This is how to launch a nonprofit investor board

Don’t let time-starved individuals with a desire to contribute to your mission fall through the cracks. An investor board can be an effective platform for advancing a nonprofit’s mission and growth.

Gift of Adoption, a charitable organization that helps parentless children by providing the final funds needed to complete adoptions, has a strong network of more than 20 volunteer-powered chapters across the country governed by a national board. Governing board members, many of whom have been directly impacted and touched by adoption in their own lives, devote time and energy to raising funds for adoption assistance grants and advancing the Gift of Adoption mission.

Governing board members are joined by a particularly critical body-our investor board. It is comprised of 65 individuals and families across the country. There is no time commitment required from investor board members, only a financial one. At Gift of Adoption, investor board members pledge $2,500 for three years for a $7,500 total commitment. That $7,500 gift is equal to a grant GOA gives to cover adoption funds. We frame it as: Each Investor Board member gift that is applied to core operating and overhead costs makes it possible for us to award an additional grant to cover things like travel expenses, legal fees, and orphanage fees to help complete an adoption. 

This unique structure allows for one hundred percent of every dollar raised by chapters to go directly towards completing adoptions. It also provides an opportunity for individuals who are passionate about the Gift of Adoption mission to show commitment. They may not have the capacity or time to attend regular board meetings but they can still make a significant impact.

Thanks in large part to the investor board structure, Gift of Adoption has grown 20 percent annually over the past six years, a trajectory which will allow the organization to reach its goal of uniting 500 children each year with their permanent families by 2020.

The following are key learnings on how to develop and use an investor board to build your organization:

Have an investment-worthy operating plan

Know your operating expenses and what the return on those costs will be. For example, is the investor board’s financial commitment covering a new staff position that will make it possible to raise 50 percent more over the next three years? Or covering the development of a new website that will make it easier to reach the population the organization serves? Investor gifts are capital for growth so presenting a growth plan is key to securing support. Develop a pitch that works and targets individuals with the capacity to give at that level. Our requisite $7,500 commitment is a good step-up for donors and also a step-down for people who want to transition off of the governance board yet continue supporting the organization.

Recruit passionate people

Passion for the mission should sit right at the top of criteria when selecting investor board members. Those who are passionate about what they are supporting will remain deeply committed to advancing the organization’s agenda - plus their infectious enthusiasm often translates into securing strong support from their network and beyond. They are also more likely to make long-term financial commitments and encourage others to support the organization.

Aim for multi-year commitments

Ask board members to make financial commitments over the course of three or more years. This allows investors to make a pledge and then have three years to see the impact of their giving as the organization grows. A multi-year gift also creates stability for an organization, knowing you can count on a certain amount of operating funds for future years - and it also means you don’t have to keep asking for a gift year after year.

The importance of the human element

Keeping investor board members intimately connected to the mission and communities it serves is one of the secrets for success. Don’t let them feel disconnected and disengaged. Connect regularly with investor board members through a variety of channels including e-newsletters, your organization's blog posts and social media channels. Share compelling stories that highlight the emotional impact of their work. Also, consider hosting events that bring investor board members together to celebrate their support. Gift of Adoption hosts a series of investor board receptions throughout the year to provide an intimate setting for them to interact and engage and invite others to learn more and join the effort.

Glen Mangold is treasurer of the Gift of Adoption Board and an investor board member