Fundraising and Your Governing Board
Your camp ministry lives by donations from your supporters. Although you receive income from revenue-producing programs, you are fundamentally supported by those who give through fundraising. How ironic and unfortunate it is, then, that the very people most closely associated with the governance of your camp ministry, especially your board leaders, so frequently say, “I’ll do anything but ask for money. With all those fundraisers out there, why don’t we just hire a good one to raise money for us?”
How your camp ministry deals with this reluctance is critical to its well-being – possibly to its survival.
For some board members, asking for a contribution feels distasteful; they see it as begging or putting pressure on friends. Others genuinely believe they are not good at fundraising, or because of inadequate leadership, coordination, or staff support are unsure how to proceed. Some are fearful: they find fundraising scary. Still others choose to concern themselves only with the programs. Stagnant boards of struggling ministries often have members with “a heart for the ministry” but who are unable to bring insight to future vision, don’t give sacrificially, or they will not invite peers to be involved or contribute.
Successful governing boards and their members fully understand, accept, and give full attention to five principles:
Principle 1. The Board is ultimately responsible for attracting funding resources to ensure the financial viability of the organization and its programs.
The board is responsible for ensuring that the ministry fulfills its mission. The board is responsible for seeing that the organization has the resources in volunteers and money to fulfill its plan for the future.
Principle 2. Asking for and giving money are natural processes, and need not be viewed as something to be avoided.
People give money because they want to. Asking for money is not hurtful and unpleasant. If you think it is an unpleasant task you will fail.
Henri Nouwen writes in A Spirituality of Fundraising:
Fundraising is a very rich and beautiful activity. It is a confident, joyful and hope-filled expression of ministry. In ministering to each other, each from the riches that he or she possesses, we work together for the full coming of God’s Kingdom.
Principle 3. Board members should help in preparing the “case,” which is the rationale for supporting the organization, and be able to explain the case persuasively to prospective donors.
The case is critically important to successful fundraising, and it is also where most organizations fumble. Although staff play a major part in formulating the case, board members should be involved in the process. The board must see that the case is strong.
Every time we approach people for money, we must be sure that we are inviting them into this vision of fruitfulness and into a vision that is fruitful.
-Henri Nouwen, A Spirituality of Fundraising
Principle 4. Every board member can do something useful to support the fundraising effort, employing his or her own skills and interests.
Board members are likely to think their role in fundraising is to ask for money. Many understandably resist this role. Board members can assist significantly in fundraising without personally asking for a donation. Find a way to use every board member’s talents; excuse no one from the endeavor.
Principle 5. Motivation of board members is the most critical and the most difficult task of all.
Meeting this principle hinges upon leadership, and such leadership is elusive. Boards must devote much attention to their selection process so that members have the necessary skill-sets to fulfill their role. An equally crucial quality of leadership is the ability to motivate. Leaders are able to move people to action, communicate persuasively, and strengthen the confidence of followers.
Accepting the Challenge
Board members are slow to accept that fundraising is an essential element of their responsibility, and perhaps even slower to learn that it need not be an unpleasant task. Properly nurtured and led, most board members can come to accept their responsibility for and overcome their resistance to fundraising activities.
Scott Gilpin is Executive Director for Fund Development at UMC Discipleship Ministries. Scott was a Lakeview (TX) camper growing up and serves as a resource to the United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries Association. He welcomes your inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615- 944-9711.