10 Ways to Engage Your Board in Fundraising

by | Oct 26, 2017 | Board Development

The end of the year often brings with it changes, goals, and resolutions for individuals and businesses alike. We often hear folks express a desire to make changes to their board of directors. Most of these changes are for the good of the organization and would bring about a culture of change, more involvement by board members, and desired behaviors such as help with the fundraising efforts of the staff. It can be challenging to engage your board in fundraising.

Sound familiar?
These are actually great thoughts and when implemented with time, good energy, and the right motivation, can help grow and enhance an organization.

Obviously, each organization has a unique board with various personalities and histories. so that when it comes to ways to engage your board in fundraising, a one-size-fits-all approach doesnt work for every organization.

Lucky for you, engaging your board in fundraising doesn’t have to be so hard!

I encourage you to think for a moment about how much your board is educated on their role.

  • When they were recruited, did they receive a job description that outlined their roles and responsibilities as a board member?
  • Did they participate in an orientation about the organization, programs, projects, etc.?
  • Do they receive regular education on topics related to their role such as how to read your financial reports, why certain policies and procedures exist, how they can become engaged in a committee on the board, etc.?
  • Did they receive any education on what fundraising is or how you engage your board in fundraising efforts?

Many times, staff and tenured board members forget that new board members may not know all the ropes and may not know how to best help the organization they have agreed to represent.

Marie likes to use this example. If you recruit people for an intramural basketball team, a team where they can play for fun, interact with other people who enjoy basketball and enjoy the sport… but then you ask them to compete at a professional level against other competitive players, will you have a successful team? Probably not. You didn’t recruit the individuals with the skill set to play at a pro level.

Are you doing that with board members?

Are you recruiting individuals with the least expectations possible and then becoming frustrated when they aren’t performing at the level you desired? Are you educating them on their role, and how to participate in a meaningful way? We have all heard of individuals who have been asked to serve on a board and ‘all you have to do is show up to the meeting’.

Why would we recruit in this manner?

From last week’s blog on how to create a working board, you want to be sure you are recruiting, screening, educating, nominating, approving, cultivating, engaging, strengthening, increasing impact, and establishing succession planning with your board.

I want to focus for a minute on educating your board.

What is your definition of fundraising? Is it raising money? Maybe you have another definition.

My definition is ‘raising the resources needed to accomplish a goal, task or project.’ Resources can be people, space, in-kind services, products, money, etc.

Think about that for a minute. If you needed a 15 passenger van to provide transportation for your clients and you needed to raise $35,000 to purchase one, would you consider it fundraising if a board member was able to get you a 50% discount on that purchase?

I would!

It’s not money in-hand, but it is money you don’t have to come up with, which in turn, is raising resources. This is a board member using a connection they have to benefit the organization.

With this in mind, let’s think of the other activities that fall under my  definition of fundraising that you may not have thought of that you can then share with your board and incorporate in the ways they can participate in the fundraising process. Here are a few:

  • Handwrite thank you notes at board meetings to donors
  • Make thank you phone calls at board meetings, during a thank-a-thon, or at home to donors.
  • Create prospect lists of potential individual or business donors and share with staff
  • Open doors by introducing the organization to an individual or business through email, phone or personal meeting
  • Accompanying staff on a call to a potential donor/business
  • Serving on a development or fundraising specific committee
  • Making a financial gift to the organization annually
  • Serving as the head of a fundraising campaign
  • Soliciting gifts in the community (cash, sponsorships, product, etc.)
  • Assisting with community speaking engagements on behalf of the organization (business meetings, churches, civic groups, foundations, etc.)

Next, put these items (or whatever your list looks like) in order from one to ten. One is the first thing someone could do, perhaps the easiest and move to the most involved or hardest.

What you then want to do is determine where each person on your current board is on that scale. Then you want to move them up. I call this “moves management”. How do I get someone from writing a thank you note to making a thank you phone call, to sharing prospects, etc?

You can’t expect someone who is comfortable with making thank you calls right now, to be ready to serve as the head of your capital campaign committee in a month. That’s the intramural to professional mindset. Move people up and let them know their contribution at each level is needed, appreciated, and impacts the fundraising effort.

If you have 10 board members and they each write 5 thank you notes at your board meeting this week, how much time did that save YOU?

Educate your board on the opportunities open to them, create some expectations and get them involved. Asking board members to write thank you notes or make thank you calls at a board meeting doesn’t have to take long. Give them ten minutes, provide note cards and envelopes along with addresses, possibly have some scripted responses at each seat in case they do not feel comfortable winging it, and let them get involved! I bet you will feel better, you will have an easy way to get them involved, and then you can thank THEM for participating in fundraising!

Most people only think of fundraising as asking for money. Educate them on the many, many facets of fundraising so they can feel engaged. Most board members want to help, we just have to give them the opportunities.

If we can help with Board Solutions let us know. You may also find some Upcoming Events to attend or helpful information in our Free Stuff section.

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Keep Growing For Good! Mandy

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