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Effective nonprofit boards

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Question:

What are three topics nonprofits should cover during board training?

Answer:

* Advocacy

Today’s board members have to be active advocates for the nonprofits they serve.  They should make a conscious effort to promote the nonprofit among their peers, to talk about its vision, its mission, and its accomplishments.

Boards usually consist of leaders who can be very influential in promoting a nonprofit in their community.  That is probably the most effective way for word of an organization to get out to the shakers and movers of a community.

It should be a source of pride in board members that they are part of that nonprofit, which a precious asset in their community.

* Fundraising participation

Many board members tend to be disengaged from fundraising.  Once they sit down and establish a five-year plan for the nonprofit, deciding to have a multi-million dollar, multi-year campaign, they may think they can let the administrators, fundraisers, and volunteers take over.

With the competition in the philanthropic area, that attitude is not going to cut it.  Each board member should be willing and able to aid the efforts of fundraising leadership.

They should be willing to make a few select solicitations, not leaving it entirely up to the fundraising staff or CEO to go out and ask for donations.

It’s their prominence and influence on the board that can turn a mediocre fundraising campaign into an outstanding success.

It should be clear to every board member when they come onto the board that they should make their own financial gift within their own financial circumstances.

* Commitment of energy

Nonprofits are being scrutinized more than ever.  They are being held accountable for their stewardship, their management, their effectiveness, how they are taking care of their resources and how they are raising their resources.

All that scrutiny spills over into the various roles of the board.

For example, there are a number of bills proposed in committees in Congress to tighten up on the responsibilities of these charities in taking care of donated money.

Those responsibilities are ultimately going to fall on the board.

Board members cannot be passive; they must acquaint themselves with the issues facing the nonprofit and be willing to commit time and energy to the efforts of the nonprofit.

— Compiled by Caroline Monday


John B. Cummings is president of John B. Cummings Co., Inc., in Dallas, a full-service philanthropic management firm specializing in fundraising.

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