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Successful Boards and Fundraising: No Money, No Mission

Someone recently recommended the book The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards by Jerold Panas to me recently and I picked it up. Little did I know that less than a week later, it was announced that Mr. Panas had passed away. Most fundraisers know of his books and writings and he is always someone you would make sure you heard speak at various conferences and seminars. He is one of the legends in fundraising.

What was interesting is that this book had some various ideas for nonprofit boards to practice, especially regarding fundraising. This is important for any nonprofit organization and there were great takeaways on what is needed for good board members.

One of the most important things for a board to remember is that in any action or decision, integrity is most important. Without integrity from the board members, the organization cannot truly run successfully and meet its mission. Integrity in words, deeds, and actions is an important part of meeting the mission. That mission is key as it affects the community and can change or save lives.

In managing the organization, it is important that the board sets an atmosphere of excellence. It starts with the leadership of the board and with the lead executive, works down to the staff, and to the community. With that excellence, programs and impact can thrive. Part of that excellence is making sure that there is a continuous push for greater success.

By just continuing the status quo, an organization cannot move forward and cannot create a greater impact of its services to the community. This complacency will limit vitality since success is a moving target. As an organization is successful one year, it must continually strive to build on that benchmark. More importantly, keeping the status quo of today will lead to the organization falling behind. The world today is an ever changing landscape with a very quick pace in progress. If an organization does not move forward, it will wither.

One important way to meet this success is through a strategic plan. The plan is needed to define the organization and how it manages today. By setting objectives, the organization can move forward today while determining how this impacts its mission in the future.
Board members have the function to set the strategy of the organization; they do not manage the day to day operations of the organization. They are ambassadors in the community. This ties into the board’s role in fundraising. A board member must have the 4W’s: work, wealth, wisdom, and wallop.
  • Work relates that a board member takes their role seriously and prepares for meetings, shows up for meetings, completes tasks, and is positive out in the community about the organization.
  • Wealth means that the board member contributes to the organization and it is one of their main philanthropic priorities.
  • Wisdom is that the board member provides good, sound business decisions that puts the organization first and not their own priorities.
  • Wallop is the fact that the board member has an impact in the community or in the mission or programs of the organization.

A large part of the board’s role is to have the duty of care, where the organization is set financially. Panas states it plainly – “No money, no mission.” While an organization might cut back on services, staff, or functions, it is not meeting its mission. What successful organizations do is make sure that the services and functions of the organization are funded. This starts with the board members themselves, with each person contributing to the organization. They also help open doors to other potential donors.

Decisions determine resources, not the other way around. This ties back to not continuing the status quo. A board should ask the question “What happens if we do not provide this service?” rather than “Do we have enough money to provide this service?” An organization might feel it is not ready, but the board need to think that change has to happen today. Being an evolving organization that raises money to fulfill its mission takes commitment, persistence, and hard work, according to Panas.

As the world is changing, so must organizations to meet its stated mission. It is the board’s commitment to sustain the organization. Without a board committed to these principles and understand that it takes money to meet the mission and function in our ever-changing world, an organization cannot thrive and will suffer mission deficit.

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