One of the top complaints most nonprofit staff have is about their Board.
“They won’t help with fundraising.”
“They don’t attend our events or even act like they care.”
“Don’t get me started about 100% Board giving – some of them think giving their time is enough.”
Can it be fixed? ABSOLUTLEY!
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.
It doesn’t have to be a fantasy. It can become your reality if you’re willing to work at it.
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 are the steps I follow to create a fundraising board:
Step 1: Evaluate
First, take a look at who you have on your Board right now. Look at each individual Board member for engagement, skill, and willingness. Don’t try to evaluate the Board as a whole. The Board as a whole won’t help with fundraising, but individual members will.
Are your Board members engaged? Do they attend meetings and respond to your emails? If they aren’t doing the most basic things, you can forget about fundraising. Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of every Board meeting reconnecting people with your mission. Tell a story. Show a video. Do SOMETHING with strong emotional pull. They won’t re-engage on their own – you’ll need to help them.
What skills do your Board members have to work with? Do they have great people skills? Are they comfortable talking to others? Would they rather write thank-you notes? Make a list of each Board member’s skills that are useful in raising money. Later, you can plug them into roles where these skills can shine!
On a scale of 1 to 10, how willing are they to help with fundraising in some way? Sometimes Board members are willing to do things as long as it’s not making a direct ask. That’s fine – let them work in their comfort zone for a bit. Better to have them doing something they like behind the scenes of fundraising than doing nothing at all. Help them understand that there’s more to fundraising than just asking and that will increase the chances of them saying “yes.”
Step 2: Inspire them
People will not necessarily decide to help raise money on their own. It’s your job to inspire them to do it.
What inspires people? Stories.
Tell them how your programs are changing lives. Show them video or pictures of your organization in action. Have a Board member talk about their experience volunteering.
When people are inspired, they are motivated to take action.
Step 3: Invite them to help
Once you have identified each Board member’s skills and inspired them to help, it’s time to plug them in where they can be successful helping raise money.
Not everyone will fit in the same spot. This is why you don’t want to ask at a Board meeting for everyone to go get a sponsor for the upcoming event. They won’t do it. Some of them think they don’t know any potential sponsors and others are afraid to ask.
If you match each person’s skills and interests with a fundraising activity, and invite them personally to help in a way that fits for them, you’ll be more likely to get a “yes” and see results.
Step 4: Support and celebrate
Once someone agrees to help, support them to be successful. Make sure they have the tools they need and that they know the deadline (if there is one).
Check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing. Ask if they need anything. Show them you care – it means a lot.
When they’re successful, congratulate them. Brag on them. Make a big deal out of it. We all like a bit of acknowledgement for a job well done, especially if that job was a little outside our comfort zone.
Remember this —
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!
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 www.BoardSource.org 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.
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 offering our popular ecourse 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 at http://getfullyfunded.com/