What is the Right Size For Your Fundraising Board?
Updated: Feb 2, 2021
The answer may be simpler than you think!
What is the ideal size for your fundraising board? Many boards arrive at conclusions using complex organizational charts, check-off lists and multi-dimensional “industry benchmarks”.
But to answer the basic question of size, we must first consider (and perhaps reconsider) your board’s primary objective. Is your board’s priority really to provide operational guidance and fiduciary oversight? Or is that just a "given", rather than a purpose. For example, we accept the need to breathe as an absolute given to life, but would we consider breathing the purpose of life?
I would argue that the board's principal role is to provide vision, create relationships and help secure the funding that transforms vision into reality. The board's strength should be to help open doors and cultivate great supporters. Oversight responsibility must be automatically included when recruiting board members – but the ability to secure funding is as important and often not equally considered.
When discussing board responsibilities for fundraising, what you often hear from staff and board members, is a bunch of
polite . . . . . .
Or perhaps this . . . . . . .
Let's stop dancing around the issue. When considering the size of your board, it is critical to start with a transparent premise: a dedicated non-profit board member should give generously, commit to raising funds, and serve as an organizational ambassador. Board members must help cultivate the funding that makes your mission a reality. Beyond fiduciary oversight, this is the PRIMARY role of your board. No more waffling!
So in that case . . . . . .
What is the right size for your board?
The answer is clear. As many members as possible, as many as are willing to meet the challenges of fundraising, as many as you can possibly motivate. Yes, a larger board can be more challenging to manage, but it should also provide a self-fulfilling solution. More members equals more gifts equals more resources equals more board members equals more donations . . . . .
Fundraising should be a voluntary obligation of board service - and for successful fundraising, you need the biggest team possible.
If you doubt this, just take a look at hospitals, universities, museums and other of our most successful community non-profits. Almost all will have this in common: large boards, or even multiple large boards. Yes, there are exceptions, but you'll find those small boards populated by uniquely successful and wealthy individuals.
The winning formula is NOT more money equals bigger boards,
it’s bigger boards lead to more money!
It's a mistake to place huge burdens on just a few volunteers, no matter how caring they may be. They will tire, burn out, and become resentful of the constant pressure. You need a team effort, and even multiple teams. You need growth, expansion, new recruits, movement and a web of people.
So when fundraising is important: bigger IS better!