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Honesty and Transparency–Non-Negotiables When Recruiting Your Board for Fundraising

Mendal Bouknight
Published:  03/09/2023
Board members in suits at a desk


There are countless manuals and books devoted to how to make a board engaged and highly functioning. But there are two basics that remain a constant for any Foundation Executive Director to instill in their board and their team. . . honesty and transparency.

Herman and Block (1990) advised, “The board’s capacity for fund raising depends on communicated and accepted expectations, relationship-building skills, confidence, recognitions and celebrations of fund raising achievements, and a commitment to the organization characterized by a strong feeling of psychological ownership toward it.”

Recruiting and retaining board members engaged and active in the fundraising priorities for any organization continue to challenge us. Candidly, not following these basics in my own career led to disappointment when a talented board member called me aside to resign from our board.

In 1993, the late Henry L. Bauer, an engaged and passionate volunteer leader wherever he put his energy, succinctly and candidly outlined five simple rules for practitioners to “Be Prepared” for in recruiting board talent.

Published in CASE Currents September 1993 issue, Hank was a member of the Oregon State Foundation Board; a member of the Providence St. Vincent’s Hospital Board in Portland, Oregon, and a past international President and Vice Chair of the Kappa Sigma Endowment Fund, and a personal friend. In his piece he was very clear. . .Recruit us honestly. . .Keep us informed. . .Make the most of our time. . .“Sweat the small stuff”. . .Ensure our enjoyment.


Five Simple Rules For Board Recruitment


1. Recruit us honestly.

Tell them you expect them to give, to engage in raising money for the organization as a board member, and to make their board service a priority by actively attending and participating. Tell them exactly what you want. It is better they decline on the front end than take the role and become disenchanted later.

2. Keep us informed.

Boards want to hear both the successes and the problems or challenges in a timely, direct way from you. Own your messaging. Too often we try to keep the “bad news” from them only to have them find out some other way.

3. Make the most of our time. 

Have an agenda; keep meetings on track. If you have material or data, be succinct and clear. Treat each board member like a partner, especially when you ask us to work with a donor.

4. Sweat the small stuff.

Attend to the details. Whether in a meeting or an event, plan, prepare, and practice presentations. This is what makes volunteers appreciate you.

5. Ensure enjoyment.

Do the previous four elements intently and you will ensure volunteers enjoyment in their role and deepen their commitment.

When you, along with your board, approach identifying and recruiting the talent you want for your board, begin with these five tenets and you will find your board engaged and energized about their roles and their impact for the organization.



• Bauer, H. (1993, September). Be prepared. CASE Currents, p. 43. Thanks to Kelly Morris, Librarian, CASE, September 1993.
• Herman, R.D., & Block, R.R. (1990) The board’s critical role in fundraising. In J. Van Til & Associates, Critical issues in American philanthropy: Strengthening theory and practice (pp. 222-241), San Francisco, Ca: Josey-Bass


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Meet The Author

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Mendal Bouknight
Coach and Mentor to Boards, CDO's, MGOs

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