(Almost) 100 Tips for a More Effective Fundraising Board


1) Begin with strategic planning, which informs the composition of the ideal board, the competencies required and the ideal involvement of the members.
2) Link programmatic goals in the strategic plan to current and future fundraising strategies.
3) Include a section on the board of directors in the strategic plan, indicating broad goals and strategies for the timeframe of the plan.
4) Link the past to the present.
5) Show how fundraising got the organization to where it is today.
6) Show where you would be if you had developed an effective board five years ago.
7) Imagine where the organization would be in meeting its mission if the board had traditionally been engaged in fundraising.
8) Planning for today began yesterday.  Planning for tomorrow begins now.
9) Consider having the board review the strategic plan each year to review progress made and to revise projections, goals, as necessary.
10) Be sure to include the plan in the “Board Book” given to new board members.
11) Refer to the strategic plan and the board goals in it during the board orientation.



12)  Create a standing governance/committee on trustees.
13)  Recruit the best people whose skills match the leadership you need.
14)  The effectiveness of the board influences what your boss thinks of your effectiveness.  Get involved in how they’re identified, recruited, cultivated.
15)  Establish a board committee that reviews local press as to movers and shakers, comings and goings at other nonprofits, what big campaigns have closed and who their chairmen were.
16)  This committee functions like an executive recruiter.
17)  Consider associate member status for six months for new board members – like a trial run.
18)  Don’t be fooled by “false” goals of diversity.  Recruit the best, not for their race/gender/sexuality/class/ etc. but for their capacity to be an effective board member.  Diversity goals are secondary to effectiveness.
19)  Bring new members on to the board in small groups or “the class of 2010”.
20)  Changing the culture and effectiveness of a board takes years.  Remember, boards are nothing other than a collection of emotional animals we know as humans, and that goes for the executive director and development director as well.
21)  Let the potential board member know why you are interested in them.  If they are connected to wealth and you want them to influence their friends, make sure you tell them that.  Be direct.
22)  Make sure the individual shares the values of your organization.
23)  Don’t sacrifice “the good” for “the perfect.”    Realize that participating in soliciting donors really isn’t an absolute requirement to be a good board member.
24)  In developing the “job description” for a board member, define fundraising in very broad terms, including such possible roles as ambassador, match maker, story teller, recruiter, and, of course, solicitor.
25)  Would you sign on to a relationship for a three-year period without really getting to know your future partner?  Board recruitment is not speed dating, nor is it a one-night stand.  To be effective, it is a well-planned, disciplined enterprise that brings joy as well as the occasional disappointment.



26)  Develop a recruitment process, present it to the board, discuss/endorse/pass it, codify the process among your organizations most important documents like budgets, bylaws, fundraising plans, etc.
27)  The recruitment plan/process should be a document with roles and responsibilities, tasks, timelines, and so on.
28)  Make everyone on the board responsible for identifying potential board members.
29)  Determine through your strategic plan what capacities and constituencies you need for your future.
30)  Create a grid showing the current capacities and constituencies you have now represented through each board member.
31)  Develop a grid showing not only current capacities and constituencies but your ideal future ones.
32)  Add names of specific individuals who could bring those to your organization.



33)  Take board members on field trips to your program sites or to other organizations’ program sites.
34)  Invite program staff to make reports to your board as appropriate.
35)  If appropriate, ask clients or participants to occasions at which they can meet board members.  Consider inviting them to make brief presentations to your board.
36)  Invite donors to board meetings to tell why they support the organization.
37)  Ask board members to tell stories about their own experiences in developing relationships with donors



38)  Invite guest speakers from other boards about how they transitioned from a non-fundraising board to a more effective one.
39)  Feature a 5-minute spiel  at regular meetings for board members to tell their own stories about how they became more comfortable in fundraising; one week – matchmaker, one week storyteller, one week asker.
40)  Provide ongoing training – formal and informal.
41)  Create a stewardship committee.  It’s a great way to instill confidence in reluctant board members, as well as essential to effective relationships with donors and prospects.
42)  Anybody who has ever wanted someone to join them in anything and expressed that desire can often be guided to feel (more) comfortable as a solicitor.
43)  Define fundraising very broadly.  One way to do this is to describe the fundraising process as a 100-spoke wheel, with each spoke a different activity.  1-89 are getting ready, creating the case, researching prospects, recruiting volunteers, and so on.  The 90th spoke is the actual solicitation.  99-100 are thanking and stewarding.



44)  Provide meaningful and regular reports from the development committee.
45)  Provide regular reports from the governance committee.
46)  Make sure board members understand the programs, constituencies served, progress made, and so on.
47)  Ensure board members memorize and understand your 30-second expression of your mission and vision.
48)   Hold regular board retreats at which meaningful discussions are held.
49)   Update your board orientation plans to reflect changes in your programs, structure, governance, etc.
50)   Make sure your “Board Book” is updated as appropriate.




51)  Ensure after each board and committee meeting that all in attendance, including staff as well as volunteers, can answer this question “I needed to be at this meeting because….”
52)  Ensure that divergent opinions are expressed at meetings and met with respect.
53)  Board meetings that are facilitated well are more effective in keeping board members engaged.
54)  Inspire.  Instill.  Inform.  Involve.
55)  For board members to be fully engaged in raising the money to pay for the budget, they must be fully engaged in determining the direction of the organization and in reviewing, approving (or not), and monitoring the budget.
56)  Ensure there are opportunities through wine and cheese gatherings after each board meeting, social occasions, retreats for the board members to get to know each other.  Emotional connectedness increases involvement.  Involvement increases commitment.



57)  Include written expectations of board members.
58)  Require written contract for each board member.
59)  Make sure board recruitment activities adequately lay out expectations for potential board members.
60)  A “job description” for board members should be included in the “Board Book.”


61)  Evaluate each member on an annual basis – number of board and committee meetings, major events attended, participation in retreats, total $ given/raised, commitment to planned giving, and so on.
62)  Meet with each board member, by phone or preferably in person, every three or six months to check in.
63)  Deal with board members not meeting expectation without blame – problem solve to better participation.
64)  As with staff, sometimes the wrong people are recruited for the wrong job.  There are ways of dealing with these unfortunate circumstances – moving people to different committee assignments or even asking people to leave the board or consider volunteering in a different capacity.


65)  Recognize good board members in front of their peers at board meetings.
66)  Place interviews of board members in newsletters or annual reports.
67)  Create certificates for outstanding service and handing them out at retreats can be a meaningful way to thank board members for their effectiveness.
68)  At special events, have unique name badges for the board members to wear to distinguish them from other attendees.


69)  100% cash giving, no exceptions.
70)  Getting their employer to donate does not take the place of personal giving.
71)   Be careful of in-kind gifts.  They can be hard to quantify and can suggest less personal commitment.


72)  Hold thankathons.
73)  Assign the same prospects throughout the board member’s tenure.
74)  Board members get their own portfolios.
75)  Introduce board members to their donors at cultivation events.
76)  Use name tags whenever possible.  It’s often the only way board members can know who’s who at donor events.
77)  Remember – fundraising is a 100-spoke wheel.  90 spokes are getting ready for the solicitation, 1 spoke is the actual ask for a gift, the final 9 are saying thank you and stewarding the donor.
78)  There’s something for everyone – ambassador, match maker, story teller, solicitor.
79)  Not everyone has to be the one who says, “I’d like you to join me and give…”
80)  Assign prospects to small teams of board members, when appropriate.

81-85 missing?


86)  The executive director’s most important program to “manage” is the organization’s board of directors.
87)   The ED should meet yearly in private meetings with each board member to discuss the upcoming year, board activities, fundraising goals, etc.
88)  The ED needs to work closely with the Committee on Trustees to ensure that the Committee continues to focus on the importance of the strategic plan.
89)  Allocate appropriate resources to development.
90)  One of the major responsibilities of the board is to hire/ manage/evaluate and if necessary, transition out the executive director.  A weak executive often wants a weak board just as a strong executive wants a strong one.
91)  Develop a culture of philanthropy throughout the organization.  Consider the power of a staff that includes an executive director, development director and program director who are all involved in cultivating relationships with donors and soliciting them for their support.  They will be most effective if board members are included in those activities



92)  Hire a really good consultant to help you along the way.
93)  Send board members to workshops for inspiration and training.