For nearly two decades, my life has revolved around educational institutions. I’ve been an educator, a consultant working with independent schools and private colleges and universities, and a member of the boards of several nonprofit educational programs. Currently, I teach board members how to help grow philanthropic sustainability through our course “Purposeful Boards, Powerful Fundraising” at The Fund Raising School at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
While there are a number of excellent resources for board members who want to understand better the key role they play in fundraising, sometimes advice from those who have “been there, done that” can offer a real boost to jumpstarting your own potential. With that in mind, here’s some real-world advice from a real-world fundraiser and volunteer who knows what you’re facing and wants you to succeed in raising money for your school—and to have fun while you’re doing it!
Remember that when you’re raising funds for your school, you’re not “selling” a product or asking someone to do something they don’t want to do. You are building a relationship that is based on shared values between your school’s mission and the world that the donor wants to help bring into being. That’s a very powerful proposition—and something that all board members can be proud to be a part of.
If you are willing to do any of the above or any similar sorts of activities, then congratulations—you’re a volunteer fundraiser! Because you are helping nurture the relationships that will grow into donations for your school, you are an active participant in the fundraising process.
I’d challenge you to push your comfort zone. Take on more and more of these activities, and soon you’ll have the confidence to help your school when it comes to asking, too.
In practical terms, this means:
Another reason why every board member needs to make a significant gift: knowing that you’ve given the best gift that you can makes it a lot easier to ask others to give to your school. After all, you’re not asking anyone to do anything you haven’t already done yourself.
Also, don’t limit yourself to print resources. Other resources at your doorstep include:
And be sure to request your school to provide continuing education for your board on fundraising—and make this continuing education a priority. Learning by doing is good, but learning by doing when it’s supported by sound training is faster—and yields better results!
5. Above all, enjoy the process. Fundraising for your school is a chance to learn and achieve success—for yourself and your school. Work hard at your volunteer fundraising responsibilities, enjoy the relationships you build along the way, and take pride in the fact that the dollars you raise today are building a brighter and stronger tomorrow for your school. You’re making the vision you believe in manifest itself in a very real way through your school’s success—and that’s a lasting legacy both for you and for future generations. ♦
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