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Authored Articles


Ambassadors First!

So often we hear the phrase “But we’re not a fundraising board!” What does that truly mean when the nonprofit landscape continues to change, financial expectations rise year over year, and Executive Directors and Development Directors are yearning for partners to stand with them as they build and sustain relationships that ultimately impact the mission and services of the organization?

Experienced fundraisers are integral to the health and wellbeing of nonprofit organizations. And they don’t and can’t operate effectively, alone. While they are expected to ensure that the development process of identification, cultivation, solicitation, recognition, and stewardship are consistently underway, they also need to keep expectations in check about the most important role a board can play, to ultimately help raise support, and sustain that support. With those expectations in check, the tools are necessary for the board to move from “we’re not a fundraising board” to “as ambassadors of this organization, we invite you to learn about the impact of this mission on our community.”

Your board members are a key part of your fundraising initiatives as ambassadors for the organization. The first step in being an ambassador is always advocating for the organization. An ambassador speaks knowledgeably, comfortably, and with enthusiasm about the nonprofit. Without knowledge, comfort, and enthusiasm, not only will they likely not be very good at advocating, board members, (and staff for that matter) will be unlikely to do it at all.

The board member’s role as an ambassador begins with simple conversations. They should look for opportunities in response to “What’s new?” and “How are you?” to share their pride, enthusiasm, and/or concerns about the nonprofit. This works effectively when board members and staff maintain regular communication.

They can only be successful when they have an understanding of the organization as a whole. When a board member starts and renews their term, meaningful time should be dedicated to describing programming, short- and long-term plans and goals in great detail. That is, orient the new board member to the organization in a more comprehensive manner than they may have been already in their capacity as a community member, donor, or corporate partner to the organization. Staff members are immersed in the mission – they live and breathe the knowledge and are adept at articulating it. Therefore, it is the staff’s responsibility to keep the board abreast of news, opportunities, and successes.

As effective ambassadors, board members should be comfortable verbalizing an a three line speech about your organization – the short description that explains a concept in a way such that any listener can understand it in a brief period of time without losing the attention of the audience.. The answer to the polite question, “What’s new?” is the next initiative/challenge for your organization. And, when someone asks, “How are you?” the Board member can share the excitement about the award the nonprofit won or how proud they are of the work the nonprofit is doing or even how they are concerned about diversifying funding streams.

Need help building a strong ambassador leadership program? We’d be happy to work with your board to be the best ambassadors and help your organization with the steps that come afterwards!


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