Development committees can be critical to the success of any non-profit’s fundraising efforts. A great development committee can drive an annual fund campaign to success, secure new sponsors for special events, and play an integral role in cultivating and stewarding donor relationships. In short—they can be every Development Director or CEO’s secret to fundraising success!
So, who belongs on a development committee? It’s true that any one passionate board member could be a productive, contributing member, but just like any strong board of directors, a development committee requires a certain set of skills and resources be combined for best results.
In my experience, here are the five people you’ll find on the most successful development committees:
The Business Owner or Chief Executive
I once had a professor (who also happened to be a seasoned executive with years of experience at the helm of one of our nation’s non-profit giants) sum up board development in one sentence: “You want the number 1’s or the number 2’s,” she would say, referring to business owners and corporate leaders in top positions. She believed strongly that when you engage corporate leadership, they bring with them more than just their own resources and teams—they bring along their partners, their vendors and suppliers, and they open doors to resources you may never have imagined. In my experience, I have known this to be true.
For the smaller non-profit, this might be intimidating. However, look at the composition of your own board. Do you have top leaders of local businesses or corporations? Who has access to the strongest networks? These individuals need to be engaged on a development committee.
The Marketing Professional
Often times, marketing departments are a luxury only afforded to larger non-profits or those few that are willing to invest in them as a means to strengthen fundraising efforts. However, whether it’s a marketing professional from your board of directors or your internal team, your development committee needs their participation.
The right marketing professionals can aid in developing a cohesive communications strategy, help raise brand awareness, and can take your sponsorship materials and marketing collateral to the next level. At a time when so many non-profits are competing for event attendees and individual donors, delivering a polished professional image and engaging materials could be the key that helps you stand out to donors.
The Salesman (or Woman)
Let’s face it. Not everyone is comfortable soliciting donations, even when they love and care for the cause. What good is access to strong networks and awesome marketing materials if you can’t muster up the courage to ask for support? The key to a successful development committee is making sure it’s made up of individuals who aren’t afraid to make the ask! I refer to them here as salesmen and women; however, in reality, they are any members of your board with the passion and confidence needed to connect with prospective donors and ask them for support. When it comes to inviting members of your board to join the development committee, start with those you know fit this description and then utilize them at every stage of fundraising—cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.
The Board Treasurer
Every development committee should have a good understanding of the financial position and needs of the organization. Having the board treasurer sit on the committee is a good way to ensure that the committee receives regular financial statements, and can closely monitor income and expenses. The board treasurer can provide valuable insight and answer questions relating to the budget and financial history of the organization. And, besides, everyone needs a good numbers guy!
The Development Director or Executive Director
As a best practice, the development committee should be chaired by a board member. However, the chief development officer or executive director (or in some cases both) should be a key member of the development committee. Not only do they ensure the committee has access to necessary internal reports, but it is ultimately their responsibility to implement the development plan with support and guidance from the committee.
Lindsay Saunders is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and National Robert W. Woodruff Fellow with more than 10 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and development. Lindsay holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor and is currently completing her Masters degree at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business.