It happens more often than we’d like to think, but many non-profit boards prefer to pass their fundraising responsibilities to the chief executive or staff. I’ve seen it time and again. However, successful boards of directors understand they have an important responsibility in ensuring that their organization has the necessary financial resources it needs to operate.

For those small non-profit or social enterprises that are looking to either establish a fundraising or development committee of the board, there are some key points you should keep in mind. And, for those organizations that may be struggling with an existing board that is not living up to its responsibilities, take a moment to read through the elements that should be part of their role as it relates to fundraising.

An effective development committee of the board oversees the fundraising and development efforts within the organization. They are tasked with ensuring that the annual fundraising plan is executed and they evaluate progress toward those goals and objectives. They are also tasked with working closely with the development team to help identify and solicit funds from external sources for financial support.

Make no mistake, when your organization is speaking to major donors or asking for sizable grants from corporations or foundation, these prospective funders want to engage with leadership, and that definitely includes members of the board.

Following are responsibilities for the development committee:

  • In collaboration with the CEO and chief fundraising officer, develop the annual fundraising goals for the year.
  • Ensure the overall fundraising goal and development plan are understood and approved by the full Board of Directors.
  • Work with the CEO and marketing team on the development of the marketing and promotional materials for the organization.
  • With the leadership staff within the organization and help lead the effort to identify individuals, corporations and foundations for cultivation and solicitation–leveraging the circle of influence of all board members.
  • Meet regularly and discuss opportunities to assist other members, beyond the development committee, of the board of directors to engage in fundraising activities.
  • Work with the CEO and chief fundraising officer to develop strategies for cultivation, solicitation and stewardship for those prospects being solicited by board members.
  • In collaboration with organizational leadership, cultivate, solicit and steward individuals, corporations, foundations and businesses.
  • Regularly assess the overall non-profit’s fundraising efforts in relation to the plan, and make adjustments as necessary
  • Help ensure success of all events and campaigns of the organization by actively participating in fundraising and assisting all fellow members of the board to attain any individual and/or aggregate board goals.

The development committee of the board should be viewed as a very critical group within the overall board of the organization because it helps lead the non-profit to succeed in obtaining the financial resources it needs to fulfill its mission.

In the industry, there is often a debate about board giving and fundraising. There can be heated discussions about whether or not non-profits should have board minimums. That is, have a policy that any board member who serves on a given board is responsible for fundraising a certain amount. Whatever path your organization chooses, the bottom line is that if there are not board minimums, there should at the very least be 100% board giving.

Board members should understand that they have a very special duty to the organization and one of them is ensuring the health and fiscal viability and sustainability of the non-profit. Therefore, if your organization does not yet have a development committee or if you have one that is not working effectively, work with outside counsel if you need to in order to make sure that the board is taking a leadership role in fundraising. One of the best tools for assuring an excellent overall fundraising effort by a non-profit is ensuring its board of directors is playing a leading role.


Author of “The Rise and Fail of Charities In the 21st Century: How The Nonprofit World Is Changing And What You Can Do To Be Ready”.

© 2015 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.