I hear it all the time: How do I get my nonprofit Board to help with fundraising?

Sometimes it sounds more like this:

How do I get my Board to make their own donation? I need 100% Board giving for a grant.”

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

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. And apparently they don’t.

It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out.

So, what do you do?

I’ve got 4 ways for you to get them moving and involved in helping you with fundraising this holiday season.


Set the stage

nonprofit boardBefore 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 engagement mean to you?

Are you looking for Board members who

  • Say “yes” to sponsoring your event
  • Say “yes” to selling sponsorships for your event (and actually do it)
  • Are willing to invite their friends to your event or open house
  • Are willing to sign a letter to their friends asking for money
  • Are willing to email their friends to ask for support for Giving Tuesday
  • Serve on the fundraising committee
  • Volunteer for fundraising activities (event set up, stuffing envelopes, etc.)
  • Something else?

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 probably don’t have the same understanding of fundraising that you do. They probably don’t have the same level of commitment to the organization that you do, either.

When you get clear about what you want them to do, it’s a whole lot easier to get it.

So, start by setting clear expectations of what you’d like them to do. By the way, this is super handy to have when you’re recruiting new Board members, too.

What’s the minimum requirement for your Board when it comes to fundraising?

They’re not going to do everything you want them to do, so get clear on the basic level of participation that is acceptable. Then work your way up.

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


What’s your Board member’s expectation?

The question you should ask yourself that you probably aren’t is this: What expectations do my Board members have for fundraising?

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

It’s entirely possible that they think making a $25 gift once a year counts as helping with 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.


2 HUGE mistakes that can push Board members away

There are 2 huge mistakes that you’re probably making when it comes to getting your Board 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 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.

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 sponsors for your upcoming event, 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 can be a sponsor. 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.


Crank up the holiday engagement!

Once you’re clear about your own expectations and those of your individual Board members, it’s time to find a place for them each to plug in and be productively helpful.

Since Asking 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 get you a speaking spot at the clubs and civic organizations they belong to. 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.

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. There are lots of ways to build relationships, so find one that feels comfortable for your Board member and get busy.

nonprofit board3. 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. 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. 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.