Fundraising for Nonprofits

The most successful fundraising organizations have built a powerful fundraising partnership between the board, the executive, and the fundraising staff. Additionally, the board plays a huge role in fundraising for nonprofits.

Successful board engagement in raising contributed income begins with an understanding of the board’s responsibilities to ensure that the organization has sufficient resources to advance its mission. This means that — with the exception of those organizations that don’t rely on contributions — boards must be actively engaged in guiding and supporting fundraising efforts. It may be scary at first but with the appropriate training and effort, any board can become a fundraising board.

The Role Nonprofit Boards Play in Fundraising

One of the roles and responsibilities of the board of directors of a nonprofit is the securing of resources. Board members should have a strong understanding of their fundraising roles and participate in fundraising training during their orientation. If the organization relies on contributed income, board members are expected to participate in fundraising. That may include soliciting and making individual gifts, introducing their network to the organization, attending agency events and bringing guests to events as well.

According to the most recent edition of Leading with Intent, fundraising continues to top the list of board challenges. It’s important to note that even though fundraising has been of concern for many boards, it is not the only or even the primary role of boards. As evidenced in Purpose-Driven Board Leadership, boards represent and govern organizations on behalf of communities. Who is on the board can drastically change how the board operates and what role the board plays. Boards  — as a group  — should understand, help inform, and support resource development strategies and monitor progress against fund development plans and goals.

Fundraising as a Collective Responsibility

A board’s development committee is tasked with developing and executing an annual resource development plan, which outlines the goals, assignments and processes for each type of fundraising. The full board can support this committee by giving a personally significant gift, attending organization events, and introducing your circle of influence to the benefits of the organization’s work.

The Fundraising Team Supports the Board

The fundraising staff team works in partnership with the board. For grants, the fundraising team coordinates the process and writes the grants, while individual board members introduce the organization to their contacts who serve on family foundations, and attend tours and foundation meetings, as requested.

For individual giving, staff write annual appeal letters and put together the donor packets, informing the board members who will make the ask about the donor, their family, interests and history of giving. Staff may attend the ask meeting as appropriate. Staff may each have portfolios of donors segmented by level with the executive leader stewarding the highest level of donors. Board members introduce potential donors to the organization, including those with donor-advised funds, make the ask and write or sign thank you letters once a gift has been received.

For events, there is usually a board sub-committee of the development committee that plans and coordinates events with significant staff support. Board members can support fundraising in a number of ways. Charitable support from donors and funders makes impact possible, which means fundraising for nonprofits is a critical mission.

The resources listed below cover many aspects of fundraising, including board and staff roles and responsibilities, the development process, techniques and methods, increasing board member engagement, and evaluating performance.

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Written Resources

All 101-level topical resources listed below are available publicly. BoardSource members have access to 101, 201, and 301-level resources. Don’t forget to visit the BoardSource store for more resources and training on this topic.

10 Tasks of a Development Committee

201| Members only resource. Boards must be actively engaged in guiding and supporting their organizations’ fundraising efforts. Many boards create a board development committee to coordinate and oversee the board’s work in this area.

Accepting or Refusing Gifts

201| Members-only resource. How should a nonprofit react when a regular donor sends a gift of stock instead of the traditional generous check? Should a nonprofit accept a contribution to fund a new program that only marginally relates to its mission? Without adequate gift acceptance policies, a nonprofit may be forced to make quick decisions it may regret later.

Ask Our Consultants: Board Members with Fundraising Expertise

101 | Community resource. A former BoardSource Senior Governance Consultant discusses a potential conflict of interest for a board that is recruiting a development expert to assist with fundraising efforts.

Board Fundraising Policy: Key Elements and Practical Tips

101 | Community resource. This resource provides tips on how to create a board fundraising policy that specifies level of involvement.

Board Members and Personal Contributions

101| Community resource. Many boards spend considerable time defining the board’s role in securing adequate resources for the organization. Personal contribution is an essential part of that discussion. Each board should determine its own personal giving policy. For boards that raise funds, the target should be to reach 100 percent board member participation.

Board Members’ Role in Fundraising

201| Members only resource. It isn’t rare to detect some resentment among board members who feel that they are doing the bulk of the board’s work in fundraising. This brief paper discusses how to get everyone engaged in fundraising and to share your fundraising tasks.

Building Constituent Support Through a Jeffersonian Dinner

201| Members only resource. Resurrected during my (Jeff Walker) tenure as board chair of the Foundation, Jeffersonian Dinners turned out to be a great way to build community, connect people, and foment discussions about a variety of Foundation issues. And since then, other nonprofits have used them to create vibrant networks and passionate connections around a host of important causes.

Capital Campaigns

201| Members only resource. To launch a capital campaign is a major decision for any nonprofit. Capital campaigns require considerable financial and human resources, demand an extended time commitment from the leaders of the organization, and necessitate thorough planning to turn the campaign into a victory.

Case Statements

201| Members only resource. Every nonprofit that raises money must be able to convince a potential donor why his or her support is necessary and valuable. With a carefully crafted case statement, an organization outlines the need or problem that it is addressing and a proposed plan of action. A compelling case statement can turn a potential donor into a committed partner.

Chief Executive’s Fundraising Responsibilities

201| Members only resource. The board has the responsibility of ensuring the existence of adequate resources for the organization. However, the board alone should not and cannot handle all fundraising activities. The chief executive takes the leadership role in development planning and engagement of all key individuals. In this brief paper, we introduce you to the chief executive’s fundraising responsibilities.

Corporate Sponsorship

201| Members only resource. With nonprofits trying to find innovative ways to solicit more resources for their programs, corporate sponsorship agreements have become normal revenue sources. When deciding whether to pursue these relationships, it is important for nonprofits to understand the landscape and the issues that can develop.

Creating a Corporate Sponsor Relationship

201| Members only resource. Over the past several years, corporate sponsorship has become a more recognized and popular way for nonprofits to gain income. These relationships often begin when a company approaches an organization, or when the nonprofit actively seeks sponsors. For many nonprofit organizations these relationships have been quite successful.

Creating a Separate Fundraising Foundation

201| Members only resource. Creating a separate but affiliated fundraising organization — a foundation for the purpose of raising funds — is not for every nonprofit. If your board is considering the option, it is important to identify the various challenges and benefits such a foundation might bring with it.

Fiduciary Responsibilities

101| Community resource. Board members act as trustees of the organization’s assets and must exercise due diligence and oversight to ensure that the organization is well-managed and that its financial situation remains sound. Here is an outline of how board members can fulfill their role as fiduciaries.

Fundraising Roles

201| Members only resource. There is often confusion over fundraising roles. Who is actually responsible for bringing in grants and donations, and who determines the overall fundraising strategy and policies? What tasks belong to the staff and what duties are carried out by the board?

Fundraising — FAQs

101| Community resource. BoardSource has been answering governance-related questions posed by nonprofit leaders for more than 30 years. Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about fundraising issues.

Supporting Organization

201| Members only resource. A supporting organization is an independent 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization, the sole purpose of which is to provide ‘support’ to another nonprofit called a supported organization. Usually the assistance is in form of fundraising but it can also mean running charitable, educational, religious, or scientific programs and services, even unrelated business activities, that further the receiver organization’s tax-exempt mission.

What Investors Look for in a Nonprofit Business Plan

101| Community resource. Vincent Robinson, founder and managing partner of the 360 Group, advises foundation boards to plan ahead for executive transitions.

When a Funder Stops Funding

201 | Members-only resource. Nonprofits must be able to cope with an impending deficit when a major funder announces that it will no longer provide operational support. This resource explains common terms for grants, reasons funders might cut funding, and exit strategies for funders and recipients.