Fundraising BoardOne 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? ABSOLUTELY!

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.

And I’ve learned where they get hung up and why.

But the good news is, I’ve also figured out how to help them become a fundraiser voluntarily.

So let’s pull back the curtain and take a look at the 5 steps I follow to create a fundraising Board.

Step 1: Evaluate them

First, take a look at who you have on your Board right now.

While it can be revealing to evaluate the Board as a whole, the Board as a whole won’t help with fundraising – but individual members will.

So consider individual Board member’s level of engagement, skill, and willingness.

Here’s a good list of questions to ask yourself about each Board member:

  • Are they engaged?
  • Do they attend meetings and respond to your emails? (Warning: If they aren’t doing these most basic things, getting them to help with fundraising is going to be extremely difficult.)
  • What skills do they have to work with?
  • Do they have great people skills?
  • Are they comfortable talking to others?
  • Would they rather write thank-you notes?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how willing are they to help with fundraising in some way?

In considering your responses to these questions, 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!

Listen, sometimes Board members are willing to do things as long as it’s not making a direct ask.

Let them work in their comfort zone for a bit – that’s totally fine.

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 don’t necessarily decide to help raise money on their own, even your Board members.

It’s your job to inspire them to do it.

And what inspires people?

Stories and feeling connected to a purpose.

Try spending 5 minutes at the beginning of every Board meeting reconnecting members with your mission.

Tell them how your programs are changing lives.

Show them videos or pictures of your organization in action.

Have a Board member talk about their experience volunteering.

Do SOMETHING with strong emotional pull.

It’s ok to think outside the box (or Board room) too.

Habitat for Humanity invites Board members to build houses and also invites them to be present at (and even participate in) the dedication ceremony where a new homeowner receives the keys to their new house.

It’s a very heartwarming experience and can quickly re-engage a Board member.

You may have something similar where you can invite Board members to be part of something special.

Above all else, remember: when people are inspired, they’re motivated to take action.

Step 3: Invite them to help

Fundraising BoardOnce you’ve 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 (for instance).

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 individually to help in a way that fits for them, you’ll be more likely to get a “yes” and see results.

Here are some ideas for engaging your Board members in fundraising that doesn’t involve asking for a donation:

  • Like your nonprofit’s social media pages
  • Share your nonprofit’s social media posts
  • Promote online fundraisers through their own social media
  • Donation from their employer (including matching programs)
  • Bring friends by for a tour of the nonprofit
  • Help thank donors (phone calls, handwritten thank yous, etc.)
  • Host house parties
  • Help sell tickets to events (and buy tickets themselves!)
  • Make connections with people they know who serve on foundations
  • Help acquire matching gifts
  • Send letters/emails to friends, family, and colleagues asking for money
  • Sell event sponsorships
  • Help find new monthly donors
  • Help identify major donor prospects
  • Assist in making an ask (go on an ask visit)

Step 4: Support and celebrate them

Once a Board member agrees to help, support them to be successful with their efforts.

Make sure they have the tools they need and that they know the deadline if there is one.

Help them with any fundraising training (more about this in a moment).

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.

Step 5: Teach them

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, it’s 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?

Instead, you’d show her around, go over her new responsibilities, and help her do her job.

Same thing with your Board.

Fundraising BoardTeach 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 very likely 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 one time to your Board and expect that to last forever.

Ongoing education is a good thing.

The Bottom Line

Creating a Board culture where members willingly participate in fundraising can take some time.

It’s like turning a cruise ship – it’s a slow but important process to get where you’re wanting to.

And if getting where you want to go requires a Board full of people who help raise money (which is should), it’s definitely worth spending the time on.

If you want your Board to help you raise money and be more engaged, it’s your job to help them along.

Chances are good they don’t know what to do, don’t know what questions to ask, and have some emotional baggage around fundraising.

A little training and support can go a long way toward turning your current Board into a fundraising Board.