How To Get Your Board on Board With Fundraising

Talking with board members about fundraising can be a tricky proposition. Come in heavy-handed and they might run for the exit; don’t give enough of a push and they could lose accountability.

But board participation in fundraising is more than an extra “nice” that they can do. It’s imperative.

Here’s why:

1. They set an example for giving. They talk the talk and walk the walk.

2. They engage prospects more quickly. People are more apt to listen and be receptive to making a gift when asked by someone who invests their personal time in the mission and has likely made their own gift.

3. They become more passionate about your work—advocating from the gut, not just the head.

If your board isn’t fundraising, it’s time to dig in and find out why.

START WITH A REALITY CHECK

Are they deflated? Shake up the “bored” life by shaking up board members. Take an off-site trip to one of your facilities. Immerse them on-site—have them do arts & crafts or read with kids at the hospital, school or community center. The point is to get them involved in the mission and the work your organization is known for. Getting them out of the same old, same old can help them to get excited again.

Do they know how much they’re needed? Beyond attending meetings, social hours and ribbon-cuttings, board members are your top-tier advocates—your staunchest supporters, your bandwagon circlers. If you do nothing else, make sure your board understands their value to your organization.

Does fundraising scare them? Make fundraising less formidable by giving them ample materials, like brochures, presentations or email language they can use. You want them to feel properly equipped to share with their own networks. Also, make a point to regularly practice fundraising techniques as part of your board meetings.

Do they know that it’s OK if prospects say no? Fundraising is hard work; getting rejected, harder. Prop them up with praise and appreciation—a thank-you note or coffee get-together—so they know their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Take them with you on a future donor visit; chances are good that they’ll renew their faith in their ability to get the “yes.” 

THEN RESHAPE THEIR THINKING ABOUT FUNDRAISING

A fundraising requirement can be daunting, especially for prospective or new board members, or those who simply aren’t comfortable asking others for money. Making the conversation less about “fundraising” and more about “raising value” may be one way to release that pressure valve. Expanding the concept of fundraising beyond dollars and cents enables you to build up to the more formal fundraising pitches.

5 Ways Board Members Can Raise Value Without Asking for Money

1. Make their own gift. It’s the easiest, quickest way to step-up and get invested.

2. Spread the word. In this case, talk is NOT cheap. Encourage board members to talk about what they do, and more importantly, WHY they do it among family, friends, colleagues and peers. How do you get them talking? Continually funnel information to them so they can speak confidently about your mission and good work. Every board meeting share stats on outstanding needs, impact stories, information on new programs and new groups being served. Email them success stories or noteworthy praise. Meet with them one-on-one. Share the small victories.

3. Negotiate in-kind gifts. Securing goods or services can significantly impact your bottom line. Does someone on your board own or work for an office-supply or computer retailer? Perhaps they can secure furniture or other donations. Need items for an upcoming raffle? Get board members out into the community to source in-kind donations. It also gives them an opportunity to practice their ask and meet other movers and shakers around town.

4. Say thanks. A little thanks goes a long way. For 10 minutes at the beginning of every meeting, have board members email or call a preselected list of 5-10 donors. If no one answers, no big deal; simply instruct them to leave a message of thanks. If they’d like to make a donor visit, suggest that both of you go. Together, develop a game plan for the conversation.

5. Sometimes you just gotta jump in (with a life jacket). If board members voice fear about having conversations about fundraising or planned giving strategies, try another angle. Have them go out with a more seasoned board member or a development associate on donor calls. They can practice talking about gift development, sharpen their elevator speech and gain confidence among people who are already warming up to the idea of making a gift.


“When board members were asked to make requests to friends or business associates for financial contributions, those organizations met their goals more frequently than those that did not ask board members to take these actions.” — Nonprofit Research Collaborative


Seems like an obvious conclusion, but one that’s worth repeating: When everyone works to pave the path, getting to the destination is so much smoother.

Do you have a fundraising requirement for your board? More specifically, how do you encourage them to engage in building your planned giving program—starting prospect conversations to nurturing relationships—with those they know?

Get tips for inspiring your board to embrace fundraising from our senior gift planning consultant, Lynn M. Gaumer, J.D., in her webinar, “Team Up for Results: Collaborating with Your Board to Boost Planned Giving.”

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