Motivate your nonprofit board to fundraise like a boss #FiverFriday

By February 9, 2016Fundraising board

periscopeWhat is #FiverFriday? It’s a regular shot in the arm of fundraising advice to percolate in your little noggin as you enjoy your weekend. It’s quick and dirty tips for fundraising volunteers and professionals. It’s my new weekly Periscope broadcast that I’ll be sending out into the world.

And it’s also about time I updated this blog, so you’ll be getting some new content from my most recent installment every week (even if it’s not necessarily the day of the broadcast), which you can also catch on Youtube or on my Facebook page, or see it as it comes out, live on Twitter.

Last week, I scoped about a topic I get asked about a great deal. I’m asked about this so much, I come back to it again and again: What is the board role in fundraising? Not only do I get asked about how to get a board to fundraise, which is the topic for today, but why boards are necessary in fundraising, and even if they SHOULD be involved in fundraising. 

That’s not a hard one to answer, yes, each board member you have should be involved in some way in fundraising. I don’t care about the demographic each represents – whether rich or poor, or an empty nester, whether from a DINK (double-income-no-kids) or single parent household, a school teacher, a retiree on a fixed income, or anything below a mega-millionaire; if you don’t think each board member has something to give to an organization he or she leads, why did you ask him or her to serve?

Anyway, for the organization that already has its head fully wrapped around this connection between board members and fundraising, I offer the following tips for making sure they rock it:

Make sure they know you expect it of them – Don’t hide from your needs and expectations. Fundraising is a part of a functional board member’s job, even if some don’t realize this. Make sure fundraising and giving are line items in the board member’s job description. Cover it in orientation and board evaluations. Every board meeting should have a report from the fund development committee, part of whose responsibility it should be to ensure every board member is involved in the work that supports the organization. Every planning session should include a section on fundraising revenue and what board members are going to do to support it.

Support their efforts with data and follow-through – Make sure someone on your staff is dedicated to the data: a stickler for numbers and names and getting them correctly input into and extracted from your database. Make sure your fund development function is staffed properly. A good fundraising staff  keeps fundraising volunteers accountable, up to speed, and organized. When your board is made up primarily of busy professionals with multiple obligations, an organized staff can ensure they are fully involved at the most efficient level possible in your fund development program.

Ask them to donate – It’s easier to ask a friend to join you in support an organization than it is to look someone in the eye and ask them to shell out their hard-earned clams for an organization you can’t be bothered to support financially. Do you ask your board members to also be donors? You should. Not only time, but money is required to keep most organizations afloat. And besides, if your board members can’t be bothered to give, why should your donors?

Make it easy – How can your board members help you? Talk through your expectations and spell out the details. What day/time is your event? How much are tickets? When do your donors typically give and what do you expect they’ll respond to? What is the profile of your typical donor? Who is already on your donor list that your board members might know?

Don’t just throw down a challenge (or worse yet, complain when board members are out of earshot), be as specific as possible. Write down the various ways board members can participate in your annual program: a check list of sorts.
Ask for commitments in advance, so they  can plan. Expect to remind them, when the time comes, that they said they’d put together a table for your gala event, or introduce you to their corporate giving chair for their company. Send a friendly reminder at year end if they haven’t written out their check yet.

Meet them where they are – Is your board member uncomfortable knocking on the bank president’s door? There’s sure to be something they’d be more comfortable doing on the spectrum of discovery to cultivation to asking to upgrading in the donor process. How about signing request or thank you letters? Making thank you or survey calls? Giving a tour to a prospective donor? Give your board members a range of options, including those that don’t involve asking. Invite them to pick ones with which they’re most comfortable. If and when they experience success, encourage them to try something new, to grow and stretch.

After all, it’s for a really good cause, right?

Want more #FiverFriday tips? You can find me on twitter @bethmarkley, or on or Next week, I’ll do a #FiverFriday scope on reasons you’re not retaining your donors and what you can do about it. I hope you’ll join me!

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