One Simple Campaign Rule: The Board Must Lead

| by Judy Bright

Successful philanthropic programs are the result of boards that provide leadership in their giving and in their asking.  I recently had the satisfaction of working with a community organization that provided a beautiful illustration of this truism.

SAFEchild is a Raleigh-based agency that works with parents, families and caregivers to create nurturing environments for  children, free from abuse and neglect.  Now in its 20th year, SAFEchild has a successful track record of event-based fundraising and corporate support. But it was not until recently that the Board of Directors launched a broad-based community effort aimed at annual unrestricted support, the Believe Campaign.

The board set an ambitious goal of $200,000. SAFEchild’s reputation for strong client impact and prudent fiscal management were key factors in the campaign’s success.  But without the active involvement of the board, it is unlikely that the campaign would have raised an unprecedented $210,298 from 386 gifts—including many first-time givers!

How did they do it?  First and most important: 100% participation by the board…and that includes a financial commitment at whatever level the individual member thinks is appropriate.  SAFEchild’s board embraced this simple idea from the beginning, and the results speak for themselves.  Here are some additional “nuggets” that I have learned from years of working with successful boards.  Do these ideas apply to your organization?

  1. It is impossible to overstate the importance of board members’ leading by their personal example of giving.  Why?  Because a board’s fundamental responsibility is to ensure the sustainability of the organization.  To do so, they must lead by example.
  2. It is difficult to expect prospective donors to give to an organization whose board members have not given.  If the volunteer leaders are not personally committed enough to invest their own resources, why should others invest?
  3. The board member that leads through personal giving is able to be an honest, roaring advocate for your organization.  There’s no statement more powerful in fundraising than “I’d like you to join me in supporting . . .”
  4. There is no better indicator of organizational strength than 100% board giving.
  5. In her book The Truth About What Nonprofit Board Members Want, June Bradham observed that an organization’s fundraising success is directly proportionate to board members’ giving.
  6. Nonprofits should have a written job description for board members and a summary of their responsibilities and expectations -- including expectations for giving.
  7. Many donors, most foundations and almost every major philanthropist will want to know that your board is fully invested in your mission before theythemselves make a donation.

I close this week’s PhilanthropyBiz from Armstrong McGuire with a salute to the board and staff of SAFEchild…Congratulations for a job well done!

Does your organization have an organized Annual Giving Program?  Join the conversation and tell us about it.



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