At the FSI, we often hear from our members that fundraisers are not getting the support they need from their trustees.  Equally, some Trustees tell us they have a lack of expertise to effectively oversee and support fundraising in their charity.   A key strategic responsibility of the Trustees is to ensure your charity has sufficient resources to pursue its aims and objectives, which includes fundraising.
So what is the role for Trustees when it comes to effective fundraising?
Everything begins with strategy
Without knowing what your charity’s strategic objectives are, what services and activities will be delivered in the year ahead, and how much that costs then it is very difficult to develop any meaningful fundraising strategy.  There is a risk of mission drift if you allow fundraising to drive strategy which can have a negative impact on the services you deliver for your beneficiaries.
Ensuring a Mixed Income Economy
It is important for Trustees to understand where your charity might draw its income from.  Only after considering the best ways in which the charity should access funds can the board agree on where to invest their funds to secure income.  As Trustees, you need to have confidence that the staff team have a strategy that ensures a balance between different sources of income and different levels of risk and reward.
Taking the Long-View
Trustees need to consider the long-term fundraising needs as well as the plans for the year ahead. What changes are on the horizon that will impact your charity’s income, and what areas do you need to start investing in now?  For example, a legacy giving programme will take upwards of five years to deliver income to your charity.  A major donor or corporate programme if starting from a standstill point will need 18 months to bear fruit.  Trustees must not focus exclusively on short-term funding needs at the expense of long-term, sustainable income sources.
Assessing Return on Investment
Whilst Trustees do not need to know the detailed value of every fundraising activity, they should set a target on the amount of return they expect on their investment in fundraising overall.  In order to assess this, Trustees need to understand the true costs of raising funds so they can ensure the funds of the charity are being spent effectively.
Managing Risks and Ensuring Compliance
Trustees should ensure that all fundraising meets the Code of Fundraising Practice and adheres to laws and standards laid down by other bodies such as the ICO and the Fundraising Regulator.  Trustees must also ensure the charity avoids undertaking activities that might place the charity’s assets or reputation at risk.
Effective Oversight
An effective Trustee Board monitors progress against the fundraising plan and hold staff to account rather than just reacting when crisis hits.   However simply reporting on actual income is a blunt tool.  The reports you receive should explain any variances and consider the pipeline, this might be the number and quality of applications made to Trusts & Foundations or major donor prospects engaged.
Playing Your Part
Finally, Trustees should lead by example by playing an active role in securing the funds needed.   This does not necessarily mean making a donation, it could be taking a networking role, soliciting gifts, or speaking about the work of the charity at events and meetings.
Want to find out more?  The FSI delivers a series of heavily subsidised Trustee Role in Fundraising workshops for small charity Trustees and CEOs across the UK.  We have training coming up in Brighton on 6th September, you can also check out what is available near you and register your interest in future training events at