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The Five Critical Activities of a Development-Minded Board

A commitment to resource development by any not-for-profit organization is a commitment to more than simply fund raising—it's a determination to secure a healthy organizational future by providing adequate resources to support current mission objectives and the leadership's vision.

Successful resource development requires board involvement. That is why this material has been prepared—to serve as a foundational philosophy for Board members' individual and collective development efforts, and, hopefully, to increase personal commitment to your organization's development program.

The Board and Resource Development

Oneof the chief reasons boards exist is to ensure the financial health of the organization. Unfortunately, the board is often labeled as a fiscal watchdog, with board responsibility limited to scrutinizing financial statements and questioning expenditures. And, the role of the board in the resource development effort is often ignored. Effective boards serve as a resource for the development staff and provide strategic assistance in a variety of ways. Effective boards are a key source of funds for the organization and should be factored into the annual budget and planning process. This goes beyond personal giving, although that should definitely play a role in the development program. It also means assisting in the process as advocates for the organization, as contact individuals, as solicitors and as volunteers.

Board Responsibility

Of the 10 basic responsibilities of a board of directors, five are directly related to effective resource development:

1. Determine the organization's mission and purposes
2. Ensure effective organizational planning
3. Ensure adequate resources
4. See that resources are managed effectively
5. Enhance the organization's public image

The next five are also vital functions of a Board:

6. Establish organizational policies
7. Hire and evaluate an executive manager to run the organization
8. Provide consultative support for the CEO when asked
9. Participate in supporting organizational programs and activities
10. Ensure that the stated purposes of the organization are being fulfilled.

Resource Development — Board Qualifications

Board qualifications for resource development are few:

1. Commitment to the mission and vision of the organization.
2. Commitment to service on behalf of the organization.
3. Enthusiasm for helping meet the needs of the organization.

Experts have long taught that boards should consist of men and women who embody specific characteristics and expertise appropriate to the role they are expected to play. In addition, they say, such high-level volunteers should be expected to bring to their service “The 3 Ws”: WORK, WISDOM, and WEALTH. I would suggest that each member, prior to his/her invitation and acceptance into board membership, also be carefully examined for a fourth quality: WILLINGNESS! Particularly in the arena of resource development a lack of willingness to be involved will result in long-term ineffectiveness on a development-minded board.

Barriers to Effective Board Development Efforts

Many organizations are ineffective in their development programs and are not only non-participants, but unsupportive or even opposed to development programs. How can this be when one of the chief duties of a board is to ensure the financial solvency of the organization and fulfillment of its mission? While there are dozens of reasons that could be cited, experience has shown that the most frequent barriers can be reduced to the following list:

1. Ignorance: Basically, a poor understanding of development.
2. Inviolable Traditions: “We simply don't do it that won't work in this organization.”
3. Not my job: “Isn't that why we hired a director?”
4. Shortsightedness: "We can't afford to ‘do development.' The money has always come in.'"
5. “NIH” Syndrome (Not Invented Here): “That may be your priority, but it's not mine.”

Philosophy of Development

Most boards have the wrong impression of development. The prevailing philosophy is that “development” is equivalent to “fund-raising”. Not so. Fund-raising focuses on the organization alone, on the immediate financial daily needs and on paying the bills. Development focuses on the organization and on the donor and the relationship between them, on the immediate and the long term. Development places high importance on the value of investments in the organization's future needs, as well as taking care of current obligations.

The best, most concise explanation that I've ever heard of the difference between development and fundraising comes from Lanson Ross, longtime consultant and former president of VietAid. Lanson points out that fund-raising tends to focus on the organization's needs, apart from vision. Development focuses on the organization's vision, which meets the needs. Vision without development is merely visionary. Development without vision is mercenary. But development with vision is missionary.

Roles of the Board and the Development Department

Very much like the role of the CEO, the Development function exists to help the Board carry out its mandate to provide the resources needed by the organization. As full timers, development people are in a unique position to communicate with support constituencies, as well as program and field staff, making sure that the organization is continuing to meet the needs of each. That does not mean, however, that development is an individual or a departmental function alone. Development is a function that belongs to everyone in the organization. Building and maintaining positive relationships with donors and friends are a vital part of everyone's job, from the receptionist to the gifts processing staff to the development director to the CEO. As the organization's most vital group of volunteers, the Board is also uniquely qualified to engage in a development function on behalf of the organization it serves.

Jeff McLinden is vice president of McConkey-Johnston International, a consulting firm that helps nonprofit organizations in the areas of management, marketing, organizational development and resource development.  He has worked in development and marketing for Christian ministries since 1979 including managerial roles with Campus Crusade for Christ, the Christian Broadcasting Network and Bible Literature International. Since 1992, Jeff has served dozens of ministries in a consulting capacity, or by providing creative services.  Jeff and his family make their home in Colorado Springs. 



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