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Don's Corner

Getting Personal: The Board’s Role in Fundraising

Today’s Christian camps and conference centers are very sophisticated ministries reaching thousands of people annually and, therefore, need professional leadership and stewardship at the board level. Excellent boards and their members reach their fund-raising goals by following six principles:

The board member must embrace and champion the vision and mission of the organization, regularly speaking about it to close friends, acquaintances and others who can make a difference in the ministry. It is imperative that the camp you serve be one of the top priorities in your life, after God, family and your church. Ministries occupying a significant priority in a person’s life produce financial results. This truth is reflected in Jesus’ statement, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.”

Every board member should be a current donor but, in fact, the boards of many camps can conference centers have more than 50 percent of the board who do not give! These are often the same individuals who seem to have difficulty understanding why the ministry is struggling financially and why others are reluctant to contribute. Every current and potential donor has a right to ask if all board members support the ministry with their own personal finances. Any answer except an enthusiastic YES! should be unacceptable to the organization.

Assuming the camp has a resource development plan, every board member must be committed to its success. If such a plan doesn’t exist, it is the responsibility of the board to insist that their ministry have — and use — one. Development, i.e. gift income, must be one of the two major revenue streams in camping. The other, of course, is operations (adult guests, campers, families, facility rentals, etc.), and is driven by marketing. Marketing and development are coordinated so they operate in sync, mutually supporting and enhancing one another.

Because special events allow the camp to meet donors, raise money and raise the level of awareness, board members should serve as hosts, bring guests and encourage others to participate. One Christian camp planning a major fund-raising event discovered that only one of its eight board members would be able to attend. As their consultant, I insisted the event be canceled. If it was not important enough for board members to attend, why expect donors to participate?

Board members need to provide referrals that open doors to mid-level and major donors. Research and experience alike confirm that people give to people (not programs), and friends give to friends (not concepts). This means that board members can help development staff and the executive director reach individuals who are otherwise inaccessible.

Finally, board members should be willing to be trained in development and fundraising. You don’t have to be a full-time fund-raiser or development expert…simply know how to introduce people to the ministry. Your willingness to learn will help people understand and connect with the mission of the organization in such a way that a gift may result.

Camps and conferences need board members who give financially to the work, help raise resources and see with “development eyes” — eyes which understand that people want to help effective ministries grow. Finding ways to give donors opportunities to do so is an awesome, rewarding opportunity in itself. Are you ready?

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