Easy and fundraising don’t frequently inhabit the same sentence for boards. Rest assured there are very few who find the process of cultivating gifts “easy”. However, you will be pleased to hear, there are 5 easy ways to get your board fundraising. If you are one of the many Non-Profit Executives who pull their hair out trying to get those busy board members engaged in getting dollars in the door, this post is for you.
We all know you don’t have the time or resources to train each and every new board member to be a major gifts officer, but we DO need them to bring major gifts to ensure our critical missions get accomplished. So… what gives? How do we do that in a way that doesn’t leave you pulling your hair out and cursing those blasted lazy board members?
Here’s the key— they aren’t lazy— and just like you, they will do their best fundraising when they feel really well equipped to do it. The secret is this: unless they are former gift officers themselves, ease them in.
Here are some suggestions to help get your board fundraising:
1. Have them bring 1 person to an event with your organization
Who doesn’t love to show off the organization that they are proud to serve? Board members should already be showing up at these events, so make it a double-win! Bring a friend! These don’t have to be fundraising events, in fact, it is better if they are not at first. Maybe it’s a backpack stuffing volunteer opportunity or a house dedication. Perhaps your organization conducts tours of its work (if you don’t already, I highly recommend it!), or there is an outreach center you can visit together. You get the idea— this is a no-pressure conversation starter. The key is this— your staff team needs to be ready to host well. You can’t have new people showing up at these events without a warm welcome, an effort to share some information and carry some of the conversations. Your board member needs to know that they will feel proud having brought their colleague or friend to your event.
2. Write “Thank You” Notes
Bring thank you notes with stamped, pre-addressed (handwritten) envelopes to each board meeting. Allow board members to choose some donors or volunteers they’d like to write a note to, and give them a deadline by which they need to stick those in the mail. These are NOT the official donor acknowledgement letters coming from the organization (those are transactional, not relational even the best ones!).
3. Have them host a table at your event
This could be a paid table or a free event, but these generally are events where you can guarantee that you will have your board member sit with their guests. Have good materials at the table that help them host well— some good-looking pieces that give the data and tell those awesome stories about what you are doing to change the world for the better.
4. Pick up the phone
Have them call just to say “thank you for giving” to 10 people this month, or call to interview a donor who is new about why they chose your organization— those calls should include an invitation to encounter your organization again. These are fun calls, interactions that leave your board member once again proud and thankful they are involved.
5. Have them join you on an “ask”
This may feel like a big step for them, but letting them know that you will lead the way will help tremendously. Define their role for them— they are there for two reasons: to share their “why” story, and to help diversify the view of the organization. Their story is simply why they adore your organization, why they have chosen to spend so much of their time helping to improve it. Their role in conversation is to help balance yours— if you are a great storyteller and will give detailed stories about the personal change from the recipients of your work, they are going to share some financial and data-driven pieces. Remember, giving happens when we give people a rational reason to give and then emotionally move them to do so.
These 5 things are easy, they are low-barrier to entering fundraising, and they will help walk your board through the steps it takes to cultivate a relationship which values the donor and their input, as much as the dollars they bring to your organization. Best of all, when you get them all the way down the road to joining you on an ask, they will see that if you are doing your job well, asking is a joy for the asker, and an honor for the donor who is receiving the request. Fundraising is never about arm-twisting or returning a favor, when done well, it is about an invitation to make a significant difference in an organization that values you and treasures your gift.
If you know someone else who is struggling to engage their board, send this to them! We all need a little lift sometimes— and you might help someone change the world just by sharing!