Board member retreats can be a very productive avenue for educating your board about the need for major gifts fundraising and creating the momentum for a successful campaign.

“It seems most nonprofit organizations fit into two categories,” says Robin Fowler, senior counsel of The Offord Group, a fundraising consultancy in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. “They either have neglected to schedule a board retreat for years, or they hold annual retreats but only focus on strategic planning and neglect fundraising, and the truth is the board retreat is the perfect opportunity to concentrate on major gift fundraising.”

According to Fowler, an active and operative board retreat can accomplish a great deal by:

• Helping board members to rediscover their vision for the organization and their role in perpetuating and sustaining the mission.

• Honing the fundraising skills of both staff members and volunteer board members.

• Building a strong consensus among both board and staff toward common goals.

• Recommitting to the strategic goals and priorities of the organization and building the connected understanding of the need for fundraising and major gifts.

“A board retreat is a very effective component in embarking on a fundraising campaign that will involve the solicitation of major gifts,” says Fowler. “When board members are energized and fired up about the real change they can make in the world, they are much more willing to embrace fundraising and ask for major gifts.”

Fowler believes nonprofit board members are sometimes reluctant to volunteer for fundraising solicitation tasks for several critical reasons:

1. Many board members lack experience and confidence in their ability to carry out the step-by-step process involved in making a major gifts ask.

2. Others believe themselves to be unqualified to represent or speak for the organization and lack the education and training required for doing so with assertiveness and passion.

3. Still other board members would be willing to become involved in many of the fundraising roles that are critical and supportive if only asked (e.g., follow-up phone calls, letter-writing efforts, campaign organization, etc.).

“The blunt truth is a nonprofit institution cannot operate a major gifts campaign without the commitment, connections and clout that comes from board members,” says Fowler. “And a well-structured board retreat is a great way to harness the board commitment and energy.”

Source: Robin Fowler, Senior Counsel, The Offord Group, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Phone (416) 640-4135.
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