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Leverage Your Board to Build an Inner Circle

Posted by WealthEngine on Dec 8, 2016 12:37:18 PM

WealthEngine provides wealth intelligence solutions to help fundraising, marketing and business development professionals create strategies to extend their reach and build their prospect pipeline. WealthEngine works with nonprofits, hospitals, institutions of higher education, political campaigns, and advocacy groups of all sizes as well as luxury organizations and financial services firms to help them effectively identify individuals with the net worth, income, lifestyle and affinity to become their next top donor or customer.

iStock-541975802.jpgAs you can imagine, if an organization’s board creates the right atmosphere for fundraising, it can effectively leverage its members to tap into the hidden potential of their extended network, as well as their respective expertise.

In this post, we will discuss some of the best practices involved in leveraging your board’s inner circle and connections to boost your organization’s revenue from major giving. 

Strategically Recruit Board Members

Identifying the right board members is integral to the success of any nonprofit. Generally speaking, the purpose of a nonprofit board is to advise, govern, and oversee policy and direction, as well as assist with the leadership and general promotion of an organization in support of the organization’s mission and needs. A less obvious but clear responsibility of a board member is also to support the organization financially and encourage others to do the same.

For example, the ideal board candidate for an arts and culture organization meets the above requirements and also has a circle of friends who show similar giving capacity and inclination toward the arts. This is known as the board member’s portfolio or solicitor’s list. While board member participation in cultivating the people on these lists varies from board to board, it is expected that the board member will assist in making the appropriate introductions and pave the way for the development team to cultivate the individuals. In some cases, this agreement is contractually outlined. In all cases, it is fully understood.

These board member portfolios are an integral part of any organization’s fundraising ability, as they represent a core component of a prospect pipeline. When identifying potential board members, it is important to examine their giving capacity and their professional and social circles. Once an organization recruits the right board members, and prospects are passed from board members to staff, researchers can begin the wealth profiling process that ultimately leads to strategic segmentation and cultivation.

Caution: Thinking of your board members as a continuous fountain of money can be detrimental to your overall fundraising strategy. Be wary of donor fatigue as it pertains to board members. To combat this risk, you should instate term limits, ensuring that new members cycle through the board regularly.

Identify and Build Your Inner Circle

First, it is important to define the concept of an “inner circle” — a group of people closest to your organization who are already demonstrating a strong commitment to the mission and goals of the organization. The inner circle includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Board members
  • Staff
  • Major donors/VIPs
  • Volunteers

Your board members are already investing their time and resources to your organization. The staff knows the ins and outs of your organization and many have spousal or family connections to other sources of funding. Major gift donors and VIPs are already investing a substantial financial commitment to your organization and likely interact with individuals who share similar interests. Finally, volunteers have a vested interest in the success of your organization and likely associate with others who demonstrate the same loyalty within the community. Identifying these individuals, building stronger relationships with them, and bringing them into your inner circle will allow you to grow your prospect pipeline in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Screen to Find Your Organization’s Inner Circle

A wealth screening helps you determine giving capacity for each individual screened, helps you expand your prospect base through your inner circle’s connections, and helps you segment and prioritize your donors and prospective donors. The circle of friends represents those individuals with whom your inner circle members share a common connection or point of interest. By identifying your inner circle prior to screening, you will easily be able to recognize these commonalities and capitalize on the established individual relationships to cultivate a relationship with your organization.

Best Practice Example in Action

Let’s assume that through a recent wealth screening, you identified Jane Doe, a longtime member of your museum, as a major gift prospect. Jane’s profile also reveals that she sits on several boards, including a local corporate board. Having screened your own board members as part of your inner circle, you see that one of your museum board members, John Smith, sits on the same corporate board as Jane Doe.

By establishing this connection, you have created a cultivation opportunity, and you naturally ask John to introduce your major gift officer to Jane Doe at your next museum member event.

By leveraging the individuals in your inner circle and their respective circle of friends, you establish connections that help build an active portfolio for your board members. As the staff works with the board to build meaningful relationships established through connections, your prospect pipeline will flourish with individuals primed and ready for cultivation.

The bottom line? Be diligent and strategic in recruiting board members as each represents a powerful fundraising resource. Defining an inner circle of individuals who are deeply committed and active with the organization will assist the development office cultivate with a personal touch. This inner circle should be compared against all prospects to expand the circle of friends beyond that of the board to strengthen the major gift pipeline.


Are you looking for ways to leverage your organizations board and VIPs in your fundraising efforts? WealthEngine can help you uncover the hidden connection in your donor networks, allowing you to target individuals who are ready to donate. For more information, check out WealthEngine's Circle of Friends product.

Topics: Fundraising


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