Upsize, Downsize, Which Way Do We Go?

There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few years about board composition and size. A lot of publications and training have focused on downsizing the board of directors. Those who are positioned on this side of the discussion say that a smaller board is more efficient and easier to manage.

I disagree with this entire position! Here’s why. Unless you want your board to be a simple governance, non-fundraising board, then go for it. Have 8 to 10 people. But if you want a fundraising board then you absolutely need to have more board members.

Plus, one of the best boards I ever worked with had more than 20 members. These board members raised thousands of dollars for the organization each year. They had really strong communication channels, active committees, and some major board engagement.

If you want a fundraising board, there are 3 main reasons YOU SHOULD NOT DOWNSIZE your board of directors!

1. More People Means More Connection

This one sounds like a no-brainer however you’d be surprised at how many CEOs and Executive Directors balk at the idea of managing more people. What they don’t realize is that when you select the right people for your board, you get the connections and resources you need. I bet the board members have connections you haven’t tapped into yet. Most people have at least 10 people in their inner circles that they can connect with. And I’m not talking about connection for money. I’m talking about connection for community-building. Before you can even start to ask board members to raise money from their friends, family, and colleagues, they need to introduce your charity to them. The board members need to bring those people into the community that you’re creating around your mission.

2. More People Means More Money

This is true if you do it the right way. If you follow step one of the recruitment process, which means you ask the potential board members if they have experience fundraising, and you recruit board members who do, then you can raise more money. One of the biggest problems I see when it comes to boards is that the CEOs and Executive Directors recruit board members who have either no fundraising experience or have no desire to fundraise. When you have board members who will fundraise, and you multiply them, you get more money. Of course, it will take time to manage them, but it takes some of the fundraising burdens off of your shoulders.

3. More People Means More Moral Support

You know how exhausting fundraising can be. When you have more board members by your side who understand these challenges, you’ll get the moral support you need. If they are experienced board members who actively participate in fundraising, then they most likely understand that day-to-day fundraising can wear you down. With a larger board that gets how fundraising works, you often get that team of cheerleaders you need so badly to keep you going.

To sum it up, bigger boards are better if you want to raise a lot of money. Oh, and in case you were wondering what the optimal size of a fundraising board is, it’s 25.

Yes, that will take work to manage but it will pay off in the end. I know because I’ve seen it in action with my clients and other nonprofits.

If you need more tips on how to build or manage a fundraising board, check out my Framework for a Fundraising Board booklet. It includes all of the tips you’ll need to build a fundraising board.