When a not-for-profit organization recruits board members, one of the desired – and even required – criteria is the capacity to raise funds. How well a candidate is connected with those who have deeps pockets and are more likely to reach into those pockets is a coveted asset.
If you are on a Policy Governance board you will know that fundraising is a means. Does this mean that the board cannot do fundraising?
Let’s take a step back and look at the broader picture and how some of the principles of Policy Governance apply to this question.
In referring to a board we must see it as an “it.” For example if you are asked where the board is meeting, your answer would be that it is meeting in room 123. The board members aremeeting, but the board ismeeting. (Okay we are being a little picky, but it should help to illustrate the principle.) It is critical as we look at the question of fundraising to differentiate between the board as a wholeretaining the authority to do fundraising in contrast to individual members of the boardreaching out to people in an effort to solicit financial support.
Clarity of Delegation
One of the greatest advantages in the use of Policy Governance is that of role clarity. Who has the authority to raise funds for the organization and is thereby accountable to ensure sufficient funds are raised? A Policy Governance board is not required to delegate all levels of operational means to the CEO. It can choose to retain authority for certain means. For example, while delegating management of public image to the CEO, it may decide to retain the authority to make decisions regarding the change of the organization’s name. While delegating management of assets to the CEO it may choose to retain authority to decide about the acquisition or disposal of land or buildings.
The Board could decide it wants to retain the authority for raising all the funds for the organization. In this case the CEO would not have the authority to raise funds and 100% of the means used to raise funds for the organization would be implemented by the board. However, it is unlikely that any board would do this independent of the operations of the organization. It would want access to certain resources such as staff time and expertise as well as possibly databases. If insufficient funds were raised there could be a tendency for the board to blame management because in the board’s opinion the graphic design department didn’t do a good enough job or it was not done soon enough. If the situation develops where income is less than the anticipated expenses projected by the CEO, he or she could blame the Board because the resources were not there to accomplish the Ends. In short, this is not a good idea.
All this does not mean that individual board members cannot be involved in fundraising. It is hard to imagine any CEO who would not take advantage of board members who are willing to reach out to their connections to bring in funds for the organization. In this case, however, the board member is serving as a volunteer at the request of and under the leadership of the CEO in accordance with his or her plan for fundraising.
When recruiting board members, primary consideration should be the candidate’s understanding of the board’s role in connecting with those from whom it has received its authority to govern, and of the board’s relationship with the CEO in terms of clear delegation and accountability. Acquiring board members who have connections to others with financial capacity is nice to have, but it should not be a primary prerequisite in recruiting board members. One of the greatest advantages of Policy Governance is clarity. One of the greatest challenges in the use of the model is discipline.