The Case of the Clueless New Board Member

by Joan Garry

How do you set a clueless new board member up for success, as someone who understands and appreciates his or her fundraising obligation?

Transcript below:

Welcome to The Case of the Clueless New Board Member. Here’s the question we tackle today: How do you set a clueless new board member up for success, as someone who understands and appreciates his or her fundraising obligation? First, let’s talk about the problem, the root problem. When you put together a nominations committee, you don’t usually include your best fundraisers, because they’re over on the development committee. So the people on the nominations committee are usually your worst fundraisers, so when the recruit asks a question like, “Tell me about the fundraising obligation,” you probably get something like this, “Oh, staff does all that. Don’t worry about it. It’s really, really easy. You know, I hate fundraising, myself.”

Why do they do that? Because they’re hungry. They’re hungry for board members. They don’t want to scare anyone away. These are the kinds of people that say, “Does she have a pulse? How about a Social Security number? We’ll take her.” Not enough. So, remember also, that your recruitment committee is also responsible for board orientation. So you see where I’m going with this. I would like to offer you a couple of pieces of advice that I think will change how your new recruits come in, as it relates to their mindset about fundraising.

Number one, take someone who is a fantastic champion for the organization, that you might otherwise put on the development committee, and put them on the recruitment committee, and make sure they are an integral part of the interview process. That’s important. Make sure that that person is potentially the person who shows up to the board orientation. Number two, have a board orientation. If you don’t have one, you’ve got to build one. People need to know what their jobs are.

Number three, at that board orientation, there needs to be a one-sheet that handed out to your new board members, and it needs to include three things: One, a clear statement of what your fundraising obligation is, number two, the case statement, why fundraising is important in this organization, why money equals programs, and what kind of programs these moneys would support when you bring them in the door, when you invite people to know more and to do more, and the third piece indicates how the executive director, or the development staff, if you’re lucky enough to have it, will support your efforts, will partner with you to make your fundraising obligation a success, to introduce you to the joy of fundraising.

And the last point, not only the executive director, but the development director if you have one, and the chair of the development committee should be an integral part of your board orientation. If you want to set up a clueless new board member, with an understanding that fundraising matters, it’s important, it can actually be a great adventure, that it is critical to the success of your organization, and that the organization will partner with you to ensure your success, these are the steps you want to take. And please, put a champion on your recruitment committee. That’s the person that will make the biggest difference in talking to these recruits, to make sure they understand and appreciate that fundraising is an obligation, and why it matters. See you next time.