Here’s a common question that many small and growing nonprofits ask: How do you get your Board to raise money, especially during the holidays?

Sometimes it sounds more like this:

“What does it take to get my Board to sell tickets or just show up at our holiday event?”

How do I get my Board to share my Giving Tuesday posts on social media?”

I wish they’d do ANYTHING to help!”

I get it. It’s frustrating.

It’s part of a Board’s basic responsibility to help you raise money.

You know it and I know it.

But apparently they don’t.

It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out, especially when you’re trying really hard to raise the money your nonprofit needs and they hardly lift a finger.

Now that it’s fundraising season, you need their help more than ever to reach new people and spread the word about the amazing work your nonprofit does.

So, what do you do?

I’ve got 4 ideas for you to get them moving and involved in helping you with fundraising this holiday season. Read on to see which one will work best for you.

Set the Stage to Get Your Board to Raise Money

get your Board to raise moneyBefore you blaze a trail to drum up some enthusiasm for fundraising among your nonprofit’s Board members, let’s get real for a moment.

We hear a LOT about Board engagement these days.

But let’s define it.

What does Board engagement mean to you, especially during the holidays?

Are you looking for Board members who

  • Give matching money for your Fall appeal?
  • Invite their friends to your holiday event or open house?
  • Sign a letter to their friends asking for money?
  • Share your Facebook posts or forward your email to their friends to ask for support for Giving Tuesday?
  • Make thank you calls to donors during your Thank-a-thon?
  • Connect you with their friend at the local TV station to get you on the morning news?

Did you just say “ALL OF THAT!!”?

If so, it might be a mistake.

You see, YOU know what needs to be done and you’re willing to do it.

But your Board members don’t have the same understanding of fundraising that you do.

They know that the holidays are a great time to raise money, but may not have an idea of what to do.

So, it’s up to you to teach them.

And chances are really good that you have Board members with various skills. No single member will be good at everything or even willing to try everything.

So, be patient.

And start with clear expectations about what you want them to do this holiday season to help with fundraising.

Time to Get Clear About Expectations

But before you can teach them how to help you, YOU have to be clear about what you need them to do.

Start by reviewing your fundraising plan for year-end and look for ways that Board members can help.

Make a list and be ready to share this with them.

You see, when you get clear about what you want them to do and you share specific tasks with them, it’s a whole lot easier to get your Board to raise money, especially during the holidays.

They can see exactly what needs to be done. They understand the time commitment. And they can choose where they want to help.

They’re not going to do everything on your list, so get clear on the basic level of participation that is acceptable.

Do you need all of them at your holiday open house? Or can they review your list and choose 3 of the 10 items?

Once you identify what you want them to do, clearly communicate it to them and work to get their buy in.

You can cover this at your next Board meeting. But, be prepared to have 1-on-1 conversations with them to go over the list and ask them where they want to help. You already know that sending an email to your entire Board doesn’t work, so be ready to do some follow up work.

What’s Your Board Member’s Expectation About Holiday Fundraising?

Get Your Board to Raise MoneyThe question you should ask yourself that you probably aren’t is this: What expectations do my Board members have for fundraising, especially during the holidays?

In other words, what do THEY think participation in fundraising looks like?

It’s entirely possible that they think making a $25 gift in December counts as helping with holiday fundraising.

I had a Board member once who thought that donating some beat-up, old trumpets counted as his participation in fundraising for the year.  Uh, no.

Some of them may know in their gut that they need to do more, but they don’t know how. Good news – you can fix that!

The best thing you can do is to help set an expectation for your Board members about what it means for them to support fundraising at your nonprofit. And the more clearly you can define and describe it, the more likely you’ll get it.

The best time to set a clear expectation about fundraising is during recruitment. The second best time is NOW!

Seriously, as soon as you have your Fall/Holiday fundraising plan done and your list of ways Board members can help, share it with them and get their commitment. By setting a clear expectation NOW and giving them their tasks in writing, you’ll have a much greater chance of actually getting their help this holiday season.

2 HUGE Mistakes That Can Push Board Members Away

There are 2 huge mistakes that you’re probably making when it comes to trying to get your Board to raise money and becoming more involved in fundraising.

Either of these will discourage Board members from wanting to play a part, which will leave you frustrated.

Mistake #1: Speeding. Trying to get Board members to move from doing nothing to asking their friends for big bucks for your Fall campaign is too big of a leap all at once. It’s like trying to go from zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds.

Instead, be prepared to help Board members take small steps, which are more manageable.

They’ll be way more likely to take a small step that doesn’t push them too far outside of their comfort zone.

This why 1-on-1 conversations are SO helpful! You can find out where an individual Board member feels comfortable, and help them pick holiday fundraising tasks that feel good to them. When they work inside their comfort zone, they’ll actually do what they say they’re going to do! Win!

Mistake #2: Herding. When you ask your Board as a group to help with something it’s called herding. And it doesn’t work.

For example, if you stand up at a Board meeting and ask everyone to go get matching dollars for your Giving Tuesday campaign, you’ll get a very low response, if any. They all think you’re talking to the other Board members and not them. Instead, take the time to talk to them individually to ask how they can best help get sponsors.

Remember that not all of them are comfortable asking someone for money and others think they don’t know anyone who will give big bucks. Through individual conversations, you can uncover the best way for Board members to support the event, and it might not be going after sponsorships.

Be open to what THEY are interested in doing to help.

Yes, this takes time. But trust me, it’s worth it!

Crank Up the Holiday Engagement!

Since Asking someone to give money isn’t the only activity that qualifies as fundraising (stewardship, acknowledgement, and introductions also count!), there are lots of ways your Board members can jump in to help, no matter their comfort level with fundraising.

Here are 4 ways to get your Board to raise money during the holidays this year.

1. Spread the word. Before someone will give to your nonprofit, they need to know you’re there. Ask your Board members to help. Ask them to get you a speaking spot at the clubs and civic organizations they belong to in November or December. It’s an easy thing for them to do and it will help you spread the word and raise awareness about your nonprofit’s work during fundraising season.

Or ask them if they know someone at the local TV station, newspaper, or talk radio station and can help you connect with that person to pitch a story. That warm contact might be just what you need to get your foot in the door and get a story in the news.

2. Deepen relationships. Make a list of your top 100 donors and float it past your Board members to see who they know. Then ask them to help you deepen relationships with the folks they know. That can look like your Board member inviting her friend who is a donor to your organization for a personal tour. Or lunch for the three of you to talk about the future of the organization. Or even just personally signing the organization’s holiday card to that donor. There are lots of ways to build relationships, so find one that feels comfortable for your Board member and get busy.

get your Board to raise money3. Thank donors. One of the easiest and most powerful things a Board member can do is to thank a donor. And there are lots of ways to do it. Ask your Board member to hand-write a thank-you note to a donor, especially one they know. Or give your Board member a list of 10 of your best donors and ask them to call each donor to say “thanks.” Or have them shoot a personalized thank-you video which is the hottest way to thank donors ever.

4. Ask for a donation. For the few Board members who are willing, invite them to ask their friends to make a year-end contribution to your nonprofit. They can do it by mail, email, or social media – whatever they feel most comfortable with. And if you provide them with the text to use, this is a pretty easy “yes” for most Board members. The important thing is that they ask without begging, apologizing or stuttering. Oh, and asking for money is a lot easier if they’ve made their own donation first, so you might be sure they have. 🙂

The Bottom Line

Most people said “yes” to serving on a Board because they care about the mission and want to help. Unfortunately, there’s no ‘Board School’ to send people to so they can learn how to be a good Board member.

Chances are good that you know more than they do about how to fulfill the role of Board member. Do what you can to help them. Provide education and inspiration.

And if you really want them to help with fundraising, have a 1-on-1 conversation with them to find out how they’d like to help.

THAT’S how you get your Board to raise money during the holidays and all year long.