Fundraising BoardPeople ask me this all the time —

How do I get my Board to fundraise?

Every Executive Director wants it. Every Founder needs it.

Just imagine – your WHOLE Board out there spreading the good word about your nonprofit in the community, telling their friends about your organization’s mission, and bringing resources back to help you change more lives.

Is it a fantasy?

Doesn’t have to be.

I’ve trained thousands of Board members how to do their job, including raise money. Along the way, I’ve learned a LOT about what makes an individual Board member tick. I’ve learned where they get hung up and why. And I’ve also figured out how to help them become a volunteer fundraiser.

Here’s a simple 3-step formula that I shared at the Best Friends conference a couple of weeks ago.

It’s called PET and if you follow the 3 steps, you can create the Board you want.

Before I share the system, I want to fill you in on a couple of things:

1. Not everyone on your Board SHOULD be on your Board. Some of them shouldn’t be on your Board RIGHT NOW. In other words, you probably don’t have the right people on your Board to start with. When you have some wrong Board members, there’s no amount of training or support that will turn them into fundraisers. If you think you can turn wrong Board members into Superstars, you’re sadly mistaken – it just won’t happen.

2. Most people dislike fundraising, usually because they’ve tried it before and didn’t like being told “no” or have some big fear around failing or looking stupid. Fundraising doesn’t feel natural to most people. We’re so used to being self sufficient that asking someone for help just goes against the grain. Add on top of that the fact that we don’t like being rejected, and no wonder people shy away from fundraising!

So how do you work with that to create a fundraising Board?

Here’s that 3-step formula:

1. PICK the right people to serve on your Board.

Fundraising BoardIt all starts with recruiting. You want a fundraising Board? Recruit people who think fundraising is fun or at least are willing to try it.

If you get lazy with the way you find new Board members or just go after “warm bodies”, you won’t be happy with the results. This happens when you wait until the last minute to find new Board members or when you start believing you’ll never get superstars on your Board. It sounds like this:

“Will you join my Board? You don’t have to do anything, just come to a few meetings and lend us your expertise. Please say “yes!” Pretty please with sugar on top??”
We’ve been having a conversation around Board recruitment in ARF Club, and several folks are frustrated with trying to find good new Board members. They believe they’ve been trying and trying to get the right people on their Board, only to be disappointed or frustrated. My answer? You can’t give up. Know what you want and need, then go find it.  If you’re a US-based 501c3, you MUST have a Board. So make it a good one.

It takes time to find the right people to serve on your Board. Treat it like hiring an employee – use an application, take the time to interview them, and check references if you want.

And remember, you have to kiss a lot of toads to find the prince.

2.       Engage your Board if you want them to fundraise.
People will not decide to help raise money on their own. It’s your job to inspire them to do it.

The best way to set your Board members up for success in fundraising is to regularly connect their hearts emotionally to your nonprofit’s mission. People do amazing things when they feel moved. It gives them courage and strength to overcome their fear and do things they otherwise wouldn’t do.

Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of every meeting reconnecting people with your mission. Tell a story. Show a video. Do SOMETHING with strong emotional pull.

Engagement also happens when people are involved and feel ownership. If your Board members see themselves as part of your team, they’re more likely to help. How do you create “team?” Involve them in planning. Let them be part of Board-level decisions. Show them how important they are to your organization’s work.

A quick test to see if they’re engaged is to watch the pronouns. If they say “you” and “your” (“You should think about this…”) they aren’t engaged. If they say “we” and “us,” (“We should plan a thank-a-thon…”) they’re on your team and ready to play ball.

Fundraising Board3. Teach your Board how to be good Fundraisers.

No one is born knowing how to raise money. It’s a learned skill.

And I haven’t seen a Board member yet go out and learn those skills on their own.

It’s your job to train them and give them the tools they need to do the job.

You wouldn’t hire a new Administrative Assistant and just throw her into the job without some orientation would you? You’d show her around, go over her new responsibilities, and help her do her job. Same thing with your Board.

Teach your Board how donor-based fundraising works. Give them the tools they need to be successful. Every time I lead a Board retreat, I show Board members what fundraising is all about and I help them find their spot where they can plug in and be productive while still being in their comfort zone.

Realize this: you know more about what your Board should be doing than they do. So teach them. Share articles with them. Point them to and tell them to sign up for their newsletter. Just help them. And don’t quit. You can’t provide education once to your Board and expect that to last forever. Ongoing education is a good thing.

Going forward

Now, as you start to implement these new strategies, you may meet some resistance. It’s common. People don’t like change and are really slow to embrace it. If you can get one or two of your current Board members on the same page with you, this process will be easier.

It can take some time to make these kinds of changes on your Board. It’s like turning the Titanic – it’s a slow but important process.

And if what you really want is a Board full of people who help raise money, it’s worth spending the time on.

Want more help creating a fundraising Board?

We’re rolling out a brand-new ecourse this month called “How to Create a Fundraising Board.” Every week, you’ll get a lesson delivered to your inbox that teaches you what you need to know to engage and train your Board. Curious? Get all the details (and an earlybird price!) at

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