A Good Way To Get Your Board Fundraising: Call Them Chief Invitation Officers

I like to think of the Board as “Chief Invitation Officers,” a group of dedicated, on target networking machines that are the first point of contact for new donors. Admittedly, I stole this idea from a client whose Board came up with the “CIO” title after a brainstorming session. Here’s the logic they followed to get there:

The organization: $1 million/year nonprofit after school program. Great Executive Director, who spends 50% of her time on fundraising. Very responsive, but small, development staff who has been focused on grantwriting.

Goals: Grow the organization and become less dependent on foundation grants. If they can expand, they may be able to position themselves to apply for significant government funds.

Strategy:  Build a network of public support and partnerships to expand rapidly. The goal is to build an additional $500,000 in funds from individuals and increase funds from existing donors by $500,000.

The Board: Does not want to be “fundraisers.” Pressuring the ED to have a big gala event where they can invite people to buy tables or come as their guests. Think a silent auction would be a good idea.

We had a brainstorming session with the board where we went through a few exercises to define the ideal donor to the organization. Then we talked through the constraints of raising money (limited staff, limited geographic scope) and the Development staff presented an analysis on the “cost of raising a dollar” of different tactics. The board realized that an event was not the best way to build support and the best strategy was to target a specific group of businesspeople in geographic areas and invite them to experience the program at some smaller donor events hosted by Board members.

The board and the development department came up with a process whereby Board members could submit a list of names and receive personalized email invitations to send. Before the event, the Board member and development team strategized on areas of interest for each person. After the event, the team created a process to ensure the donors were thanked and quickly invited to have a conversation about their interests in the organization.

Within 9 months, the Board’s contacts had donated over $100,000, allowing the organization to open another site. Not bad for a Board that didn’t want to fundraise.