Maximizing Your Development Committee

| by Mendi Nieters

Last Friday, when meeting with nine development directors in a monthly development networking call, I shared a list created by BoardSource that states 10 tasks every development committee should be doing. They include:

  1. Help develop policies for board and staff actions related to gift solicitation and recognition.
  2. Ensure that your organization’s case for support is strong, current, and based on your organization’s mission and goals.
  3. Help to set fundraising goals and develop and monitor resource development strategies.
  4. Provide information on environmental factors affecting fundraising among your organization’s constituencies.
  5. Motivate and involve all board members in the fundraising process.
  6. Provide information about potential new prospects; help to evaluate existing donors for increased contributions.
  7. Develop expectations for personal financial contributions from the board, communicate those expectations, provide leadership by giving, and ensure that all board members make a personal financial contribution.
  8. Solicit gifts at levels required.
  9. Participate actively in special fundraising events.
  10. Monitor fundraising performance and hold the board and organization accountable.

 How does your development committee stack up to this list? Those on the call ranked how their committee was currently performing against each task.

We learned that their committees were great at supporting fundraising events. This is not surprising because most people understand fundraising events and participation is easily defined.

Our group struggled the most with utilizing the committee to share environmental factors that might impact fundraising and to develop expectations for personal financial contributions. Reasons varied from undefined expectations to already defined and not re-evaluated.

All other tasks received neutral rankings. So once again, how do we move the needle from neutral to excelling?

In my opinion, while I love each item on this list, it is long. As you are building a development program you need different support at different seasons. You also need a committee that will grow and evolve with you. The first step is to clearly define the purpose and expectations of the committee with board support and buy-in. Then make sure you are reviewing, fine tuning, and reaffirming regularly. This helps you evolve and ensure new members are with you in your goals.

As our group brought up other issues and then collectively shared solutions that worked for them, several themes popped up that are important keys to maximizing your development committee.

  • Get to know your committee members. What are their strengths? Who do they know? What might they be leery of in serving on the committee? How can they personally engage and feel like an active participant? We know that if we don’t feel connected it’s harder to add value. This is especially true if someone is new to development.
  • Educate about development. Assuming people understand development and/or fundraising and then asking them to affirm guidelines, set goals, and monitor progress can put you on a wayward path. Regular develop training during onboarding or before you launch a campaign gives everyone a refresher and puts you on the same playing field. Get outside help if you need this coming from a different voice.
  • Share development trends. Share the knowledge you are gleaning. This gives your committee context and allows them to help you think.
  • Involve the committee in the whole process. While we all want our committee to be a prospecting and solicitation force, include them in the whole development process. Make sure they are doing thank you calls. Have them join you on cultivation visits. Let them thank people for simply meeting with you. This will cut down the fear of the process for some and most certainly amplify your development process.
  • Clearly define roles and expectations. Sorry, I must state this again. It is that important! But have those expectations work for the organization, not create busy work that keeps you from living into your mission.

It is not surprising that in order to maximize our development committee we need to focus on relationships, communication, and engagement. Then again, that is how we #DoGreatThings!

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