Finding an effective Chair of a top level Fundraising Board is vital to the overall success of an Appeal. It is not easy to find a person of the right calibre who combines the necessary networks, influence and wealth, with an ability to lead a committee to deliver results and a personal connection with your cause.
The earlier you begin to research potential candidates the better, exploring all existing networks and stakeholders – past and present – with the help of senior staff and volunteers. Reviewing previous event attendance lists, donor gifts, etc. is also a means to identify potential board members.
In order to engage potential leaders, you will need to be able to explain why you wish to launch an Appeal and what it will enable you to achieve and what you expect of them in a leadership role. That requires a cogent and compelling outline case, underpinned by a robust, costed business plan.
You are likely to be in competition for the best potential Chair with other leading charities. We are aware of a number of blue-chip agencies that are planning to launch major Appeals in the medium term and you will have to present a convincing argument if you are to secure their support in preference to your competitors.
You must be absolutely certain what you want the Chair to do and be prepared to explain it up-front – and without prevarication. You should make it clear that you expect a Chair to give and secure additional donations from their networks. It is much easier to have these discussions at the beginning of the relationship than to have to renegotiate later on because you fudged it at the beginning.
You should also be ready to say why you think this person is the right Chair for you – to demonstrate that you know what you are doing and why you are asking them in particular. That requires sufficient research and clarity about what this person brings in comparison to other individuals of note.
You must think carefully who is the most appropriate person to make the approach to the potential Chair, based on your understanding of the individual. This may be either the CEO or Chairman of the Board, but could also be another volunteer or a member of staff with a strong relationship.
You will need your Chair to demonstrate the following three characteristics:
These are explained in the table below:
|Explanation||Why this is important|
When considering potential Board Chairs you should look out for an individual who:
We recommend that you are rigorous in your assessment of a Chair’s potential before you approach them. It is worth waiting to find the right person rather than simply going for someone just because there is nobody better. You should take care when considering people who are:
Once you have recruited the Chair, one of their first tasks is to persuade others to join the Board. Members are likely to be drawn from the Chair’s own networks and supplemented by other stakeholders already known to the charity. It helps if the Board is made up of a range of people who can ‘gel’ as a social group as well as one working towards a common goal.
The Chair may wish to recruit members who represent distinct sectors in order to maximise the fundraising reach of the committee. The specific sectors may vary by charity but will often include:
You are after a combination of those with access to personal and corporate money, social cachet, power and influence and a degree of glamour or fame for added interest.
A typical committee would be made up of between 12-20 people. It can also be helpful to offer an honorary position – President or Patron – to people whose name is a powerful draw to others, such as celebrities. You ask them to commit to one or two activities – e.g. attending a launch event – but do not usually expect them to take part in committee meetings.
Not everybody will want to join the Appeal Board but may well be persuaded to make a sizeable donation. At the same time as you discuss potential board membership with stakeholders or review internal lists, you should be compiling an initial prospect list for further research. The key characteristics to focus on are:
The prospects to prioritise are those that satisfy all three characteristics, but it is possible to work with those that only satisfy two – if plan your approach appropriately:
|Propensity & Capacity||Connection||They are rich and with an interest in your cause. So how do you reach them? Who knows them?|
|Capacity & Connection||Propensity||They are rich and you have a way in to them. So, how do you make them interested in your cause? Do they already have an interest in it? What other motivation could you speak to?|
|Connection & Propensity||Capacity||They have a connection with your cause and you can reach them. How much money do they have at their disposal?|
Undoubtedly, working with the great and the good, the rich and the powerful is a tough fundraising job. You can be sure that these people have high expectations of themselves and those around them, demand top quality work and do not suffer fools gladly.
But anyone who has had the privilege of supporting a high functioning, successful Board will also tell you how exciting and rewarding working with them can be. It is brilliant to see how quickly problems get resolved, barriers are removed and doors are opened when the right Chair is in charge. And how the money is unlocked to transform the lives of the people you are trying to help, the animals you want to save or the cultural ambition you need to to deliver. It is fundraising at its best. Good luck.