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Susan Schaefer, CFRE

About Susan

The Grantseeking Board

When it comes to board members' involvement in fundraising, trustees are most often associated with their contributions to individual giving. But they can also be valuable assets in the grantseeking effort. While some tasks, such as grantwriting, are ideally suited for those directors well-versed in fundraising, most can be assumed by anyone with a passion to get involved.

If you have a professional or experienced volunteer fundraiser on your board, you may ask that person to speak at a board meeting about grants and the grantseeking process, since many board members have misconceptions about the ease in which nonprofits obtain these funds. This is an especially good strategy if your directors attempt to plug every fiscal gap with a recommendation that you secure a new grant. Work with your spokesperson to determine how the board can best serve these and other needs facing your organization. The goal of the session should be twofold: Directors should come away with a better understanding of the grantseeking process and how they can participate in it.

The best way to get a novice board involved is to compile a list of your foundation and corporate donors and prospects, along with names of their senior staff and board of directors. Pass them around at a board meeting, and give the group 15 minutes or so to pore over the lists and highlight anyone they know. Follow up with a phone call to the board members who have relevant contacts and determine how best to make those relationships benefit your grantseeking efforts. This can bring about some very fruitful contributions that your directors had not previously considered. Conduct this activity annually to capture new directors' contacts and connections to new foundation stakeholders.

Another logical step is to take board members to your foundation and corporate meetings with you. If they have contacts at a funder, then you've got a perfect match, but even if not, board members represent a dedicated volunteer contingent that perfectly complement a staff-led presentation. Make sure you first coordinate your efforts -- every board member has a particular area that he or she speaks most passionately and articulately about. Create a presentation that allows your board member to focus on those issues. If you're lucky, you'll have a few trustees who know when to rave about the management of your organization so that you don't have to toot your own horn!

When you want a new angle on your nonprofit's story, you might consider having a trusted member of your board read some or all of your latest proposal. Directors can be especially good at providing insight on your needs statement because they often have their own compelling reasons why they think your organization is a worthy investment. More seasoned directors likely have countless antidotes to revitalize that proposal template that you've been meaning to update.

One final -- and easy -- way to involve even the most squeamish directors in grantseeking is to ask them to write a short thank-you note to a funder who has recently made an award to your organization. Of course, this letter should supplement, not replace, that of the requisite staff correspondence. But such a note shows that your board is paying attention to its funding streams and is grateful for the funder's investment.


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