5 Terrific Ways to Engage Your Board in Fundraising
Your board wants to help. Yet, they’re unsure what fundraising means. Or worse, your board assumes you’re asking them to “beg for money.”
It’s not your fault. Your board of directors arrived on your doorstep with a limited or even faulty understanding of how philanthropy, development, and fundraising improve lives.
You can conquer this challenge. Here’s how. Adopt these five practical approaches to engage your nonprofit board in fundraising.
1. Implant fundraising opportunities and responsibilities in your board’s job description, orientation, conversations, and agendas.
You’ve heard the phrase, “It comes with the territory.” Make being a fundraising board member a positive part of your nonprofit’s culture. Your members need to encounter the expectation that they’ll engage in fundraising and enjoy it throughout their experience.
Take care here. It’s easy to add the task to “help fundraise” to a job description. It’s less easy to use this word in a conversation because it makes so many people squirm. You might be tempted to gloss over how board members will engage in fundraising in one-to-one discussions. Stop this. Instead, be specific about what you need them to do.
Measure Progress: Give yourself a star when you get helping to fundraise discussed. Give yourself two stars when board members ask about a fundraising task without a prompt.
2. Request specific help and prevent failure.
When you’re in an emergency, don’t ask bystanders for help. Ask one person. Shout, “You in the red sweater. Call 911.” Likewise, to engage your board, make your requests personal and specific. And, when you ask, tell them how you’ll help them succeed.
Few things are messier than having a board member finally engage in fundraising in a way that embarrasses them and your organization. Avoid this pitfall by sharing detailed instructions for the task at hand. Draft an outline. Or, better, make a quick video on how to thank donors, welcome event guests, and wait for the donor to respond to an ask.
Measure Progress: One star for each specific request you make—two stars for providing directions.
3. Pick tasks they’ll enjoy from what needs to get done.
Fundraising includes a wide array of possibilities. You need lots of kinds of help. So when you engage your board, offer three or four options based on their skills, goals, and personality. Ask your member to choose what they prefer.
For example, invite shy members to a one-on-one meeting in your office, to steward a new donor they know, or to greet people arriving alone at your event that look lost. Ask outgoing members to introduce you at a chamber meeting, talk from the podium, and call prospects in their line of business.
Measure Progress: One star every time you offer options, three stars when your board member picks a new option that sounds “fun.”
4. Show your board members how they can fearlessly introduce people.
Fact: Your board members like your organization.
Fact: They like it well enough to share it with their friends and network.
Fact: They hold back because they’re afraid of what you’ll do with the names. (They assume someone will pressure their friends for money.)
Fact: You can erase this fear. Show them “how the sausage is made.”
Here are two examples.
When you receive a major gift, share the backstory. Educate your board about how individuals get interested and decide to give.
Second, when you ask for referrals, walk your board members through how you handle them.
Measure Progress: Give yourself one star each time you ask your board to share contacts and provide instructions. (See #2 above.) Two stars for each time you share how the sausage is made.
5. Challenge each board member to make a stretch gift during their term.
Stretch gifts demonstrate your boards’ leadership in concrete leverage ways. They announce that it’s safe for other donors to invest in your organization. Boards who already give a cash gift yearly should be challenged to give a stretch gift once during their term.
If 100 percent of your board members are not making yearly cash gifts to your organization, start here. Getting 100 percent of them to make a cash gift is the #1 terrific way to engage your board in fundraising.
Why? When board members give, they experience what donors experience. They join your inner-circle of people who care enough about your work to invest in it. Philanthropy changes peoples’ lives for the better. Board giving creates and makes this magic manifest for your members.
Measure Progress: Three stars for inviting your board to make a challenge gift once during their term, two for including this expectation in their job description, orientation, conversations, and agendas. Give yourself ten stars when you launch and succeed in your campaign to get 100 percent of your board members to make a cash gift to your organization every year. This is a major hurdle for many!