In 2014, Karen Stiller asked Elizabeth L. Visconage and Joseph Molyneaux to share their thoughts about a resource from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members by Julia I. Walker. Visconage is vice president for institutional advancement and human resources at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore; Molyneaux, a retired IBM marketing executive, volunteers for several nonprofits and was a long-time board member at St. Mary's.

Their years of experience with boards and fundraising are readily apparent as Visconage and Molyneaux comment on some of the major points in Walker’s book. A key question that guided the conversation: Is it realistic to expect all board members to be active fundraisers?

Walker’s guide to fundraising endorses the view that virtually all board members are fundraisers, and Visconage and Molyneaux agree, with one caveat. Typically, boards that include clergy members do not ask them to do fundraising. On the other hand, some clergy are skilled in this area, and willing to lead -- don’t automatically count them out. Molyneaux adds that he tries to have a clergy person present whenever he closes a gift. “It adds something intangible that is hard to define. Even though our culture is very secular, people still have a lot of respect for religious leaders.”

Visconage notes that seminary staff and administration must make clear to board members that they are expected to connect key donors to the institution when it comes to major gifts. Their degree of involvement in active fundraising may vary, but it should never be zero.

Molyneaux recommends the guide for new board members, who need to be aware that fundraising will require a considerable amount of their time and effort. Visconage thinks the book would be beneficial for board members new to the concept of seminary development but would also be useful for younger advancement professionals. Both recommend the book highly for novice staff, especially in institutions that have a small development office and very little staff support.

You can read Karen Stiller’s “Is every board member a fundraiser or not?” for more insights from Visconage and Molyneaux. And if you have read A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Member, let us know your thoughts.