By Julie Holdaway
Published in the Orange County Register on August 12, 2013
Some board members are great at 'The Ask.' Others are good at explaining a mission, or telling you why something is good to do.
In 1641, Harvard University (then College) launched the first formal fundraising campaign. At the time, the press reported Harvard was out "begging."
Since then, the view on fundraising hasn't improved much. When our nonprofit board members ask others for money, many remain afraid of being viewed as begging.
As much as fundraising is an important role for a nonprofit board of directors, not every board member can ask others for money.
The science of fundraising is recognizing the many steps that come before and after "The Ask." Before asking for money, telling the organization's story, sharing its vision, is critical. The more people you reach out to, the more people you discover are interested in your cause.
Goodwill's board invites colleagues and friends to tour its headquarters. Impressive by any means, the complex operation also sells Goodwill's mission. The board's role, in that case, is to get community members – lots and lots of community members – on site.
Fundraising is a numbers game. The more people you introduce to your mission, the more people you find who are moved by your cause. Every board member should be able to stand and say, "I am part of this board. This work is important. Let me tell you why..."
Every board members is a story teller or an ambassador. Kay Sprinkel Grace, fundraising guru, suggests the second and third levels of boards and fundraising are advocates and askers.
Through training, support and practice, ambassadors can build their skills to become advocates and askers. Advocates make the case and are prepared to handle tough questions. Askers enjoy asking.
Like soccer, fundraising is a team sport. There are many positions you can play, and when a gift comes in, it is always a result of team effort. True, one person scores the goal, but the ball was touched by many team members.
With a fundraising team, a board member engages and tells the story, and another's presence can add integrity and legitimacy. An advocate answers questions and makes the case. And, finally, someone closes the deal—goal!