Should Fundraisers be Board Members?

2014-12-01 18.01.23

This is for my Fellow Fundraisers.

Nobody in the Verse frets over Board Members and their frailties like the Fundraisers I know. No one.

Those Things They promised to do, Refused To Do, said They Would Do and Forgot About. It is the nature of things in our non-profits. Fundraisers have demanding jobs, and are unfairly reliant on others to be successful (bosses, board members, volunteers) without being able to actively supervise or expect accountability.

All Carrot, no Stick.

Should you, my friend in Fundraising, cross over to the other side and serve as board member for a non-profit in your community?

Yes you should. You absolutely should. The rewards are too great, the experience too important for you personally and professionally. So Yes, but only if:

You are truly committed to the particular organization. Never join a board to pad your resume or to position yourself for your next job. You know who does that? Those jerky board members who don’t do what they say they will. Pick something that is meaningful to you, worthy of your time and hard work. I don’t want to hear about enhancing your portfolio. That’s crap. You are better than that. Do it because you mean it, because you want to see amazing things happen in your community. It is okay to say No to Board Service. Most people should.

You PROMISE to help fundraise in some meaningful way. I see this all of the time. “Sure, I will be on your Board but I can’t help with sponsorship because I am a grant writer and there is a conflict of interest but I will help pick the tablecloths for the gala.” Don’t be this gal. EVERYONE has a role to play in fundraising. So you can’t ask your organization’s donors for money on behalf of another organization. Great. But you can place thank you calls, make introductions, follow up on corporate sponsorship, participate in telethon nights. You can do all of these things. Show your other board members the Way.

You embody best practices of a board member. Participate actively. Pay your Annual Fund Gift early, without prompting. Show up whenever you can. Go to the special event on a Friday night even after you had a 60 hour work week at the day job. Invite your other board members to join you. Invite your Friends to get involved. Do the stuff you say that you will do. Be at the Saturday morning retreat despite the football game you would rather watch.

You won’t throw your weight around. We’ve all see it, that board member who leans in to you as a staffer for special access, an extra ticket, an unreasonable favor. Don’t be that Guy either. Support the CEO and show others how the CEO should be supported. Help her manage other board members. Be a Leader.

You are a Humble Servant. The job of the Board member, in the end, is to graciously serve an organization devoted to the Greater Good to the best of one’s Abilities. That’s all. Be patient, giving and kind as a board member. No one likes the Smarty who knows Everything about non-profit governance. Be the Good Board Member.

I recently competed a 6-year term on a board of directors, most of the time as a positive force to an organization in midst of tremendous growth. It was much fun and I learned a lot, especially about the nature of volunteerism and how challenging it can be to serve on a board of directors.

However important the organization is, for a volunteer it is going to be at best a third or forth priority after family, work, friends, maybe church. AT BEST. So no matter how urgently the CEO or Development Director needs an introduction to the hospital marketing VP, or how badly Opening Night needs extra volunteers, it just isn’t going to matter as much as work, family, and other commitments.

You only get to experience that reality by seeing the world from a different perspective. So give it a shot if you haven’t been on a board in awhile. And pick some other sort of organization than you are involved with in your day job. It will open your eyes, expand your network, and offer opportunities you couldn’t have expected.

And if you are Single, you are likely to meet someone great. Had enough of the bar scene? Volunteer – that’s where the interesting guys and gals hang out.

This is the Bounty of the Volunteer.

About jeremymhatch

If I could, I'd write about nothing but tacos. Alas, I am fundraising and leadership consultant in the arts, focusing on contributed revenue growth for organizations. Send me a compliment or complaint. And the location for the good tacos in your town.
This entry was posted in Board Development, Fundraising, Leadership and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Should Fundraisers be Board Members?

  1. Lora says:

    100% agree Jeremy! And I say that as a professional fundraiser and proud board member at YMCA Camp Minikani in southeastern Wisconsin. I’ve learned so much from sitting on the other side of the table and getting involved in being “out front” at events rather than my usual behind-the-scenes role.

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