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Joanne Fritz

Getting Sane About Your Board and Fundraising

By January 21, 2013

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Cover of Benevon Book

From everything I've seen lately, I'm pretty sure that many nonprofits are mighty concerned about their boards' lack of interest in fundraising.

Recent research revealed that board members help the most when they ask their own contacts to donate to their organization.

But that research also found that there is an array of ways for board members to participate, and that organizations using several of those methods did the best.

Terry Axelrod, founder of the Benevon Model and author of The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-By-Step Guide to Getting it right (2012), has some common sense advice to give charities about their boards, especially small to mid-sized organizations that might suffer the most from the board/fundraising problem.

Axelrod suggests that nonprofit executives just accept the "20-60-20" rule for boards. That breaks down to this: 20% of the board will enjoy getting involved in fundraising; 60% will be neutral toward it, and 20% will do just about anything to avoid it.

But, wherever any one board member falls on this scale, Axelrod insists that there are three things that they can get involved in with little resistance:

  • Serve as ambassadors by simply inviting people to a fundraising event. These are, in the Benevon Model, "point of entry events." They are low pressure introductions to the organization and are usually informal, comfortable, and stress free for all. Board members can take turns hosting one of these events and invite a few people to attend, or set up a private event just for their friends, groups, or professional colleagues. The event might be at the board member's home or even in their office. Make the event simple, short, and informal, and turn the board member into a host or hostess rather than a solicitor who is expected to make an ask.

  • Thank donors for gifts. Thanking is so much easier than asking! Board members of any stripe will enjoy phoning donors to say thanks or writing thank you notes to donors. Axelrod says that, initially, not every board member may want to do this, but suggests that those who do report back at the next board meeting about how rewarding they found the experience.

  • Give money themselves. Axelrod says that it is essential that you can tell others from whom you seek money that your board is 100% in. She says the amount is not important, and suggests that you don't set a minimum amount for the board. Instead, cultivate and ask each board member individually, just as you would any other major donor.

All three of these activities fit beautifully with that research from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC), mentioned earlier.

If you're not familiar with Terry Axelrod's Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding, her recent book is a great introduction. The best thing is to actually experience the model through Axelrod's training seminars, but this book is a good substitute either as a beginning step or instead of the training. All the elements are spelled out in great detail, and there are enough charts, graphs, and templates to keep you busy for weeks.

I first became acquainted with Axelrod's work when I reviewed her book on special events, which brings the same common sense to our sometimes irrational love affair with the traditional cycle of charitable events we often get trapped in. Axelrod also contributed The Art of Recognizing and Thanking Your Donors to this site.

Does your board follow the 20-60-20 rule? How have you managed your board's participation in fundraising?

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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