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Nonprofit Strategies

How to engage your board in resource development

Got a rockstar board but aren’t sure how to use them? An expert in nonprofit management shares how to involve them in resource development.

Sabrina Walker Hernandez
April 28, 2022
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If you want to build a sustainable nonprofit organization, you need to stay focused on resource development—not just fundraising.

Research suggests that roughly 30% of nonprofits fail after 10 years. Other experts argue this figure may be far higher, suggesting that over half of charitable organizations are set up to fail after just five years’ time.

More often than not, organizations within the nonprofit sector close their doors due to a lack of strategic planning and leadership.

Rather than cultivating long-standing relationships with individuals and corporations who share similar values, they find themselves chasing the next one-time donation.

This is precisely where the distinction between resource development and fundraising comes in.

While resource development and fundraising are two terms often used interchangeably, they’re actually two distinct concepts. While fundraising may be a simple, one-time transaction (such as paying an entry fee for a charity 5k run or purchasing a brownie from the school bake sale), resource development focuses on taking a holistic approach to building long-standing partnerships. These partnerships can be made with individuals or corporations, and contributions might not be a cash donation. Instead, partners can contribute knowledge and expertise, technology, or a steady stream of volunteers.

When building a resource development plan, your board members can be invaluable assets. Below, we explain how to involve your board members in resource development—not just fundraising.

4 ways to engage board members in resource development

Resource development: relationships GIF

Few, if any, board members join a cause because they want to fundraise. And yet, many nonprofit organizations view their board members as being [just another] fundraiser. In reality, “making the ask” should be only 5% of your greater resource development strategy. The other 95% should be made up of:

With the right training, your board can help you build a sustainable organization, building the relationships, processes, and systems necessary to accomplish your mission. As you leverage board members within your nonprofit resource development strategy, keep the following areas in mind:

1. Identifying areas of opportunity 🔎

Leveraging board members in resource and development starts by educating and involving them within your larger, strategic plan. (And no, asking board members to “solicit their lists” does not qualify as strategic involvement!)

Begin every board member relationship with an overview of your organization, including the history of your nonprofit, bylaws, staffing and key stakeholders, your mission and values, and current hurdles and opportunities for involvement. This higher education allows new board members to share their enthusiasm for your organization and prepares them for making the ask to their respective networks.

As you identify areas of opportunity for your organization, encourage board members to play to their strengths. For example, depending on the board member’s network and areas of expertise, they could recruit volunteers to assist with grant writing, email marketing, CRM implementation, soliciting corporate sponsorships, or even designing a new website. In other words, board members can identify the people and resources necessary to scale your organization—not just increase cash donations.

Within the “identifying” stage, be sure to leverage the following Givebutter tools:

2. Qualifying leads 📣

Not every opportunity identified will prove fruitful for your organization. Therefore, you need to qualify these leads before trying to build a long-standing relationship.

Consider this simple strategy: Each quarter, encourage board members to qualify five leads within their network. These leads (or donor referrals) could be influential public figures, personal connections, or individuals who’ve achieved success within their careers. To determine whether these leads could transform into long-standing partners, encourage board members to set up a dinner or coffee chat, invite them to your next fundraising event, or even place a simple phone call.

To get the most out of the qualifying stage, be sure to leverage these tools:

3. Cultivate long-standing relationships 👯

It’s true what they say: People give to people. Donors want to know, have positive feelings toward, and ultimately trust the individuals at the organizations they support. The cultivation stage is about building long-standing relationships before you make your ask.

Board members can help your organization develop long-standing relationships with their personal contacts. To do this, board members can visit with potential supporters getting to know each other slowly with key touchpoints to build the relationship.

As a volunteer who’s passionate about your mission, the board member helps lend credibility to your organization.

To help convert qualified leads into long-standing partners, keep these tools in mind:

  • Messaging ROI and analytics: As you make the ask, you’ll want to analyze the effectiveness of your messaging. Use Givebutter’s built-in messaging ROI and analytics dashboard to view your track record of converting leads into partnerships.
  • Personalized communications: Research shows that 55% of marketers see an increase in conversions when using personalized communications. Therefore, be sure to use custom merge fields to personalize your outreach to leads.
  • Contact notes: Adding notes to any leads in your CRM will help you and your team keep track of any significant details about the relationship between the lead and your organization so far. You can add a note any time that lead interacts with your organization, like making a donation or coming by for a tour of your headquarters. 

4. Stewarding and expressing gratitude 💕

Once a lead converts to a first-time supporter, the work is not over (in fact, it’s just beginning). The final stage of resource and development is stewardship—thanking supporters and service providers for their contributions to your organization.

Board members can help express gratitude to new partners by writing a thank you card, placing a phone call, or inviting the individual to donor appreciation events. In addition, they should maintain a relationship with these partners by keeping them updated on new programs, fundraising campaigns, advocacy work, or milestones accomplished by your organization.

To maximize your stewardship efforts, encourage board members to use these tools:

  • Automated thank you messages: Research shows that first-time donors who receive a thank-you note within 48 hours are 4X more likely to give again. Fortunately, Givebutter automatically thanks donors through custom receipts.
  • ThankView integration: Sometimes, you’ll want to send a special note to individual supporters or private sector corporations who contributed to your cause. Luckily, Givebutter’s ThankView integration allows you to send personalized thank you videos at scale to your supporters.

Leverage Givebutter tools to launch your resource development strategy

Rosanna Pansino rolling up her sleeves GIF

Your board is an invaluable asset when it comes to building long-standing partnerships for your organization. Unfortunately, many nonprofit board members are underutilized.

To include your board within your larger resource development strategy, start with the right training. Teach members to identify opportunities within their network, qualify leads through continued education, convert individuals into long-standing partnerships, and attract recurring support through donor stewardship.

Fortunately, Givebutter’s all-in-one fundraising platform makes all of the above possible. Givebutter’s always-free, donor-centric platform comes complete with built-in marketing automation and CRM, to help build long-standing partnerships with individuals and corporations alike.

Ready to see how Givebutter can help put your resource development strategy into practice? Take a tour today.

About the author 

Sabrina is a certified consultant, coach, & facilitator that helps small nonprofit Staff & Board build relationships that convert into more donations. She has over 25 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, and leadership. Among Sabrina’s successes is that she increased operation revenue from $750,000 to $2.5M and completed a $12M comprehensive capital campaign in the 3rd poorest county in the United States. She has facilitated numerous workshops with hundreds of nonprofit professionals. Sabrina is certified in Nonprofit Management by Harvard Business School. She is an active community leader and volunteer in Edinburg, Texas where she is based.

You can follow Sabrina on Instagram @the_nonprofitexpert and other social media platforms @supportingworldhope: Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest. You can also visit my website at www.supportingworldhope.com.

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