by Ronald J. Meshanko, President, ERC
ERC Newsbriefs Excerpt, March 29, 1996

One of the greatest problems facing nonprofits today is the inability of boards of directors to fulfill their development responsibilities. Every board member has three major development responsibilities: 1) lobby on behalf of the agency; 2) ask for support of the agency mission; and 3) thank supporters for their help. Your fund raising plan should include strategies and methods for helping board members to effectively lobby, ask and thank prospective donors and supporters. The following tips will help you empower your board to fulfill these three important tasks.

  1. Each board member should be given business cards with his/her name and title printed on it, as well as the agency mission statement printed on the flip-side. When you give directors business cards, you are empowering them to use them and telling them to lobby on behalf of the agency.

  2. Devote 15 minutes of each board meeting to role-playing wherein the directors practice lobbying, asking, and thanking each other. This is an excellent way for your directors to prepare themselves to be actively involved in donor solicitation.

  3. Include a line-item in your income budget for the board of directors. This tells your board that they are to support the agency not only by attending meetings and fulfilling their board duties, but also by making a gift to the agency. The goal is to have 100 present board support. Remember, board members can't sincerely ask for major gifts unless they have made sacrificial gifts themselves. The inclusion of the board in the income budget emphasizes the importance of each board member's gift.

  4. Give each board member agency note cards. These will be used by the board members to send personal thank you notes to donors. Devote 30 minutes of a board meeting to writing personal thank you notes. Members should practice writing a thank you note in their own words and then share what they have written with the board. Be sure to inform the board how and when they will be asked to send personal thank you notes to donors.

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