Illustration of a fundraising committee grouped around a conference table.

Photo By Rodeo Project Management Software, Unsplash

Do we need a board fundraising committee?

By Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, Notes on Nonprofits

I was recently asked about the roles and responsibilities of a board fund development or fundraising committee. Here are some guidelines, including who should serve on the committee, what they are responsible for, and how to support their participation.

Define the purpose of the fundraising committee

The purpose of the fund development committee is to lead the board’s participation in resource development and fundraising. The committee helps the board carry out its due diligence regarding the financial health of the organization through philanthropy and fundraising. The role of the committee may vary depending on the size of the organization and complexity of the fundraising program. In small organizations, the development committee often serves as hands-on volunteers to plan and implement annual fundraising strategies. In larger nonprofits, committee members may focus on oversight and planning of the overall development program, major gift fundraising, and endowments. Regardless of size, the committee should lead by example and encourage board members to be donors to the organization.

Appoint fundraising committee members

The chair and members of the committee should be appointed by the Board Chair in accordance with the bylaws.

Recognize key relationships

The development committee reports to the board of directors and takes direction from the organization’s strategic plan. The committee does not supersede the authority of the board and does not direct or oversee staff.

Provide staff support

The Director of Development is typically the person who provides staff support to the development committee. In the absence of fundraising staff, the Executive Director provides support to the committee.

Recruit fundraising committee members

The development committee is not limited to board members. Inviting non-board members to serve on the committee is a great way to bring energy and a fresh perspective to the fundraising effort. It also can help identify potential board members.

Support the Chair

In addition to development staff, the Executive Director and Board Chair should support the committee chair by orienting them to their role, answering questions, conducting regular check-ins, and helping them to be successful.

Determine meeting frequency

The committee should meet as often as necessary to accomplish its goals. On average, a development committee meets four to six times a year. This could increase during special fundraising initiatives or campaigns.

Clarify fundraising committee responsibilities

Here is a list of responsibilities to help your nonprofit establish or revise the scope of the fundraising committee.

  • Develop a plan for involving Board members in the fundraising activities of the organization. This may include special events, annual giving campaigns, friend raising activities, donor cultivation, and recognition events.
  • Work with staff to establish annual and long-term fund development plans to achieve the organization’s fundraising goals.
  • Identify and recommend goals for Board member giving and participation in the fundraising program. Provide support and monitor the Board’s progress.
  • Identify ways board members can meet, engage, and recognize donors and funders at the organization’s events and activities as appropriate.
  • Be an advocate for growing and supporting a culture of philanthropy within the organization.
  • Spearhead Board member participation in stewardship activities such as thank you notes, phone calls, visits, naming opportunities, and recognition events.
  • Help to establish benchmarks to monitor fundraising goals and evaluate results.
  • Engage the Board in strategic discussions and decision-making regarding philanthropy and fundraising.
  • Lead the effort to educate board members about the basic principles and ethical practices of fundraising.
  • Work with staff to develop fundraising policies and recommend them to the Board for action.
  • Establish sub-committees or task forces to carry out specific fundraising activities. Support and monitor their performance.
  • Annually evaluate the committee’s work and report on it to the Board of Directors.

Questions to ask

To maximize the work of the committee, fundraising icon Simone Joyaux, ACFRE, Adv Dip, FAFP, Certificate in Philanthropic Psychology developed these questions to ask at the end of each meeting.

  1. What do we report to the Board, how and why?
  2. What requires strategic discussion with the Board/ What kind of background information will we
    provide in advance and how will we set the context for the discussion?
  3. How can we complement the work of other Board committees?
  4. What kind of personal follow-up with Board members and other fundraising volunteers is necessary? Why and who will do what by when?

Notes on Nonprofits is a column in the Tallahassee Democrat produced by Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting, and includes resources, responses to reader questions, guest columns, and timeless topics. This column first appeared on August 19, 2023 in the Tallahassee Democrat. Please send your comments and questions.

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