In my experience, there isn’t a board that doesn’t groan when the topic of fundraising comes up. Board members often consider fundraising one piece of an organization’s fiscal health. When it comes to rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in it, they suddenly disappear. This happens for three reasons:
1. Board members may think that soliciting gifts is the only way to fundraise.
To debunk this myth, it’s important to explain the different roles Board members can play in fundraising. Some Board leaders are ambassadors. Ambassadors cultivate connections and introduce new people to an organization. Some can be connectors to their networks and bring other donors to you. Some may enjoy being solicitors and asking potential and current donors to invest in your work.
Finally, all Board members can and should be stewards of your donors. Take Board “thank you” calls. They have an incredible effect on donor retention. Penelope Burk’s 2003 research showed that if a donor received a thank you call from a Board member within days of making a gift:
93% said that they would “definitely or probably give again the next time they were asked”
84% said they would “make a larger gift.”
74% would “continue giving indefinitely.”
The next time your Board balks at calling or writing a donor, share these powerful statistics with them. Or better yet, show them this graphic:
Tips: Identify a few specific activities for ambassadors, connectors, solicitors and stewards. Each year, ask Board members what role they feel most comfortable playing in fundraising and assign them a couple of tasks. Build time during every Board meeting for members to write “thank you” notes and regularly assign calls to Board members to thank your donors.
2. They need help talking about your organization and why it deserves donor support.
This may seem strange given the assumption that Board leaders are the real “insiders” of an organization. However, Board members may be wary of fundraising if they weren’t given a good orientation when they started or aren’t provided regular updates about your organization’s latest successes, challenges, and opportunities.
Tips: Give every new Board member an in-depth orientation which includes fundraising training. Kick off each fiscal year with a refresher orientation to ensure that all Board members really understand your work and how to ask for support. Create standard talking points and an “elevator pitch” so that everyone is literally speaking off the same hymn sheet.
3. They fear rejection.
Who doesn’t, right? Board members may feel that fundraising is “begging,” or that they’ll make a prospective donor uncomfortable or caught off guard. Here’s a little secret: if you’ve trained your Board members to exude passion for your mission, they’ve made their own personal financial commitment, you’ve cultivated the prospect, and brought that Board member into the process well before the ask, there’s no question you will get a “yes.” It’s a lot like dating. If you propose to someone on the first date, your chances of getting accepted are pretty unlikely.
Tips: Ask Board members what’s holding them back from talking about your organization or feeling comfortable soliciting a gift. How can you allay their fears? Coach the Board member on the fundraising cycle and what they can do to ensure a potential donor eventually says “yes.”
For more information, check out my e-guide to creating a fundraising friendly board.