A trustee board that understands the role of fundraising within the organisation and is committed to championing it both within and outside of that itself pays dividends but achieving this can be a challenge for fundraisers. Stephanie Siddell, policy officer at the Institute of Fundraising sets out her top tips for getting trustees on board.
Having an engaged trustee board can make all the difference; a board that will not only respect the expertise of fundraisers and offer a different perspective and relevant advice, but champion the importance of your work across the organisation.
However, it’s not always easy getting your Board on side when it comes to fundraising. While there are many trustees who are highly engaged with fundraising, there are others who may not realise just how important it is to have an active interest in the organisation’s fundraising approach, both for the purposes of maintaining their legal duties and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the charity.
So, here are ten top tips for getting your trustees on board with fundraising:
Run an introduction to fundraising session
If fundraising is new to the organisation or the Board, deliver a presentation to the Board where you talk them through the organisation’s overarching fundraising approach, the targets and progress to date. (Click here to access IoF’s free template presentation about trustee responsibilities).
Be honest and open with your trustees
If there are any significant problems or challenges, discuss the issues you are facing. The more they understand about what you’re doing and why, the more help and guidance they can give, as well as fulfilling their risk management duties for the charity.
Make it clear how they can help
Be specific and avoid vague requests for support, and where you can, tailor your ask to the trustee’s individual skills, expertise, networks or other strengths.
Get fundraising on the agenda
If fundraising is not already regularly tabled at trustee meetings, discuss with your senior management team or chief executive the importance of having it on the agenda.
Establish a Fundraising Sub-Board Committee
While it is important for all trustees to have oversight of your fundraising approach, it may be wise to set up a sub-board committee, where the group has time to build a deeper understanding of your fundraising programme and issues.
Set a period of time for trustees to champion fundraising
Fundraising is important all-year around, but by giving trustees a clear timeframe in which to communicate the importance of fundraising across the organisation and throughout their networks, you will provide a fixed focal point for fundraising in the calendar.
Don’t be afraid of difficult or awkward questions
Having an opportunity to debate and explain why or how you have made fundraising decisions internally, is an important step. A trustee’s more distanced perspective may help you see how a challenging fundraising decision may be perceived from the outside, ascertaining if indeed it is the right decision for the charity and help you anticipate and handle potential concerns appropriately.
Seek trustee approval for key fundraising decisions
While trustees may not always get that involved in the operational side of fundraising (this varies greatly from one organisation to another), you do need to seek their approval for major fundraising decisions or policy-setting. By engaging trustees with the bigger decision, not only are you enabling a more rigorous and accountable approach, but you will enable your trustees to gain a better understanding of the complications and sensitivities you face on an ongoing basis.
Don’t wait until the last minute
Share your fundraising strategy and calendar of events before it’s too late, while there is still time for them to make changes, rather than seeking a cursory approval. This way, they will know what is coming and can think in advance about what they can do to support the organisation’s activities.
Help trustees get to grips with the rules and their responsibilities
Keep on top of any changes to fundraising regulations and trustee duties. Signpost any relevant resources to your trustee board. For more help and guidance, see the Institute of Fundraising’s free handbook ‘Trustees and Fundraising’.