Why the Board Should ask Others for Support

There is a great quote from Joan Garry’s book Guide to Nonprofit Leadership that says: “A funny thing can happen to a board member when it comes to fundraising. It feels like an uncomfortable (dare I say icky?) task. Like she is being asked to sell an old broken chair to her next-door neighbor. Snap out of it! You are asking for money to support critical work that you care so much about that you chose to serve on the organization’s board.” What a great way to sum up ‘getting over it’!

I have seen numerous tools when it comes to recruiting new Board members utilized over my career. Some ‘soft sell’ the notion that the Board is ultimately responsible for fundraising and should lead by example (true leadership). I have even seen job description wording that talks about ‘best efforts to contribute’. What exactly is ‘a best effort to contribute’? It reads to me like ‘best efforts for world peace’ — a nice idea, but not very likely to happen. Some boards are quite explicit in the ‘give and get’ mentality — not only should the Board donate themselves, but they should be prepared to ask others.

As I have mentioned in one (or more) of my earlier posts, fundraising is not a dirty word. It is a means to an end. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to ask people for money, rather there would be a large sum miraculously appearing in our coffers. Since that is unlikely to happen, we need to solicit support from folks.

I believe that a lot of the discomfort around asking for money may have to do with the idea that we still find it impolite to ask folks for financial support. But, for some strange reason, we have no problem asking people for their time (and time is the one commodity that cannot be replaced). So why are we okay with asking a really busy lay professional to attend numerous Board meetings, committee meetings, retreats, AGM’s, etc. but cringe at the thought of asking for financial support? In any non-profit, the fundraising is a component of the leadership — you cannot have one without the other.

So many people are apologetic when they ask for financial support. I have overheard “I’m sorry to have to ask you, but we are looking for 100% participation……” Sorry to have to ask you? Seriously? That is either a failure in the training of the canvasser, a failure in the execution by the canvasser, or a failure of the fundraising program as a whole. You should, as leadership, be proud to ask others to support a cause you so deeply believe in. Perhaps, during your canvass, you might uncover a potential new recruit for a committee. Perhaps the prospect may open a door that has been otherwise closed to your organization. Without asking, you will never know.

I am taking two Fridays off to celebrate Passover, so there will not be any posts. The posting will return on Friday, April 13th (now that date sounds ominous!)