Using your Board strategically
State Manager James Boyd on how to use your board to its full potential
In any arts organisation, the board’s core role is governance, setting the company’s strategic direction and recruiting its leaders. Used to its full potential, your board can also be a powerful ally to your development manager in helping to secure private sector support. Below are some strategic goals and tactics that will help you get the most from your board.
Strategy 1: Securing Sponsors
After you’ve taken the step of identifying corporates you believe have a good reason to support your organisation, you need to secure that crucial first meeting with them and build a strong, long-term partnership. This is an ideal situation in which to bring your board into play.
Tactic 1: Use your connections
At least once a year, have a one-on-one meeting with each of your board members to discuss which companies they know and who they could introduce you to. Go through your list of potential sponsors. They will often be more connected than they realise and once they understand the rationale behind your approach, they’ll be more likely to open doors for you. Ideally, they’ll come to the first meeting with you to smooth the conversational path.
Tactic 2: Keep your list in circulation
Regularly update your list of potential sponsors and distribute to all members of your board to keep it top of mind and current. Work together to brainstorm new additions to the list.
Tactic 3: Formalise a hosting arrangement
Whenever a current or potential sponsor attends an event of yours, ask a board member to host them. This will build stronger relationships and help your board understand the reasons behind the sponsorship. Remember to debrief afterwards to discuss how partnerships can be further developed and keep a record of which board members know your sponsors best, in case you need their support.
Tactic 4: Create parallel lines of communication
If possible, connect a board member to a senior member of staff with a sponsoring organisation. Sometime the motivations of a sponsor’s CEO and the marketing manager can differ, so it’s worth being across both relationships. It’s also handy to be able to tell a board member when you are heading in to renew a partnership, as they may be able to play a vital role in ensuring the continuation of the partnership.
Strategy 2: Securing Donors
I’ve heard many board members say they don’t like asking for money from potential donors or that they simply don’t know how to. The truth is that if they’re worried that a donor might say ‘no’, they probably shouldn’t be asking in the first place. Arts organisations need to build relationships before asking for money, be it with a subscriber or foundation trustee.
Tactic 1: Discerning new potential donors
Generally, donors need to be connected to your company for a period of time before they take the step of donating. It therefore makes sense that the best thing board members can do is identify individuals with an interest in the company’s mission and the capacity to give. Board members should focus on inviting these individuals along, to see what the company is doing, to develop a greater interest and connection over time. This will lead to donors of the future.
Tactic 2: Arm your board with your wishlist
Donors like to donate to something specific. They like to see the impact of their donation. Give your board members a list of items or projects you are raising money for. As they network with supporters, they can highlight the company’s specific needs and identify potential donors as they go. It’s not uncommon for a board member to get passionate and create a small donor group from their network to raise money for that item.
Tactic 3: A personal thank you
If you receive a major donation, ask one of your board members to ring the donor and thank them. A call from a board member will be remembered. This is one of the easiest and most enjoyable tasks a board member could be asked to do and it will result in them having a greater understanding of the motivations of your donors. Research suggests ‘84% of donors will give again if they are thanked in a timely way’!
Tactic 4: Share ideas and inspiration
Pass around solid case studies on how other arts companies have secured donations. Most good case studies will highlight the need to build relationships over time, align interests and identify a compelling, specific cause. Case studies with proven impact will inspire your board members to find their own way to fundraise.
Lastly, consider what may be getting overlooked. Do your board members all donate to your company? Do the corporate organisations they work for sponsor you? It’s the Development Manager’s role to inspire supporters of all kinds. There may be a few supporters right in front of you!
Contact your Creative Partnerships Australia State Manager for further advice and support. We offer to talk to boards about what’s going on around the country regarding private sector support and always touch on strategies for them to assist with fundraising.