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Book Review: Give Your Board a Crash Course in Fundraising Realities

By Tom Watson on November 8, 2007No Comment

Are you seeking a way to help your board understand their role in fundraising? Do you have a difficult time concisely articulating the board’s responsibility in fundraising? David Lansdowne has written a brief and “plain talking” book that can help you share the practical realities of fundraising with your board.

In forty-seven two page chapters, Lansdowne walks the reader through the ABC’s of raising cash for their organization. From the onset, a clear mission is established as the anchor for a strong campaign and he clearly emphasis that “board members own the organization and are its stewards. If they, who purportedly are the strongest advocates, won’t take a lead role in raising money, why should anyone else?” The ownership of any form of fundraising is centered on board member engagement. The book consistently reminds the reader that as a board member, he or she should be involved throughout the entire process – from determining if the organization is prepared to take on a major campaign to working with staff to identify the best person to request gifts from top prospects.   

Board members can also get a better understanding of fundraising “lingo” in Lansdowne’s book.  Key terms or phrases such as case statement, gift table, feasibility study, and prospect research are easily defined for the reader to grasp.  In addition, time tested techniques and strategies for executing a strong fundraising campaign are also revealed.  Two of the most critical pearls of fundraising wisdom highlighted are “the 90/10 rule: 90 percent of the funds you receive come from about 10 percent of your prospects” and the necessity to solicit from the inside out, starting with the organization’s board, and moving outward from there. It is in these pearls that the importance of an active fundraising board is emphasized again and again.

Many of the chapters are also sprinkled with helpful check-lists of questions, activities and/or tips for a successful fundraising campaign. One that is particularly compelling is found in Chapter 26 where Lansdowne neatly packages the general stages of any solicitation process:

 “Know your case, that is, the reason you’re raising money.
  Be positive; there’s no reason to apologize.
  Visit your prospect in person.
  Ask the prospect to consider the amount you suggest.
  Have a second or third meeting, if it’s a large gift you seek.
  Get the job done don’t delay.”

The bulk of the remaining chapters are dedicated to guiding the reader through the nuances and particulars of soliciting a gift.  Lansdowne begins with a classic fundraising proclamation, “Asking is the essence of fundraising. It’s the most powerful tool you have.”  Lansdowne seeks to soften anxieties and remove the common barriers associated with asking people for money by emphasizing key messages.  He carefully explains again and again that prospects want to know that board members have cemented their commitment to the campaign by making personal gifts.  There is a correlation drawn between matching the appropriate solicitor with the potential donor and the size of a gift contributed.  The preparation for and facilitation of the in-person meetings are also dissected to ensure the reader achieves his or her primary objective – requesting a generous gift.  He further suggests that five is a suitable number of prospects for any individual solicitor to pursue to avoid overload and burn-out during the campaign. And, finally, he reminds the reader that no campaign would be complete without expressions of gratitude and thanks for any and all gifts received.   

Fundraising Realities is a simple and user-friendly option for nonprofits leaders seeking ways to help board members understand the importance of fundraising and the significance of their role in the process. Along with other organizational materials, this book could be a great board orientation resource.  After all, “approached in the right way, fundraising isn’t a hard sell and shouldn’t be viewed as such. It is simply an appeal to the heart and a noble attempt to advance the human race.”  The sooner your board members understand this, the better.

Fund Raising Realities Every Board Member Must Face: A 1-Hour Crash Course on Raising Major Gifts for Nonprofit Organizations
Author:  David Lansdowne
Publisher:  Emerson & Church Publishers

To purchase click here.

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