If your nonprofit is new, making a tiny amount of money with events, or has a disengaged board, it might be time to get new board members.
Where do you find them?
You want people high up in a corporation, so that they can approve thousands to sponsor your event, or a year-end gift to your organization, if they have left over marketing dollars in their budget. You also want people who have used your services, who are passionate about your mission.
Go to the Business Journal’s Book of Lists for your city.
Who are the biggest employers?
Who are the fastest growing companies?
Who are the richest companies?
And Who are the biggest givers in your city?
Pick one high ranking person from each biggest employer to call. 20-30 calls, max.
Pick one high ranking person from each fast company to call. Ditto
Pick one high ranking person from each rich company to call. Ditto
And finally, pick ten high ranking people from the most philanthropic businesses to call.
You should call at 7am on a Thursday morning, to get past the gatekeepers.
Ask the person if they have heard of your cause.
Ask them if they would like to hear what you do.
Ask them if they are interested in serving on a nonprofit board.
If not, ask them if they know anyone within the organization who would be interested.
If not, ask them if they know anyone outside of the organization who would be interested.
If still not, pick someone else from that company to call.
And you can always call back and ask for other things, such as:
Ask them if their company would be interested in doing a day of service for employees, or ongoing volunteer activities for employees.
Ask them if they have an employee giving program, or if they’d like to start one.
Keep going. Every no leads to a yes. I’m proud of you for asking.
PS. If you’ve got another way of finding nonprofit board members, I’d love to hear it. Please leave it in the comments below. Thank you!
Cathy, think about the companies that serve your community. Your community IS larger than your town. Who is your electric company? Phone? Internet? Tractor dealership? Wal-mart? Bank? Where do people in your community shop? Go there. Even if they don’t have a publicized giving program, most of these businesses give in the communities they serve (THATS YOU!). These are often small amounts ($1000 or so)but it adds up. And don’t forget to thank them and thank them loudly when these companies help out! Let them know what you are doing. Keep them updated. You want to keep your donors happy so they will give again and again. -Fundraising for a nonprofit in a town of less than 500.
Cathy, that is tough. There are lots of ways to make money for your nonprofit that don’t involve dances, youth nights, or dinners.
You could also try surveying your current volunteers or people who DO come and ask them what you could do better, why they got involved, and then use this for your direct mail.
Then you could try buying a list and doing direct mail fundraising.
I don’t know what country you’re in or what state, but you could also ask other nonprofit community centers in your region about how they have overcome the issue of being rural and trying to engage people in town.
And finally, consider partnering with another nonprofit or charity in your town or region. If they have a similar or complimentary mission, it would be good to take advantage of their structure/brand/list/volunteers so you can start to build some traction.
Hope this was helpful.
I am on the board of a community centre in a village. You’d think the people would gladly volunteer to help or better yet, to be on the board and have a say but, no. We are the only source of entertainment in miles but if we put on dances, we have little turnout unless we hire an expensive, well-known band. Built a beautiful outdoor skating rink but can’t get anyone to clear snow or flood it. Had a “Youth Night” but only 1 set of parents volunteered their time. The parents were quite happy to drop their kids off for the night but try to get them to spend even one evening a month supervising them…. Our fundraising is almost exclusively putting on a dinner every 2nd week. They’ll come to eat but we have a volunteer base of only 12 women. Every article I read is for city organizations. We have one car repair garage with the owner and no employees; a family owned and operated store. We had a restaurant that employed several people but a year ago, it burned to the ground and they are not rebuilding here.
I’d be very interested in hearing what ideas you come up with for us. We really need help.
We’ve have found the best board members for our grassroots board by “advertising” openings to our supporters. These folks are tremendous workers who are already familiar with and support our mission personally. We put together a job description that didn’t pull any punches about fundraising, skills desired and the commitment involved, and emailed it to our list. I never would have thought to do this, but a friend at another organization had great luck, and we have, too.
Great post. In your post, you just happened to mention one of my greatest passions: Book of Lists. I am in love with the product, and I love finding out how people are using it. In this case, finding contact information for execs who are prospective board members. It’s also getting a street level view of who the top businesses are, who the fast growers are, who the rich companies are, and who the big givers are, in order to get the right people from the right companies. For this kind of data and analysis, the Book of Lists is reigns over subscriptions to large business databases which would lack the focus, detail, currency, and local touch of the BOL. I know giving insight into how BOL is used wasn’t the focus of this post, but I greatly appreciate the insight.