February 28, 2022

When Good Boards Have Bad Fundraising Ideas

You feel it in your gut first when good board members have bad fundraising ideas.

You’re in a board meeting discussing fundraising someone comes up with a bad fundraiser idea. Then other members start agreeing with it.

What do you do when good board members start to fall in love with labor intensive, poor return, not-good ideas about how to raise funds for your nonprofit?

Chapters of When Good Boards Have Bad Fundraising Ideas

00:00 The Challenge of Quick Fix Fundraising Ideas

00:30 What’s The First Thing to Do When a Bad Idea to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit Emerges?

00:48 How About a Quick Kill?

01:19 Move It!

1:50 Prevention: How to Reduce Bad Fundraising Ideas

2:50 Next Steps

Video Transcript

The Challenge of Quick Fix Fundraising Ideas

You feel it in your gut first. You’re in a board meeting, and suddenly a board member comes up with a quick-fix fundraising idea, and you can see the other members thinking it’s a good idea and nodding their heads and saying, yeah, let’s think about that, and you can see all the work you’ve done over the last months or years, helping that board understand that fundraising is about building relationships and it’s a process. It’s not a quick fix. Go down the drain.

What’s The First Thing to Do When a Bad Idea to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit Emerges?

What should you do when good board members have bad fundraising ideas? Well, the first thing is to relax. They may just be blowing off some fantasy thinking and enjoying the process of imagining winning that lottery ticket.

How About a Quick Kill?

But if it goes on, you may want to, while you’re relaxing, begin to be on full alert and think about, “Is there some quick kill method I could do to insert information here that they might not have thought of? And maybe make it a joke, laugh, and say I’d love to do that too, however blah blah blah. It may not be it makes sense, but you may have in your repertoire a quote or experience or a story to share at that point. That’s why you’re relaxing. Try to get that thinking going off what can I help them see here that they’re not seeing with this new idea.

Move It!

The second thing is to get this idea out of the boardroom and get back to the agenda by doing several things. One is you could refer to a committee or a task force that already exists, or you could help create one to study the idea. You have many, many fundraising ideas. This is another one it should be done, some analysis, why would it work. Is it helpful? What has happened with it? But get it out of the boardroom and out of the decision-making process until you have more solid information about how that idea might work or not work for you.


How can you reduce the number of bad ideas that your board falls in love with? First of all, it requires some of that ongoing education you’ve been doing. You might pull in an expert. It’s one of the topics I often cover. Here are some things that we think would work because, from the outside, they sound good. We hear them in the media, but they are really troublesome or more difficult to execute than they look like. Another option is for you to continue on telling stories about how funds were raised. Have donors tell stories for you to tell stories about how the process works and affirm that it really is working.

Your board will have good and bad ideas. Good boards do. You want them to share those ideas. That’s why you have a board to bring in that outside expertise to bring you things that you’re not finding on your own. The challenge is not the bad ideas. The challenge is falling in love with a bad idea. Help your board to partner with you to find effective ideas to help your organization raise the funds you need.

Next Steps

If you found this video helpful, share it with your board. You can talk about the ideas that come up and how boards often fall in love with not-so-good ideas, and how you can work as a team to make sure you vet the ideas you need to make your organization successful.

For more answers, check out this Karen’s Nonprofit CEO Library.

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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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