In the fundraising world there are things we are comfortable talking about, and things we tend to shy away from. One of these is the impact that people of power, wealth, and influence can make on the life of an organization or institution.
There can be a tendency to believe all people bring equal assets to the board of an organization. That belief can obscure the specific value that people of power, wealth, and/or influence can bring. It’s not that these people are more important than other board members, but rather that their absence can have a negative impact.
Let us be clear, leadership and vision need to be provided by people who have deep relationships with the people a nonprofit serves or advocates for. You have to have authentic leadership. However, that alone is not enough. You also need access to resources. Sometimes board members with deep community ties and authentic leadership also have power, wealth, and influence, but other times they do not. If you don’t have people with these attributes on your board it can become very difficult to survive, let alone thrive.
Things to consider
Take a moment to look at your board’s composition from a fact basis: Who has access to people who can open doors for government grants or changes in policies that would positively affect your organization? Who can personally give a $1,000 gift? What about $10,000 or $100,000? Who can influence foundation or corporate funding? Who can bring resources to the table? Be specific: Who can secure talented staff, technology, donated office space, subsidized salaries, and/or thought leaders? All these people don’t have to become board members, but you need some of their peers serving on the board to invite people to be involved in other ways.
When you look at organizations that are thriving, look at their board list. Look at their funding sources. Look at their advisory council members. Now look at yours. You can say, “it’s not fair” and you would be right. But the question is this: What are you going to do about it?
Are you willing to recruit and engage individuals of power, influence and wealth? Don’t point the finger at the president or executive director of your organization and ask if they can take on this task. The responsibility lies with the board: they are responsible for the financial health of the organization. One way to meet that responsibility is to recruit, engage, and retain new board members with the skill sets, resources, and connections you need.
Begin recruiting one person at a time. Be clear and specific about why you want the person to serve on the board and what you want them to do. You don’t want to waste their time: you want their engagement. Hopefully as your organization matures you will find that your board has a sustainable base of people with power, wealth, and influence.
When it is all said and done, it is extremely challenging to raise meaningful amounts of money without these qualities.
Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
When you are ready to build a fund development program, grow your fundraising, or increase board engagement we are here to help. (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.