Board role tied to meeting fundraising goals

Nonprofits with boards that actively take part in raising money do a better job meeting their fundraising goals, a new study says.

Among over 1,600 U.S. nonprofits surveyed online in January by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, 60 percent of those with board members who helped with fundraising met their 2011 fundraising goals, compared to 53 percent of those with board members who were not engaged in fundraising, says the Collaborative’s report, Engaging Board Members in Fundraising.

“Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed ask board members to request contributions to the organization from family and friends,” James D. Yunker, chair of the Giving USA Foundation, a member of the Collaborative, says in a statement.

“That simple step is probably the single most important thing an organization can do to engage board members in fundraising,” he says. “It is associated with meeting fundraising goals for all sizes of organizations, proving again that fundraising is all about relationships.”

The survey asked nonprofits about the size of their board; whether board members were required to give; if they were required to give, whether there was a minimum, and if there was, how much was it; and specific ways board members helped with fundraising.

Among the 17 percent of respondents that did not engage board members in fundraising, 43 percent saw their fundraising results for 2011 increase from 2010, and 53 percent met their, although not all organizations had goals that represented increases over the previous year.

The study says it “debunks a common perception that board members help an organization meet its fundraising goal through their own giving.”

While 57 percent of charities responding to the survey require board member gifts, it says, and 91 percent tell prospective board members about that requirement at the time they are recruited, those gifts represented 10 percent or less of total charities receipts at a majority of  every type of organization studied.

Less than 20 percent of responding charities required a minimum gift amount from board members.

On average, organizations with active fundraising boards used six or seven of 11 different methods studied to engage board members in fundraising.

Methods for engaging board members to assist in fundraising range from providing names or contact information for potential donors, to hosting events in their homes or chairing an event or campaign.

A key feature of successful methods of engaging board members in fundraising is that they expand the nonprofit’s list of prospective donors, the study says, either because board members share their contact lists, make personal introductions, or host sessions to help get to know the donors and help them get to know the charity.

Fifty-five percent of small charities, or those with annual spending under $3 million, that used seven or more of the 11 methods reached their fundraising goal, compared with 44 percent that used less than seven methods.

The number of methods did not make a difference for medium-sized or larger organizations, but the specific methods did vary with the size of an organization’s budget.

Groups with smaller budgets tended to benefit from a broader range of methods for board engagement, while the largest groups, or those with $10 million or more in annual spending, met their fundraising goals when using methods that provided “very personal” contact by board members with donors.

Smaller charities, for example, met their fundraising goals more often when board members helped gain access to prospective donors by sharing names and making introductions.

Big charities met their fundraising goals more often when they asked board members to host an event at home or at a business or let the charity use the boar member’s name in fundraising appeals or a publication.

“Gaining access to prospective donors was not as important in this group as it was fro the smaller organizations,” the study says, “but having a board member make a personal connection did matter.”

Sixty-three percent of charities with a board-level development committee met their fundraising goals for 2011, compared with 52 percent of charities that did not have a board-level development committee.

Charities with board members who ask friends or business associates to make a financial contribution met their 2011 fundraising goals more frequently than charities that did not ask board members to make those requests.

Among charities that require a minimum board member contribution, the median amount is $1,000, while it is $2,000 for arts groups and $2,500 for education nonprofits.

That minimum amount increases with the size of a charity’s budget, with some “very large” organizations asking for minimums of over $100,000, the study says.

Todd Cohen

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