On Philanthropy: How Nonprofit Board Members Can be Even More Appreciated

"get on board" written on colorful pieces of paper one letter per colorContributed by AFP SEWI
Milwaukee Business Journal
April 7, 2017 issue

If you are one of the hundreds of Milwaukee-area business leaders who advance causes close to your heart by serving on the board of a local nonprofit, here are some tips that might make your efforts even more deeply appreciated…

Every nonprofit prizes board members as its invaluable ambassadors to the community (psst – that’s code for f-u-n-d-r-a-i-s-e-r-s).  At the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ March 23 educational luncheon, Julia McGuire and Melissa Berliner of consulting firm Campbell & Company described several board fundraiser personas that may need an extra bit of support. Any of these sound familiar?

“Avoidance Amy” board members have great intentions about contacting donor prospects but discover reasons not to follow through:  they don’t want to bother people, feel others are better suited, or question the timing.  These board members will do well to remember that nine-tenths of the job is just explaining why they’re believers. The money will come.

“Negative Ned”-types tend to criticize the plan and its chance of success, suppressing the enthusiasm of others.  These individuals often have valuable insights and could maximize success by offering critiques as process-improving suggestions.

For “Financial Felicity” board members, fundraising is mainly math (“To raise our $50,000, we just need 50 donors to give a thousand each…or maybe a thousand donors to give $50 each...”).  We all must remember that fundraising is the art of getting each donor to give the gift that’s right for them.

With the best of intentions, “Rogue Robs” solicit donors impulsively or make similar no-turning-back moves.  At times, this can spoil strategies carefully designed to maximize a gift.  Rob’s energy is a strong asset – as long as it’s channeled within the system.  Fundraising is a team sport!

At the core of each persona is something that nonprofits treasure – Amy’s willingness, Ned’s critical thinking, Felicity’s systematic approach, Rob’s self-starting fearlessness.  Your organization’s fundraising team will be delighted to tap them all and help every board member succeed.

AFP’s monthly column in the Milwaukee Business Journal is edited by Doug Diefenbach, principal of Diefenbach Communications Strategies, a full-service consultancy specializing in philanthropic communications. Please contribute ideas for future articles here.