The Standards for Excellence Institute has always encouraged nonprofits to have a clearly written list of expectations for board members. One of the most important responsibilities for every nonprofit board is the responsibility “to assure that adequate . . . financial resources (earned income, government contracts and grants, and charitable contributions) are available. . .” (Source: Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector).
But don’t take our word for it!
Fisher Howe’s leading publication, The Board Member’s Guide to Fundraising (Jossey Bass Publishers) starts with this statement:
“Start with the first principle: The board of a nonprofit organization is responsible for governing the organization and ensuring that it succeeds in its mission. That responsibility-no matter what the size of the organization or the nature of its mission includes seeing that that organization has the resources required to carry out that mission . . . . If an institute is having trouble raising money, don’t look to the development office; don’t look to the chief executive; first check out the board of trustees.”
BoardSource’s 10 Responsibilities of the Nonprofit Board clearly states that the board should:
“Ensure adequate resources.”
We know that in some organizations, board members feel as though fundraising is not really a responsibility that they want to take on. In many situations, this stems back to their first encounters with the board: often board members are not adequately apprised of their fundraising responsibilities during their recruitment and orientation. Setting high expectations at the outset can go a long way toward ensuring high performance.
According to the BoardSource’s Governance Index 2010 report, year after year, nonprofit leaders identify fundraising as their board’s greatest weakness and most important priority for board improvement.
Also according to BoardSource’s Governance Index 2010 report, board members are more comfortable with fundraising the farther they are from the donor. Eighty-seven percent of board members are comfortable writing letters, compared to 57% with directly asking for money. Comfort with fundraising is declining. Board members express greater discomfort with various common fundraising activities such as soliciting funds, identifying donors, attending fundraising events and making personal contributions in 2010 than they did in 2007.
For more information, see the Standards for Excellence Educational Resource Packet, Conduct of the Board, which includes sample position descriptions for board members. This and other packets are free to Standards for Excellence Institute members through the members’ only section of our website. Hard copies are also available upon request. We also offer one-on-one technical assistance for members only. Not a member? Join now!
If your board is among the ranks of nonprofits without a strong commitment to fundraising and raising the resources for the organization, we hope this posting will provide some much needed ammunition for your journey to an excellent board.