May 30, 2019
You know how crucial it is for your board to be engaged in your development program. Countless books, articles, and webinars have preached the importance of a board that is active in fundraising, helping you identify and connect with new donors on a regular basis. That’s good advice… and like most good advice it is easy to understand but hard to implement.
As the leader of a non-profit organization, how can you help your board to get engaged in fundraising without turning them off or making them feel uncomfortable with the process? Here are three great ways to get your board involved in and enthusiastic about development:
#1: Set Expectations
Most non-profit board members join a board because they believe in a cause and want to make a positive contribution to their communities. They don’t join because they want to fundraise… in fact, many board members who join boards for the first time don’t even know that fundraising will be one of their key tasks as board members.
If you want your board to help with development, you must make it clear to prospective board members that helping with fundraising is an important part of their role. You need to make this clear before members join the board, not after. This builds a culture of philanthropy where everyone understands how important fundraising is to the success of your non-profit. Likewise, be sure to offer training on how to fundraise to your board on a regular basis. Just as most people don’t join a board because they love to fundraise, most people who join boards have no idea how to effectively fundraise on your behalf.
#2: Show Your Board that Your Organization Needs More Money – Now – to Do More Good in the World
It may seem hard to believe, but many people on your board (particularly those who aren’t on the Development Committee) won’t make the direct connection between development activities and your programs. Sure, they’ll hear the fundraising updates you provide at your board meetings, but they won’t understand or internalize the fact that your organization has big plans and a big vision that can only be realized through greater fundraising revenues.
Board members will hear that you raised 2.5% more this year than last year, and think “Hey, we’re doing ok,” and then go back to focusing on their work for your PR Committee, or Governance Committee, on recruiting more volunteers for your organization. In order to build a culture of fundraising on your board, you need to constantly make the connection between fundraising and development, and show your board why you need to raise more money today.
One great way to do this is to start each board meeting with something mission-related… perhaps a short visit from a client that your organization has helped, or a video that you shot at the soup kitchen your non-profit runs. Whatever it is, make sure that each board member hears a story or two about your work at every board meeting, and then mention how much more good you could be doing if you only raised more money at your non-profit.
It also helps if you can break your fundraising down into bite-sized chunks for your board… meaning that if you show a video from your soup kitchen, you also tell board members that it costs $5 to feed a person for a day, and note how many more people you could feed if you raise an extra $500, $5,000, or $5 million for your organization.
#3: Give Your Board Lots of Ways to Help with Fundraising
Remember that your board members aren’t professional fundraisers, and may feel shy or uncomfortable with direct fundraising on your behalf. Put your board members at ease by telling them that there are lots of ways to help with fundraising… and then by giving them many different opportunities to help.
Tell your board members that the best thing they can do to help your development program is by being an ambassador for your non-profit… someone who goes out and talks about your organization’s work and who connects your team with their friends, colleagues, clients, vendors, and friends. Set up opportunities such as non-ask events (office tours or other small events where people have an opportunity to meet your team and hear about your work, but are not asked for money), and have board members invite their friends to these events, or to one-on-one meetings with your development staff.
Board members can also help you fundraise by making thank you calls, writing handwritten notes to donors and prospects, attending networking events on your behalf, and inviting you to come in to speak to their companies about your work.
Your non-profit’s board of directors can be an amazing asset in your fundraising work. Your job, as a leader at your organization, is to build a culture of philanthropy on your board so that everyone feels both responsible for and comfortable with their role in the development program.