Are you struggling to get your board on board with Fundraising?

May 17, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Most nonprofit boards hesitate when they are asked to become fundraisers on behalf of the organization. Many boards have a financial commitment requirement of board members with the philosophy, “if all board members give $XX then they don’t have to help us raise money.” Your board should be excited to build awareness and support for your organization.

According to Kelly Egolf with the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the greatest myth around Board Members becoming great fundraisers is in the equation:

If the equation is

Fundraising = Asking for Money = Resistance

Then change the equation!

Being an Ambassador = Introducing and Thanking

Board Members as ambassadors should have two primary jobs responsibilities, neither of which is the direct ask that most board members find uncomfortable:

  1. Making introductions. Board members can make the introductions linking their passion for their organizations mission and their community contacts. Board members can also accompany staff members to initial meetings as volunteers. Funders and Donors value the insights a volunteer brings to the table.
  2. Being a steward. Board members should participate in the stewardship and thanking process. This can be as simple as signing and making comments on Thank You letters, setting up a phone bank to thank donors personally, contacting first time donors directly, sitting at assigned tables during the donor appreciation event to get to know specific donors better, publicizing gifts when appropriate, educating the community, etc.

By making your board members ambassadors your board members get involved in the creative and fun side of fundraising. Cultivation is all about developing strategies to strengthen relationships with your advocates, donor prospects and avid supporters: figuring out how to increase a special someone’s involvement, how to bring lost donor friends back to your organization and/or matching up your organization’s needs with your donors’ visions and interests.

Furthermore, engage your board members throughout the donor life cycle for your organization. Get them involved at every level. The below image illustrates ways that you can make this happen …
DOnor Lifecycle

However, board members must have the appropriate tools.

If board members are to raise money, awareness and support, they need to know and be committed to the organization. Knowledge and commitment are the two strongest tools anyone asking for support can have, and they go hand in hand. As directors and fundraisers we can help create strong fundraising boards by:

  • Having a clear list of needs – visit with your program staff and get specific!
  • Tailoring each ask with board interest and knowledge
  • Providing support materials – Board members like to have something to bring with them on visits
  • Sharing Impact and Evaluation

Finally, build a sense of community within your board family. Social time helps develop healthy relationships, teamwork, and a sense of collegiality among board members. Remember that your board members want to meet each other and make new business and social contacts.

If they are all strangers to each other, how can they work effectively as a group to make wise decisions guiding your organization? Scheduling social time among board members is an absolute must that is too often ignored in the effort to use board members’ time expeditiously and wisely. Often the casual conversations that occur during breaks or lunch foster deeper discussions of important issues as well as closer relationships among board members.

When the board members share this sense of friendship, they create a positive atmosphere that fosters trust and respect for each other. When your board members feel they are all in this together, then they will be more willing to put their shoulders to the wheel and raise money.

Start developing your board members as effective fundraisers today!

  • Educate them on fund-raising with workshops, retreats, etc. Knowing the process of fund-raising helps diminish fear of it.
  • Help them reinforce their belief in the value of the organization’s mission by sharing its success. True belief in a cause can turn almost anyone into an effective fund-raiser.
  • Assign tasks that involve them in a fund-raising campaign, but that do not require them to solicit gifts. These can include rating prospects, adding personal endorsements to funding requests, and writing thank-you notes to donors. It’s a question of learning to crawl before you can walk.
  • Place them in a position to be visibly associated with the organization and its successes. Ask a board member to be an interviewee in a story the local newspaper is doing on the organization or one of its programs. We all like to associate ourselves with winning efforts.
  • Partner a board member who is a successful fundraiser with a new recruit as a mentor. Have the new member accompany the successful fundraiser on visits to a donor or two. Nothing beats the experience of being where the action is and watching a pro at work.

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About the Author

Susan Douglas is a non-profit advisor, social media consultant, educator and trainer, software and donor database implementation specialist and all around guru for the non-profit community. Susan has worked in non-profit development and management for 13 years and is currently an affiliated partner for Non-Profit Partners.

Although Susan has spent the majority of her professional career building traditional fundraising and awareness campaigns, Susan is most passionate and excited about emerging new media and how these tools can help foster and nurture real relationships with community advocates on behalf of the non-profit organizations she serves.

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