Daily Nuggets: Blog
Funding ideas, motivational nuggets and stories from For Impact.

Your Board is not Responsible for Fundraising

Tom Suddes | October 10, 2007

Reader Beware: This is a rant. It’s contrarian. It goes against everything you’ve been taught, read and believe. It is also TRUE. FACT. REALITY.


There it is again. It’s out there. Get over it.

    STOP whining that your “Board doesn’t understand that they need to raise money.”STOP complaining that your “Board won’t give or get.”STOP moaning about “asking my Board for names and only getting a few back.”

Three times in the last week, with three really, really good FOR IMPACT ORGANIZATIONS, I have heard all of the above and more.


I shared the following with a group of Executive Directors of a really good FIO last week. One of them looked up after I was finished and said, “Finally, someone is telling it like it is.”

*In fact, one of the best Executive Directors I have met says her Board members all buy LOTTERY TICKETS… as their funding strategy! It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

    ‘TRUTH’. In Book 4 of Metaphysics, Aristotle stated, “To say of what is that it is, and what is not that it is not, is TRUE.”‘FACT’. Less philosophy, and more business-like, are the words of a friend and former mentor Jeff Bernel: “You’ve got to FACE THE BRUTAL FACTS. Anything else is delusional.” (This is backed up by a ton of other business thinkers including Jim Collins’ story about the Stockdale Paradox.)’REAL’. Our own REAL experiences with thousands of Boards and tens of thousands of Board members.

The TRUTH… the FACT… the REALITY is that:


    Your Board doesn’t WANT to ‘fundraise’.In fact, Your Board HATES to ‘fundraise’.Your Board would rather spend thousands of hours on a ‘SPECIAL EVENT’ (that’s not ‘special’, not an ‘event’ and raises $1,600…) than ask their friends for money. (Actually, they’d rather crawl through broken glass.)

And they are RIGHT!

To ignore this reality just leads to:

    FRUSTRATION – for you and your Board.STRESS – for you and your Board.UNHAPPINESS – for you and your Board.


I’ll keep this rather SHORT… SIMPLE… and SWEET.

  1. IMPACT: If your Board is ‘ON BOARD’ rather than ‘ON the BOARD’, they are involved with you because of your IMPACT. They are NOT there because they want to be ‘fundraisers’.Therefore, get them INVOLVED and ENGAGED around your IMPACT. They are on your board for a reason, so engage their talents and abilities to maximize your organization’s IMPACT. Good things will follow…
  2. CHAMPIONS: Stay focused on your ‘CHAMPIONS’. They are the ones who will lead you to the proverbial ‘Promised Land’. Your Board, as a WHOLE (read ‘MOB’) is worthless (except maybe for rubber stamping some fiduciary gobbley gook).It’s all about the INDIVIDUALS on your Board and, particularly about the CHAMPIONS! As I love to say, “Give me three CHAMPIONS and we will exponentially outperform any ‘BOARD’… 10 fold!”
  3. ROLE. Every single Board that Nick and I have worked with, without exception, has a fuzzy, ill-defined ROLE vis-a-vis INCOME.We know one thing that is absolutely NOT their role… ASKING THEIR FRIENDS FOR MONEY!Here is one simple, short, sweet way to look at your Board’s (FUNDING) ROLE.
    2. INVITE… Others to be ENGAGED.

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7 Comments So Far

  • Gayle Gifford - February 26th, 2009 11:10 am

    I agree. I’ve been preaching and writing about this for years. When I started saying it people thought I was insane. The first time I submitted my article “Banish Your Expectation of Board Fundraising” it was turned down. I finally published it for Nonprofit Boards and Governance Review at CharityChannel.com. I now get lots of requests for that one article.

    Glad to know that other colleagues are also starting to tell the truth and spread the word.

    I think one of the worst lies ever told to fundraisers and executive directors is that their board is responsible for fundraising. As you pointed out, they just end up resenting their board members rather than figuring out how to engage those few champions and get out and raise some money.

    You can read the article at http://tinyurl.com/djnkwh


    Nick Fellers reply on March 5th, 2009 11:20 am:

    @Gayle Gifford, Thanks for posting this… finally had a chance to read. GREAT STUFF!


  • Linda Rogers - January 26th, 2011 3:45 pm

    I disagree.

    Who is responsible for fundraising will vary greatly from organization to organization. In smaller organizations, Boards are composed of people who come together for a certain reason, for example, to found a community orchestra in a small town. They are the key people interested in having such an orchestra and so it falls to them to be the principal fundraisers. They might raise the funds in the early years to hire a staff member to manage some day to day business of the orchestra, but cannot expect that person to also take on all fundraising for THEIR vision, nor expect that the professional musicians that they hire to fulfill THEIR vision will necessarily want to volunteer their time to help with fundraising.

    I agree that as an organization grows and matures, fund development staff may be hired that take on more of the fundraising roles, and the Board become more narrowly focused on engagement and stewardship, giving up most of its fundraising role. However this is the case for a minority of Boards.

    Many conflicts develop in organizations when it is unclear as to who “owns” the Mission of and organization. For example Board Members rufusing to fundraise for an orchestra might feel like they are there only to assist musicians with realizing their artistic goals and so feel that the musicians should be very involved with fundraising, while the musicians are feeling like they have been hired as professionals to deliver a service that the Board wanted to provide for the community and can just as easily play for another orchestra in another town. In this example, neither side feels that fundraising is “their” job because neither side owns the Mission of providing a professional orchestra for a community.


  • Tina Barton - March 16th, 2011 4:27 pm

    I agree!! Any given ‘Board’ just wants the bottom line RESULTS. They want to be included but refrain from the ‘work’. But if you are supported by your board, the energy carries you through to your next group that you might encounter or approach during your campaign/fundraiser/gala etc. Whatever you do, don’t rely on your boards to fundraise! Take control and use the Suddens Group Principals, they all work!


  • liska - May 26th, 2011 9:24 am

    The author continued in the same style


  • TupShoupe - September 8th, 2011 7:18 am

    Very amusing phrase


  • z.a.b.i.r.i.v.s.e - March 26th, 2012 4:25 am

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