We have clients, patients and family members on the board, but they don’t have money.
Heard this before? Probably more than anything else, and sorry, this one is a deal breaker. Money is what makes the nonprofit function and do its work, kind of critical, essential and all those other crucial words. The real issue here is twofold:
- Most people do not have any idea how to broach the topic: some basic training, preparation and practice among the board can be a huge help. The staff can prepare supportive collateral information which gives the board members information and confidence about the ask.
- Asking for funds to support the work of a nonprofit is NOT asking your friends for money: borrowing a few bucks to have beer is asking for money; asking on behalf of an organization dedicated to offering help and change in the community is fundraising. Be sure that essential difference is clear to the asker, and the askee
There is no dishonor in asking, the worst anyone can say is no. Fundraising 101: the answer to not being asked is a for sure no. Give it a try, you may find it is not as bad you feared. Practice with those close by, tryout different words and ideas, find what feels most comfortable and natural to you. Provide a script, materials and some chances to practice.
Special note: offering some practice on how to handle a “ No, I am sorry, we will not be able to help you this time” can be really powerful teaching. While we all want a yes, teaching askers how to be gracious with a NO will stave off the most obvious fears. It only hurts for a second.
“I’d prefer to work on program development and delivery, and leave the fundraising to someone better at it. “
Programs don’t work without money, planning programs is impossible if the planners are unaware of the realities of the support needed to have it work. Ideally, I guess, they might be separated, but in my experience, this is simply not the case. Income and programs are irretrievably intertwined- no intelligent conversation about either side can be held without consideration of the other. Is the program a one-off, or is it ongoing? How will it be produced, internally or will there be outside requirements and spends?
Program-minded board members must become part of the fundraising whole of the organization: the silver lining can be that with a passionate commitment to a particular program, that board member may turn out to be a strong fundraiser, with more concern about assuring the program be set up than the discomfort of telling someone you are looking for funds to offer your services to those that need them so urgently.
Ask a program ‘person’ to detail their fondest financial wishes and share with the fundraiser; their collaboration will educate and empower both. Someone who is more experienced, savvy and confident could be a mentor for those who have less experience, more fear and uncertainty.
Money is what makes a nonprofit and its work viable. It makes no sense to say that some board members should help bring it in and others should be excused. It is a leadership responsibility to make clear the need, obtain the buy-in and provide the training, materials and goals for the board to raise funds. It is also so much easier when no one feels alone, fundraising is crucial across the board, pun intended.
Call me – 310 828 6979.