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  • Writer's pictureSylvia Costantini, PF International

How to make a strong business case for fundraising investment to your board

One of the most difficult things to do for many a CEO or Director of Fundraising is convince your Board and the rest of the organisation to ‘buy into’ a fundraising mindset – something that’s critical for your organisation to grow.

More specifically, how do you convince your board to go along with, and crucially, sign off on bold but calculated fundraising investment?

First, as we showed with developing a fundraising culture, you need to make them look at the future and dream of what can be achieved.

You need to fire them up and help them reconnect with the fundamental reason the charity was founded in the first place. The Why.

Once your board have operated that shift and are bought into the principle, give them the data and numbers they need to make the right decisions. Most likely, your treasurer is well versed in financial planning. However, their commercial/for-profit background doesn’t mean they understand how fundraising investment works.

So, you need to show them:

· Build up your financial knowledge and create a toolkit you can present to them. Make sure you use predictive KPIs as much as impact KPIs.

· Include investment modelling. Show them different scenarios of returns over the middle or long term based on different levels of fundraising investment and different performance.

· Use income forecasting. This way you can re-project results based on “real time” performance, giving your board up-to-date progress reports based on the initial plan.

· Pre-agree on certain predictive KPIs before the next stage, so that you don’t need to go back to them for another decision (which could take months). Be clear on knowing that if you achieve X, you can move on to Y immediately.

Ideally, give them only scenarios that you know you can live with. And the benefit is that you’ll be giving them a sense of control and the ability to exercise their legal duty of oversight, while assisting their decision-making in your favour. After all, someone has got to implement that plan afterwards and that’s going to be you.

Get your board trained so they feel confident with fundraising investment.

Finally, make sure your Board gets training in fundraising. Often, Board of Trustees are composed of people with vast experience in business and the commercial/for profit sector. But just because they understand business, doesn’t mean they understand fundraising.

However, once it is explained to them, they WILL GET IT.

Scott Chapman did this brilliantly as the CEO of Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in Victoria, Australia. An internal restructure meant that the subsidiary no longer delivered so many flying services and effectively evolved as a fundraising conduit for its sister RFDS across Australia.

For 10 years they maintained a small, static fundraising programme. When Scott became the CEO he had to rebuild the business and services – but he soon realised that meant more vigorous fundraising.

His first hurdle was to convince his Board of the opportunities for fundraising growth.

“What I was trying to do was to get the Board to understand that fundraising is not the bit that is leftover. What I wanted them to do is understand that we are also in the business of fundraising.”

Scott Chapman, CEO, Royal Flying Doctors Service – Victoria section.

Having persuaded his Board that there was more to learn about fundraising, Scott arranged training for the entire staff and trustees, using emotional stories to reconnect them with their purpose and the cause and get excited about the opportunities that more income could bring.

As Scott says;

“It really resonated with the Board, coming from a world of business and number crunching. It was a shift in their thinking…an investment opportunity – and they have thought about fundraising in that light ever since. It resulted in the Chair standing up at the end of the day and stating an audacious fundraising goal because he was so inspired!”

Training the Board in fundraising led to a complete overhaul of the organisation’s culture, but also its communications and processes.

They now see themselves as three businesses:

1. A patient transport business

2. A primary health delivery business

3. And crucially… a fundraising business.

Up until then they hadn’t been able to get the Board to invest in fundraising, they were always investing what fundraising made into services. At that point they were able to secure a substantial figure over a five-year programme specifically for fundraising outcomes.

With their increased budget, the fundraising team thoroughly reviewed donor recruitment and the donor journey.

Over this time the income of RFDS Victoria increased 145% to almost $50 million helping them reach more patients and provide more services to more people in Victoria.

Once your board understands what needs to happen, things will start to change.

Once your Board understands:

1. the opportunities that more income would bring and what that means for the cause;

2. how fundraising investment works, and

3. the numbers, indicators and different budget scenarios,

…they will understand and respect the fundraising functions within the organisation and ultimately give them the support and authority to really drive fundraising growth with focus and at pace.

This is particularly important during a crisis – i.e. right now! – when organisations need to react quickly, be nimble and agile, and adapt to rapidly changing situations.

This could literally mean life or death for a charity. It is too important to overlook. Your cause and your beneficiaries demand it.

Scott Chapman attended the Great Fundraising Masterclass in October 2015. You can join me for the next Masterclass on 8th March.

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