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Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

About Linda

Getting Grassroots Boards to 'Move and Shake' (Part 1)

"We can't get our Board to help with fundraising, they aren't the 'movers and shakers' in town." If this is a statement you have heard in your organization, read on!

Time after time, organizations have been amazed to uncover some unbelievable connections on the part of Board members who thought they "didn't know anyone with money." The thing to remember is that every Board member has a sphere of influence that can be used to help their organization. They just need to be made aware of the value of their connections and how they can use those connections to help the organization. The following steps can help turn Board members into "movers and shakers" in their own sphere of influence. (The same method has also been used with staff members to yield some amazing relationships.)

  • First, the Board needs to understand development and what it does for the organization, as well as their role in the development process. Start by holding a briefing session at a Board meeting -- Board orientation is a good time to introduce this to new Board members. Explain how important development is to the organization and what unfunded programs need support from private donors. Explain the function of the development office and how the Board and staff work together as a team to raise money. This is a good time to introduce Board members to the fact that most giving comes from individuals. (The giving charts from Giving USA will be helpful handouts or PPT presentations for US organizations—
  • Next, schedule a brainstorming session in which Board members (and staff) develop a list of people they know who could be potential donors. It is important not to start them out with a "Blank Slate." It is guaranteed that giving them a blank sheet of paper and telling them to list people they know will result in getting back a bunch of blank pieces of paper. Give them instead, some lists to spark ideas. Ken Wyman's Webbing Exercise (Fundraising Ideas That Work for Grassroots Organizations) is a good way to start ideas rolling. Or give them a list of people who already contribute to the organization and ask them to discuss each name to determine "who knows whom."
  • The next step is refining the list into potential major donors, potential smaller donors and people about whom there isn't enough information to proceed further. A small group of staff and Development Committee members who are well connected in the community can do this, based on their knowledge of the person's ability, interest and the strength of the linkage with this prospect. The smaller donor prospects will be added to the mailing list to receive newsletters and direct mail, and the "unclassified" prospect list will need further research. This research can be assigned to staff or Development Committee members.
  • The final step in the identification process is a Major Donor Screening Meeting. Starting with the list identified as potential major donors, bring together the Board and Development Committee members who have identified those people and review each name carefully. (This can be done in a series of meetings if the list is large.) Discuss each name to determine the Ability (how much COULD they give if properly motivated and approached by the right person); the Interest (are they known to give to causes similar to this organization's mission, have they given to the organization in the past, do they have any connection to the organization, is there a particular program of the organization in which this person may be interested?) and the Linkage (who is the best person to contact this person; how strong is the connection; if there are several people who have a connection, which relationship is the strongest; is there a "team" of people from the organization who should approach this prospect?). It is crucial to understand that screening is a very sensitive issue and participants in this process must be carefully selected. Information that is sensitive should not be openly discussed. Participants can suggest giving amounts of areas of interest without discussing the prospects private details. And, of course no information about a donor's giving history should be given out unless that information is public information (listed on the organization's annual reports with the donor's permission for example). See the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) Code of Ethics and the APRA (American Prospect Researchers Association) Code of Ethics for further information on handling donor privacy. Check also local laws.

This process will help uncover connections that most Board members don't realize they have. A good facilitator is needed to help the Board work though this process. A consultant, a Board member or staff members who has gone through this process is essential. An experienced facilitator will be aware of privacy issues and organizational polices about what can be discussed within this group. Once the calls are assigned the next step will be the solicitation process. (See Part 2 of this article).


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