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The Type of Board Member Who Can Transform Your Fundraising (In a Good Way)

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One of the best things you can have as a professional fundraiser is a board member who is also a professional fundraiser.

Why would you need that? After all, you’re really good at your job! Do you need more help?

Well, yes. You do. Everyone could use more help.

And a board member who really knows fundraising because they do it themselves just might be the best help you could hope to get.

Board members sometimes get a bad rap from fundraisers. And that’s unfortunate. They are lovely people giving freely of their very valuable time for your cause. It can be a challenge when they have great ideas that aren’t so great. (Let’s have more events! Let’s cancel direct mail fundraising! Let’s send an unsolicited ask to Oprah!) Lacking context, those things seem like amazing ideas. They’re doing their best to be helpful.

And that’s part of the value of having a fundraising professional on your board. A gentle reality check!

A fundraising board member can give you the help you really need. Barbara Cecil, Development Director, at SOS Community Services, and a member of The Fundraisingology Lab, had a high-powered fundraising professional on her board. We had a great conversation about what that has meant for her…

They can support you with good advice and coaching

One of the central duties of board members is to provide guidance to staff. Imagine how much that could mean when a board member knows fundraising.

Barbara’s fundraising board member was the CEO at a nearby state university foundation, a much larger fundraising shop than hers. He is also an executive coach. “He provided me a lot of free advice on leadership and the ins and outs of the difficult aspects of my job,” Barbara said.

They can support you when others don’t understand

Your fundraising board member may have more credibility with fellow board members than you do. Unfortunate, but sometimes true. Barbara says, “People on my board respected him and his opinion. He raised much, much more money than me, and he is older than me. They took his advice and he had a lot of influence.

They can actually raise money – and encourage other board members to do so too

No surprise here: board members with professional fundraising experience are often good at one of the other key duties of board members: raising funds. They are often also good at coaching other board members in the art of asking. It can be a big win-win for you and your board.

Something to watch out for

Be careful about your fundraising board member being in competition with you for the same donor dollars. Barbara notes, “My board member was concerned about a potential conflict of interest when he joined our board. For that reason, he did not participate in direct solicitation of donors (who might possibly also be his donors – we did have some overlap in major donors). We choose to be conscious and ethical about what to discuss and what to share with each other.

Something to think about

You may be thinking, “It sounds great to have a fundraiser on my board, but how many of them are out there? What’s my chance of getting one?”

Good point. Barbara has an idea: “I think fundraisers should consider it a professional obligation to serve on boards. It’s part of building up the profession.”

Get more out of your fundraising! For a limited time, this workshop, The Hidden Treasure of Fundraising: 4 Secrets to Connect with Your Donors, Grow Your Income and Master Your Career, is free to join. Find the four secrets that power successful fundraisers. You’ll be surprised how easy – yet impactful – these four secrets are. They can change your life, starting now!

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