With changes in the fundraising landscape for not-for-profits, there is a spotlight on the role of the board to support networks and future partnerships.

To help Australian NFP leaders prepare for the future of fundraising, Perpetual collaborated on an in-depth fundraising white paper with Melissa Smith, Director of Noble Ambition.

A survey of more than 40 not-for-profit (NFP) CEOs found that their board members rarely give money themselves and are also generally poor at fundraising. Both of these factors play an important role in developing a culture of giving within the organisation and attracting charitable donations, particularly major gifts.

The paper “Jump on Board: High-performing not-for-profit Boards in fundraising” examines the role of NFP boards and chairs in fundraising: comparing Australia with more mature fundraising cultures (primarily North America). 

The survey unearthed a number of issues that are inhibiting the fundraising capabilities of Australian NFPs including:

  • Board members’ personal giving to their own NFP is surprisingly low
  • CEOs and their boards are often unclear about their different roles and the time and effort they should be putting into fundraising.

“The role of the board is critical in not only being able to advocate for the organisation, but also personally to give and to personally ask others to give.”

Melissa Smith, Director of Noble Ambition

The paper “Jump on Board: High-performing not-for-profit Boards in fundraising” identifies four pillars of board engagement in Australian NFP Fundraising:

1. Give – The compelling case for Board Director contributions

The paper recommends that if board directors have the financial capacity they should give, and for board chairs to encourage 100% of board participation in giving. The benefits of Board giving noted include:

  • Significant injections of philanthropic funds enable organisations to enjoy a strongerfinancial position
  • Demonstrated financial commitment by the Board encourages others to give
  • 100 per cent giving at Board level drives a culture of philanthropy within the organisation from the top down
  • 100 per cent Board giving has a positive impact on staff morale
  • Board Directors share in the donor journey and experience donor stewardship and communications first-hand.

“I don’t think there’s any expectation for

anyone to give beyond their means… but I do

think there is an expectation that… everyone

needs to give.

Tom Snow, Chair, Equality Australia

2. Get – Board Directors ask their peers to donate

Talking to chairs of various boards the paper shares various ways directors can ask people to give, including when speaking about his role in raising money for the St Vincents Curran Foundation and asking donors for gifts, Chair Charles Curran says, “You’re doing them a good turn. This is helping people lead a more fulfilled life.”

An increased level of giving from the Board serves as both catalyst and confidence-builder, to seek out equal or larger gifts from peers.

3. Leverage – as a fundraising strategy

The paper notes boards can Leverage public and private funds to build transformational partnerships in
philanthropic fundraising. Noting this is when Give and Get are taken to a third-tier and used as a
strategy to secure even greater investment and influence government.

Three benefits of Leverage are called out:

  • Leverage is a compelling offering to donors who can multiply the scale of their investment through public-private partnerships or matching
  • Leverage, either government, philanthropy or organisation investment can be an effective strategy to galvanise significant levels of investment to achieve highly ambitious targets.
  • Board commitment, driven by the Chair, of strategy, budgeting, giving and getting in order to successfully leverage is critical.

4. Leadership – fundraising leadership inside the NFP

Three benefits are realised through board interviews including:

  • Lasting cultural change must be led at a Board level
  • Appropriate consultation with the organisation’s community can lead to widespread goodwill and stakeholder buy-in
  • Through effective leadership, fundraising can be rapidly elevated to a Board-level priority. With strategic focus and investment at leadership level, significant fundraising ambitions can begin to be realised.

The paper further explores fundraising leadership in action through a case study of The National Library of Australia: through interviews with Ryan Stokes (former Chair), Brett Mason (current Chair) and NLA Council (Board).

This article is an excerpt from “Jump on Board: High-performing not-for-profit Boards in fundraising” prepared by Melissa Smith, Director of Noble Ambition in collaboration with Perpetual. The paper:

  • Makes the case for changing Australian NFP boards’ approach to fundraising
  • Suggests that fundraising is ultimately a board responsibility due to its crucial role in maintaining financial sustainability
  • Outlines a new approach which adapts the best of US philanthropy for an Australian context
  • Gives practical tools and examples that NFP boards and executive teams can repurpose for their own needs.

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