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Oct 26, 2018 BY Rachel Clemens, former Mighty Citizen Fundraising

How Your Board Should Be Fundraising, and How to Get Them There

Any nonprofit’s board of directors should be their loudest, proudest group of advocates. This is not always the case, and reinvigorating an under-engaged board can be an exhausting feat, but from a fundraising perspective alone it’s worth every bit of energy to either maintain your board’s high level of engagement or get them there. In some cases, this requires asking even longstanding members to reevaluate whether they are willing and able to meet expectations. The bottom line is, your board has a moral obligation to help support your organization financially, especially through fundraising efforts. After all, if they don’t support your org, why should anyone else? Here are some tips to get your board members fundraising more effectively, and you can start right away by applying these to your end-of-year campaign.


Does your board understand your fundraising strategy and how the funds raised are actually distributed? They need to know the basics: how events are funded, how programs are funded, and the impact the dollars raised have on your organization. Give them talking points on how common donation amounts translate into impact at your organization, and coach them on how to ask for money within their networks.

Your organization is about making an impact, changing the community, bettering the world.

Great tools to distribute when prepping the board for a fundraising campaign include: campaign timeline; a one-pager with talking points they can share; sample social media posts with accompanying graphics; sample email content; and instructions on how to use the fundraising platform, if necessary. Provide a neat little digital package in advance of each campaign to ensure everyone is spreading the same message at the same time. Keep these materials very simple, for their sake and your own!


Your organization is about making an impact, changing the community, bettering the world. Ask your board members how they feel when they talk about your organization. Hopefully they answer “proud,” “happy,” “part of something important.” Then remind them that these are the emotions donors feel when they make a gift. People want to be involved in something with meaning; a donor’s life and legacy are enhanced by donating, just like your board members’ lives and legacies are enhanced by serving on your board. By reframing “asking for money” as “sharing the opportunity to be a part of what we’re doing,” you can help your most reserved and resistant board members think differently about their fundraising responsibilities.


Developing relationships is the key to long-term donor stewardship and is a (sometimes) lengthy process with many delicate steps, so you should rely on board members to contribute to your fundraising strategy in several ways beyond solely “making the ask.” Board members can interact and build donor relationships by hosting events, giving tours, sharing via email and social media, and personally thanking existing donors. By creatively involving them at different stages of the process—which also allows you to personalize their responsibilities based on their schedules and strengths—your board won’t feel like they’re constantly asking for money and will therefore be more willing to do so when you need it most.


Most board members are in place because they “open doors” and reach influential audiences the organization can’t tap into on its own. Create fun social events like happy hours or meet-ups that board members feel comfortable and proud inviting their networks to. Give them talking points, literature to hand out, and have staff on-site with mission stories that bring the organization’s impact to life. If you create a social, casual atmosphere that encourages onsite donations without making fundraising the focal point, chances are your board will feel more comfortable asking, and many of their attendees will have already donated of their own accord.


The number one reason people donate to a cause? Because they’re asked. And starting in November, people are expecting and waiting to be asked to donate. In the U.S. 30% of all donations happen in the month of December alone! Your board can help cut through the end-of-year noise by making personal connections. Ask each board member to identify someone with a propensity for generosity and either message, call, or meet with that person in November to share your organization’s success and explain how an end-of-year gift from them would make all the difference.

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It’s important to keep in mind that not all of your board members need to have affluent connections. Some will inevitably bring in more funds, while others will be more helpful in building partnerships, or gathering direct feedback from those you serve. But it’s also important to remember that big-hearted donations can come from unlikely people and places, so encourage all board members to capitalize on the end-of-year cheer and share how they got involved with your organization, why they are still involved, and where the org is headed (with the help of more donations, of course). You can amplify your most enthusiastic board member stories by sharing mini videos of them, or graphics with their photos and quotes, on social media and via email. This is also a great tactic for thanking existing donors, one that will likely inspire them to give again before the year ends.


If they’re doing what they should be, each member of your board is making a financial donation to your cause, donating their valuable time, and bringing in additional funds. So just as you need to repeatedly thank your donors and demonstrate the impact of their gifts, take the time to celebrate and appreciate your board’s contributions, giving special kudos to the individuals who have made the biggest effort. Be sure to share success metrics from each fundraising campaign, including year-on-year growth if applicable. You can download our free Fundraising Campaign Metrics Template for an organized way to track donation and engagement metrics, making it easy to assess a campaign’s success and pull out the most impressive numbers to share. If a campaign falls short and you feel like your board frankly dropped the ball, you owe it to the organization and to the members who participated to ask at the next board meeting, “What happened?” “What obstacles got in the way?” “What could we have done to make it easier for you? To keep you motivated?”


Recognizing that every nonprofit board of directors (and each individual board member) falls in a different spot on the engagement spectrum—with the most influential members often starved for time and able to contribute the least—make fundraising your board’s primary mission. Make it easy for them, and give them a variety of opportunities to interact with existing and potential donors so they are rejuvenated by the lighter tasks of sharing and thanking, and don’t feel like they’re exhausting their networks with asks.

If you can get into a campaign rhythm so your board knows when your big fundraisers land each year, they can expect to contribute their time just like your donors expect to be asked for gifts. Especially if your board is under-engaged in your existing strategy, ask them for their own fundraising ideas during a big strategy session or annual retreat. Just like everyone else, board members want to feel like something successful was their idea, so ask them what would get them excited to participate! If someone offers up a good idea and it’s inline with your mission and brand, give it a go. They will feel obligated to make it work because they thought of it, and will come out feeling extremely rewarded if their suggestion helps bring in the big bucks.


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