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Last updated October 9, 2014

To ensure the smooth and effective running of your organisation, it is important that everyone has clearly defined roles and responsibilities, including members of your Board. For most aspects of your organisation this is easily achieved, but when it comes to fundraising, the lines often get blurred and the expectations are unclear.

Not surprisingly this leads to frustration, resentment and unnecessary conflict between individual trustees, management and fundraising staff. None of which is helpful for your organisation.

While every organisation will define roles and responsibilities differently, everyone in your organisation should be involved in fundraising to some degree and your trustees are no exception.

Internationally, particularly in the United States, it is taken for granted that Board members will either GIVE, GET or GO. That is, they will either make a donation themselves, use their networks and relationships to find new donors, or they will resign from the Board. Playing an active role in the financial health of their organisation is non-negotiable.

However, in New Zealand the opposite is usually true. Many Board members believe it is unnecessary for them to GIVE or GET, because they are working in a voluntary capacity. The most common argument is that they are already making a contribution by donating their time. Dig a little deeper and you’ll also hear reasoning that it’s ‘not their role’ or ‘they don’t know how’ to fundraise.

What most trustees don’t realise is that having Board members lead by example is critical to your fundraising success. Not all trustees have to fundraise in the same way, but it is essential that they all GIVE or GET somehow. Here’s why:

Others follow their example
In a nutshell, your Board owns your organisation. They are responsible for the organisation’s success and need to lead by example. How can your trustees expect you to ask complete strangers for donations, if they are not willing to financially contribute themselves? The public perceives your Board members as being the people most passionate about your cause. If these passionate people are not willing to give, why should anybody else?

Time is NOT money
There is no dispute that time is valuable and your trustees should be acknowledged and appreciated for the time they give to your organisation. However, time is NOT money. You cannot pay your bills, purchase necessary items and grow your organisation on time alone. You need donations as well.

Comparing time and money is like comparing protein and carbohydrates. Both are very different, but both are necessary to maintain your health. In this instance, it’s your organisation’s financial health at stake – something your board is responsible for maintaining.

Fundraising is about relationships
Fundraising is all about relationships. In simple maths, the more relationships you have, the more money you raise.

Your trustees all have connections, networks and relationships within the community. Imagine that each of those connections represent a room that may or may not have money inside. You could barge in, ring the bell and hope someone’s home, or your trustee could unlock the door by way of an introduction.

As guardians of your organisation, your trustees are responsible for unlocking as many doors as possible. Not only will this give you access to more people and potentially more funds, it does so in a way that increases your credibility. Barging down doors doesn’t benefit anyone!

10 ways your trustees can GIVE or GET
Once your trustees understand the importance of being active in fundraising, you need to make it easy for them to get involved. Not everyone is in a position to make large donations, and not all your trustees will be comfortable asking friends or colleagues for support. You need to bridge that gap by suggesting various ways they can contribute to your fundraising efforts. Here are our Top 10 ways for your trustees to GIVE or GET.

1. Make Regular Donations
Some of the most successful organisations I have been involved with insist that all Board members are committed to regular giving at some level. It doesn’t matter whether they are giving $20 a month or $200 a month, it is the premise of leading by example that is important.

2. Make a Bequest
While individual trustees may not be able to make a large donation in the present, they can commit to making a donation in the future. Bequests do not have to be for a specific sum of money, instead they can be for a percentage of the estate or a residual donation. This means your organisation receives any money which is remaining after other commitments are met.

Having trustees make a bequest is particularly important if you want to run any sort of bequest programme for your organisation. Discussing death and money in the same conversation can be uncomfortable, but when members of your team are leading by example, it makes the whole conversation just a little bit easier.

3. Sell Tickets
At a recent workshop, one participant said that she would like her Board members to attend the organisation’s fundraising events. In horror I exclaimed that not only should they attend, they should actively sell tickets on the organisations behalf.

This not only helps to raise funds, it shows the public that you have the full and active support of your Board. Selling tickets to their friends, family and colleagues is one way your trustees can generate financial support without soliciting outright donations.

4. Purchase Your Products
Many organisations sell branded merchandise, calendars or novelty products as a way of raising funds. If your organisation does this, your trustees should be your first customers. Not only is this a way they can contribute financially to your organisation, by gifting the products to others they can demonstrate their passion for your cause. This creates an opportunity for them to discuss your organisation with others.

5. Make Personal Requests
Very few people are naturally comfortable asking for money, so it is likely your trustees will have some initial resistance to this suggestion. It is important that you can suggest ways to make the asking a little less awkward.

One way trustees may feel more comfortable is to word the request as a ‘challenge’, rather than an ‘ask’. By focusing their requests on a specific need or campaign, they can ‘challenge’ their friends, family and colleagues to match their donation, rather than simply ‘asking’ for a gift. Of course for this to work, your trustees must be prepared to make a donation themselves.

6. Speak to Service Clubs
Some people will never feel comfortable asking for money one-on-one, but they may well be happy to present your organisation to a group of potential supporters. Giving a talk to local service clubs or interest groups is one way your trustees can help ‘GET’ donations.

To make the most of the opportunity, make sure the presentation is well prepared and includes a mixture of real stories and statistical data. Your trustee should avoid simply talking to a power-point and instead use props, images and sound to make the presentation interesting. At the end of the presentation it is important they actually ask for support and detail how people can make a donation. Make sure there are donation slips with several payment options available.

7. Host Fundraising Dinners
While your trustees may not want to take part in large fundraising events, they could hold small fundraising events of their own by hosting a dinner party for friends. Instead of asking guests to bring a plate or a bottle of wine, guests are asked to make a donation to your organisation.

It is important that information about your organisation is included with the invitation, and that your trustee provides details of how the donation should be made. Make sure the guests get a thank-you from both the trustee involved and the CEO of your organisation.

8. Introduce Potential Donors or Sponsors
Trustees might not be comfortable asking for money from friends, but they can make an introduction. They simply need to phone their friend or colleague, talk about their involvement with your organisation and why they think you are worthy of support. From there they ask permission to pass on their details so that you (or your fundraising manager) can get in touch. That way when you make the call, they already know who you are and have some background information about your organisation.

9. Attend Appointments
Talking to potential donors face-to-face can be scary at first, but one way to calm the nerves is to go in pairs. Your trustees can offer moral support by attending appointments with you, even if it’s you who does all the talking. The more appointments they attend, the more comfortable they will become with the asking process. In time, they may even start making requests on their own.

10. Spread the Word
A key aspect of fundraising is simply raising the profile of your organisation in the community. The more people know about you, the more credible you appear, plus people can’t make donations if they don’t know you exist. Even if your trustees really struggle with asking for money, they can still help with your fundraising efforts by actively spreading the word about your organisation.

A simple way they can get involved is by adding information about your cause to the bottom of their email signature. It could be as simple as ‘I am a trustee with ABC Organisation. We work to support children and families in the Timbucktoo community. To find out more about what we do or to make a donation, check out our website.’ This signature then reaches all of their contacts, regardless of what the email conversation is about. What a great way to open doors.

Some organisations already have great support from their trustees in all of these areas, where-as others really struggle to get Board involvement in any aspect of fundraising. Swinging that tide can be a slow and difficult task, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

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