If you've served one day on a nonprofit board - or ever been recruited to serve - the fact that these governing bodies have a role in the organization's fund-raising efforts should be well known. If you're like me, and so many others, the mere idea of having to "ask someone for money" probably raises more than a small sense of dread.
For the first 15 years-plus of my board service, I lived in fear that someone would hold me accountable for that responsibility. (Fortunately for me - and unfortunately for the organizations I served - that call never came.) It has been only in the last decade that I have come to understand that "asking" is only one way for a board member to participate in the process.
Recently, the blog "Advisor to Superheroes" published a short post on the topic, including a graphic representation of multiple ways in which board members can contribute to a nonprofit's fund-raising program. The post, found here, identified four such roles: Connector, Storyteller, Visionary, and Closer. Those categories fit my understanding and experiences of how we board members can participate in ways that are both comfortable for us as individuals and valuable for the organizations we serve.
Obviously, someone still needs to make the ask. A nonprofit needs leadership, board and staff, capable of bringing donor cultivation to a request for donation. But the rest of us can help facilitate the critical work that leads to that moment.
Personally, I am quite comfortable in the middle two roles. As a writer and public relations practitioner by training and trade, I can develop credible and creative descriptions of the work donors are being asked to support. That process is easier for me because I live my "mission first" credo: if I accept a position on your board, it's because I support completely and feel passionate about the organization's mission. That makes fulfilling the "visionary" role a natural one for me. The aspect of board work that I love most is collaborating with staff and fellow board members to dream big and then find ways to move the organization toward that dream. With a strong, colorful, compelling vision, making the case for fulfilling it is easy and enjoyable.
I'm interested in hearing from readers: Which of these four roles do you feel most comfortable fulfilling? Does your board have members willing and able to fulfill all four of these fund-raising responsibilities? How can you use this framework -- or an adaptation that fits your specific situation better -- in new member recruitment?