5 Little Understood Factors About a Board Member’s Role – Part 3 of “The 3 Ways We Go Wrong Asking Nonprofit Boards to Help Raise Funds”

Collecting for the poor is an honored tradition

Collecting for the poor is an honored tradition

In Jewish tradition the “Gabbai Tzedekah,” the money collector, held a very special and esteemed role as the collector and disburser of funds to help the poor. The root of “tzedekah” means justice; it was simply the right thing to do to help. The Gabbai risked him/herself, in some ways, for the sake of the community. In return, these enablers of justice were highly respected.

My last posts were about the first and second ways we go wrong when asking boards to help raise funds.  Today’s post digs into the third reason.
The 3 Ways We Go Wrong Asking Board Members to Help Raise Funds
1.         We let them think it’s about money.
2.         We let them wallow in how painful the process is.
3.         We’re unclear with them about their very special role.
The problem with being unclear with board members about their very special role.

Art print of penguin giving a fish to a polar bear
Modelling joyful giving

When we let board members think that their role on the board may or may not involve fundraising we take away from them the ultimate privilege of being an enabler a catalyst of change… a teacher of the joy of giving.  This is the highest honor we can bestow on them, yet we make it easy for them to walk away.  This deprives them of a great deal of satisfaction in their role.  And, in my experience, those board members who have participated freely and joyfully in fundraising end up being the most fulfilled with their experience.

Road sign depicting change ahead
Leading the way towards change

We can assist our board members by helping them to understand these 5 little-known factors about their role. Board members are all these things:

To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.”  Well, often donors know wherethey want to go; they’re simply clueless howto get there.  They want to help the homeless, but don’t know which organization does an effective job.  They want to stop global warming, but fear the problem is too insurmountable for them to make a difference. The board member/fundraiser can be the guide donors need to show them how to meet their objectives/enact their values through your organization.
A great guide is one who not only shows you the path but who makes it easy for you to get to the end of the road.  When we tell inspiring stories… when we provide data about numbers of people helped… when we demonstrate how effective our organization is… then it becomes easy for someone to decide to become a donor-investor. When the board member/fundraiser is equipped by staff with everything they need to inspire others to join them, they can then facilitate the journey.
In What Fishing Can Teach Us About Fundraising  we learn that when we look for prospective donors we seek folks with (1) linkages to our organization, (2) an interest in our cause and (3) an ability to give.  The most important starting place is linkages because that means a warm, rather than a cold, call.  It’s really difficult to get people’s attention these days, so a board member with connections can make a huge difference. The board member can be the door opener who helps to build a relationship that will lead to a donation once the prospect learns more about the organization’s vital mission.
We are products of a herdmentality.  Monkey see; monkey do.  Follow the leader. Unless board members give and ask it’s unlikely others will follow suit.  In fact, funders will often ask: “What’s the board doing?” There’s really nothing more important for the board to do than lead; board members must ‘walk the talk’ that will assure the organization’s sustenance and longevity.
Again, people are hugely influenced by what others do and think.  Board members provide testimony that what your organization does is good.  Essentially, they do the legwork and vetting of your charity on behalf of the prospective donors they approach.  Board members provide the gift of the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”
The role of the board member is not to be a money grubber.  Their role is to be a catalyst for change. It’s not about money.  It’s about building and sustaining relationships, in order to change the world. It’s about doing the right thing… seeking justice… doing unto others… and that’s something about which your board member is already passionate. The actual moment of asking is one small step in a process.

Do you have examples of helping board members to become comfortable with their fundraising/financing role? 
Please share your story to inspire others.
Other posts to help your board members embrace fundraising:
Opt In Image
Get Clairification via email and receive free fundraising and nonprofit marketing coaching you can use!

As an added BONUS, you’ll get my popular “Donor Thank Calls E-Book + Script” for free.

About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. This is great Claire. I love the concept of tzedekah and bring it up whenever I can. It's such a great example in religion for what justice looks like.

    I've been working a lot with board members right now on this exact topic. When I explain their fiduciary duty and duty of care for the organization they typically understand, but some folks need more explanation. Many times it ends in their saying they don't want the responsibility of being on the board which is as valid a decision as it is to stay on the board.

    Thanks for the great info!

  2. Thanks Emily. Being on a board, indeed, is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. There are many ways one can serve an organization, including being a direct service volunteer, committee or auxiliary member or donor. When one is a board member, however, one must lead in every way.

    It's not fair to board members when we invite them to join us, yet don't let them know what board service entails. It's also not fair when we let them know what the service entails, but don't provide the training and support they need to succeed.

  3. Such a better concept than "schnorrer" which I have also heard applied to professional fund raisers by donors in the Jewish community.

  4. You should absolutely get to work on that book…you have such a way with words. This is a great visual and a great outline of what it means to be a board member.

  5. I really try to embrace the concept of "guides" in my volunteer work. But I think that board members themselves need guides. As an entity, the Board can't always rely on the executive director or chief fundraiser. Having guides can help them get to embrace their job as "owners" of the nonprofit.

  6. lol!

  7. You are so sweet! Off to the garret with me…

  8. Excellent point Clay. Staff absolutely must support the board in their role. We owe it to them.

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge