January 25, 2022

5 Terrific Ways to Involve Your Board in Fundraising

5 Terrific Ways to Engage Your Board in FundraisingYour 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. Include fundraising opportunities and responsibilities everywhere.

Everywhere includes the board’s job descriptions, 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. When your members encounter the expectation that they’ll engage in fundraising, you set an expectation that its part of the job.
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. When you vet prospects, you might be tempted to gloss over how board members will engage in fundraising. Stop this. Instead, be specific about what you need them to do and give examples of how different board members help.
Measure Progress:

✭ Give yourself a star when you support board fundraising by listing it in the job description and elsewhere.

✭ Give yourself two stars when fundraising tasks get discussed 

✭✭✭Give your board members three stars when board members ask about a fundraising task without a prompt.

2. Request specific help and prevent failure.

If you’re ever in an emergency, don’t ask anyone for help.
Instead, 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 when a board member finally engages in fundraising, but it’s in a way that embarrasses them and your organization. One board member asked a corporate colleague for a $500 gift when the development staff was courting her for a five-figure gift.
Avoid this pitfall by sharing detailed instructions for the task at hand. In this case, the goal was a meeting either over lunch or at the colleague’s office to explore the executive’s interests.
To prevent failure, draft an outline of the task and next steps. A follow-up email with bullet points suffices.
Measure Progress:
✭One star for each specific request you make
✭✭ Two stars for providing directions.
✭✭✭ Shout out to the members that provide the help needed.

3. Pick tasks board members love. 

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.
Ask outgoing members to introduce you at a chamber meeting, talk from the podium, and call prospects in their line of business.
Stuck? Ask individual board members what they love to do and how they might serve best as your trusted advisors.
Measure Progress:
✭ One star every time you offer options
✭✭✭ Three stars when your board member picks a new option and reports that they enjoyed it.

4. Show your board members how they can fearlessly introduce people.

Fact #1: Your board members like your organization.
Fact #2: They like it enough to share it with their friends and network.
Fact #3: They hold back because they’re afraid of what you’ll do with the names. (They assume someone will pressure them for money.)
Fact #4: You can erase this fear. Show them “how the sausage is made.” That is, how most major gifts are given after a series of interactions. These conversations and meetings seek to match the donor’s interest with your nonprofit’s needs.
Fact #5: Most people whom your board members know aren’t going to be interested in your nonprofit, but some of them will love it and be thrilled to connect.
Here are two examples of how to reduce your member’s fears:
1. When you receive a major gift, share the backstory. Educate your board about how individuals get interested and decide to give.
2. When you ask for referrals, walk your board members through how you handle them.
Measure Progress:
✭Give yourself one star when 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.

Stretch gifts demonstrate your board’s leadership in a concrete way. They announce that it’s safe for other donors to invest in your organization. Challenge boards that already give a cash gift yearly to give a stretch gift during their term.
Start here if 100 percent of your board members are not making yearly cash gifts to your organization. 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 gold 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. 
⭐⭐⭐ Give yourself and your board members three gold stars if you introduce the idea of stretch gifts and several board members explore giving one.

About the Stars

Count up your stars. Jot down what went well. Plan how to keep your board engaged in fundraising. What will make it even better?

More Resources

Karen’s Nonprofit CEO Library includes the CEO Solutions Library, a collection of resources for nonprofit CEOs and executive directors about common leadership challenges.
Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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