising expectations, and holding boards accountable for the organization’s fundraising goals.  We will also be highlighting some nonprofits that are effectively engaging their board members in their resource development efforts.

Join our conversation tell us how your board embraces fundraising.  If you are a board member of a nonprofit, give us your perspective on this responsibility.

Bert Armstrong is a co-founder and principal at Armstrong McGuire & Associates.  

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