When clients come to us to consult about partnering on their special event or fundraising endeavor, we take a careful look at their Board first and foremost to determine their prospective reach, and therefore fundraising potential. Questions to keep in mind:
- What has the Board done previously to garner fitting honorees and event leadership to help in the fundraising?
- How generous are they themselves?
Many clients who do have a robust Board have not taken the steps to fully engage that Board. How do you guide a client through the Board engagement process? What obstacles for growth may exist in the organization's culture? What obstacles have come into play in their previous special events?
First steps begin with exploring with the organization's leadership the reach and proven track record for each Board member. Perhaps a second consultation is in order with many of the Board members - or the best candidates among them - to explore their Rolodex.... They may have prospective Honorees or Chairs in their midst.
The next step is to guide the client to empower the Board members by acting as the support they need to make their outreach as painless as possible. Offer draft letters for them to send to their friends. A variation perhaps for them to send to vendors and key business relationships. Volunteer to make follow-up calls on their behalf. Work with their appointed liaison to help target their fundraising letters.
It's important along the way to share with the Board members any good news about major gifts received due to their outreach. The Board should be considered the ambassadors of any organization, not only bearing financial responsibility, but also by helping to bring new sources of income to the organization not ordinarily at the charity’s disposal. Some may be hesitant to appeal to their contacts for support for an event, but with careful guidance, you can illustrate the benefit to the organization, that this is among the greatest gifts that they can make.
Often the obstacles with some Boards may be those who are there in name only, or because they have been an essential part of the organization, but they do not participate with financial support. Perhaps it’s time to invite the organization to strengthen the main Board with new prospects who have a Rolodex at their disposal.
At the event, thank the Board from the podium and publicly applaud their critical support. Build them up and make them feel good about their success as they help you move from "friendraisers" to successful fundraisers.