No More Running for the Hills: Fundraising Ideas for Board Members
Have you ever noticed those board members that start to sweat when the monthly meeting agenda turns to the topic of fundraising?
There are many reasons why this subject might make certain board members freeze up, – especially because they know that one day soon, if not today, someone will be asking them to help raise some money.
However, the bottom line is that every nonprofit board must be involved in their organization’s fundraising effort. No questions asked.
So, how can you reach those board members who want to run for the hills each time you mention the word, “fundraising?”
Kiss Trickery Tactics Goodbye
I’m a strong supporter of the notion that a nonprofit’s should be actively engaged in their organization’s fundraising efforts. This means that board members should not only be donating out of their own pockets, but that they should also help develop a prospect network by opening up their own personal contact lists to help the organization grow.
In some cases, the fear and anxiety that board members often feel when it comes to fundraising is triggered from nonprofits themselves. In fact, some development teams and executive directors approach their boards with fundraising “orders,” which can make members incredibly anxious and reluctant.
Ultimately, asking board members to help you raise money need not cause stress or sleepless nights. Rather, your board should view fundraising as a collaboration, or partnership, between the development team and the board.
One way to reduce board anxiety is to stop viewing board members as purely sources of revenue, and start looking at them as sources of connections and introductions. Sure, your board should still directly donate to your organization. And yes, they should make asks from within their network, but most importantly, they should be introducing their contacts to your organization. As a result, you can then gradually help these people through the cultivation funnel.
A Simple Strategy That Delivers Results
When I work with a nonprofit that wants its board to be more active in fundraising, I often tell them to try a simple strategy. Here are several tips I commonly suggest they get started with:
- Reach in their pockets first. Ask board members to make a personal annual gift or raise the money themselves.
- Advocate for government money. Did you know that a lot of government money goes untapped each year? These funds can prove quite valuable to nonprofits. Ask those board members who can’t stand the idea of asking friends for money, but are well connected in local, state or federal government, to help open doors for government contracts, grants, fee-for-service or other government monies.
- Email, call or visit a donor to say thanks. The stewardship of a gift is an often forgotten, but incredibly critical, part of the fundraising process. In fact, according to Penelope Burk’s annual donor survey, 84 percent of donors would actually give again if they were thanked in a timely fashion. Being thanked by a board member is an added bonus.
- Help negotiate a lower price from a vendor. This can be especially useful when it comes to enlisting the support of lawyers, realtors and insurance options for your organization. For example, do you have a board member with great negotiating skills (think of all those attorneys on your board)? Can they help work out a deal with insurance providers, office space rental companies or technology equipment distributors for a lower price? If so, that’s more money in the bank for your nonprofit. Asking them to help in this area is easy for them to do.
- Teach them how to ask for money. Take a three-person team approach – vision, personal connector and asker. The vision is typically described by the executive director; the connector can be anyone, including a board member; and, the asker is usually a development officer or board member (the key is that it must be someone who is not afraid to ask for six figures). Also, bring in fundraising professionals for a thorough training on the fundraising lifecycle. Start with the planning process, describe where the raised funds fit within the budget, explain the different streams of revenue you rely on and round it out with the steps required to meet the goal. Break training down so that they don’t just know how much they are expected to raise, but how to do so.
Keep in mind: some people may never be good at asking for money. So, always provide plenty of opportunities for training and learning, and then allow those board members to decide which part of fundraising is a good fit for them. For example, instead of directly asking for money, those more-intimidated board members could instead recruit potential donors to attend events, often a much less daunting task.
Ultimately, you want your board to sing the praises of your nonprofit to everyone they come in contact with, and it’s certainly realistic if you treat them right. By training them, establishing clear goals, respecting their time, providing teamwork opportunities and showing constant gratitude for their hard work, you should have no problem keeping them excited to spread the word about your cause.