Originally published May 6, 2015

Boards play many important roles in the life of an organization, including providing necessary oversight and governance. Boards also play important roles in philanthropy through direct involvement in, and support for, fundraising programs.

BWF’s research shows that board members have a unique opportunity to influence giving at all types of healthcare organizations.

When asked who influences their inclination to give, respondents to the BWF healthcare survey identified board members among the top three influencers.

Totals will not equal 100 percent because survey respondents who did not choose one of the above were omitted from this table.

Source: Bentz Whaley Flessner Healthcare Survey, 2013.

To maximize board members’ impact on philanthropy, organizations need to provide members with structure, process, and support.

Four Tips for Effectively Engaging Your Board in Philanthropy

1. Set Clear Expectations. Set clear expectations for board members roles’ in fundraising so they understand what is being asked of them and the opportunities they have to contribute. These expectations can include:

  • Making personal gifts in support of the organization.
  • Reviewing the organization’s philanthropic agenda and priority areas.
  • Making introductions and opening doors for cultivating and soliciting prospective donors.
  • Actively participating in cultivating and soliciting major gift prospects.
  • Thanking, recognizing, and stewarding donors.
  • Attending events and hosting events on behalf of the organization.

2. Make the Unknown Known. Many board members shy away from fundraising because it is foreign to them, and they feel they don’t have the right skill set. While the board should never be a substitute for a strong development team, providing education and training will help them feel more comfortable in the process. You might consider:

  • Holding an educational session to familiarize the board with the fundraising process from prospect identification to cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.
  • Asking them to participate in a peer screening session to learn which prospects they know and their advice on cultivating and soliciting them.
  • Illustrating scenarios you would like them to be involved with and set clear expectations for their role in solicitations.

3. Share the Institutional Vision and Priorities. Keep the board connected to institutional leadership and priorities so they can effectively promote the organizational vision and key priorities. Examples include:

    • Providing opportunities for the board to hear updates directly from the organization’s leaders on the organization’s opportunities and challenges and where philanthropy can make the greatest impact.
    • Involving physicians by asking them to highlight specialty areas and specific projects to keep board members up to date on the latest innovations and unique initiatives.
    • Equipping board members with a brief “elevator” speech regarding the institutional mission and case for support so they are prepared to delivery clear and consistent messages in the community.

4. Assign Tasks, Provide Support, and Follow Up. Effectively engaging board members involves asking them to do tasks which they are comfortable with, have time for, and know they will be accountable for. This involves:

  • Giving board members specific and reasonable tasks to accomplish between meetings. In order to not overwhelm individuals, don’t give more than 2–3 assignments at a time; when those are completed, assign more.
  • Setting the expectation that staff will follow up on progress and completion of tasks and will be available to provide the appropriate support and resources.
  • Using a portion of board meetings to check on everyone’s progress on assignments to ensure accountability to the group, as well as provide an opportunity to share and discuss challenges.

Copyright © 2015 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.


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