We hear a lot of requests for tips on how to get board members fundraising! Many fundraisers are disheartened by lack of board participation in fundraising. But, Rachel Muir, nonprofit coach and consultant extraordinaire, hosted a fantastic webinar on this very topic (you can view it on demand at any time here!). In the webinar, Rachel gives development professionals a lot to think about and shares insight from the board’s POV.
First, here are some frequently asked questions Rachel covered in her webinar.
Why are board members reluctant to fundraise?
During the webinar, Rachel suggested many board members lack the knowledge and resources to effectively solicit donations and engage confidently in fundraising activities.
How can nonprofits engage board members in fundraising?
The key to increasing board member engagement in fundraising activities is to ensure board members are trained in the best practices for fundraising, are given the proper resources to succeed, and are aware of their fundraising commitment as laid out in their signed board member agreement.
What are the fundraising responsibilities of a nonprofit board?
The answer depends on your organization. Different types of nonprofits have different fundraising needs. Just like different nonprofit boards have different fundraising abilities.
Set responsibilities that align with your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy and goals. Just be sure you’re setting reasonable, attainable expectations for your board. Ideally, when determine the board’s fundraising responsibilities, engage your board in the conversation so that the expectations set are agreed upon by both the nonprofit and its board members.
How to guide fundraising board members?
Many members of your board won’t have fundraising experience. That said, nonprofits can turn their board into exceptional fundraisers by offering ongoing board training and providing helpful fundraising resources to board members.
Board training can take place during regular board meetings and cover a wide range of fundraising topics. Start with fundraising basics and best practices.
Creating fundraising resources for your board members that make fundraising easier. Resources can include personalized company letterhead, business cards, appeal letter templates, a list of ways to solicit donations, etc.
Next, we’ve put together three key takeaways from the webinar.
1. Question what you know about your board’s experience
Being a nonprofit board member is a volunteer role. Typically, your board members are busy professionals with limited background in fundraising. Ask yourself what you know about your board. Asking the right questions can lead to increased empathy. Rachel provided a list of questions to get you thinking of how you can improve your relationship with your board.
The most important question to ask yourself (and your board) is are they getting enough support? Consider surveying your board with this question. Ask them about the barriers that keep them from getting more involved. Are they too busy? Do they need coaching on fundraising? What is their familiarity with your organization or nonprofits in general? This series of questions posed to your board helps you quickly identify what the opportunities for improvement are. Then, you can act on that information by targeting your efforts on the issues impacting the board.
Other questions Rachel suggests asking your board are about the fundraising expectations placed on board members when they volunteered to sit on your board. During the new board member orientation, did your nonprofit make fundraising a requirement? Was fundraising part of the board member agreement each member signed? Were the expectations clear to board members? More importantly, are those expectations realistic? How are you supporting board members in those efforts? How often are you providing training to your board? Are new board members receiving adequate support?
Focusing on understanding your board and the roadblocks keeping them from participation is the first step in addressing the problem. Forming a strategy to increase participation only works once you understand the issues facing your board.
2. Teach board members to support fundraising without asking for money
Many board members don’t like to ask for money from their social circles for your cause. However, a reluctant board member can still contribute to your fundraising strategy. In the webinar, Rachel shared ten ways to make your board members fundraising superheroes without ever asking for money. Before making changes to your board, suggest these strategies to your most reluctant board members. These ten strategies take significant pressure off your board member while still supporting your fundraising efforts.
- Ask your board members to give themselves
- Have board members call and thank your organization’s donors
- Suggest that board members make a planned gift to your organization part of their estate plan
- Encourage board members to invite their social circle for tours of your nonprofit organization
- Ask board members to host a donor cultivation event in their home
- On a related note, ask board members to cultivate donors (meet with, call, provide updates to 2-3 assigned donors)
- Have them take on a project to raise community awareness of your organization
- Ask board members to share how money impacts the organization and those the nonprofit serves
- Encourage board members to share client testimonials with their network
- Ask board members to write an article for your blog or newsletter explaining why your nonprofit is important to them
Even the most reluctant board members are passionate about supporting your organization. If discomfort keeps them from soliciting donations directly, these ten actions provide ways for them to contribute to fundraising in a meaningful way. More personal interaction between your donors and your board can improve donor retention and may even help board members overcome their reluctance to directly solicit donations.
Another way to ease board members into the world of fundraising is through participation in peer-to-peer events.
3. Your board can be changed
One last bit of advice from Rachel is to keep in mind that your current board is subject to change. Seats on your board shouldn’t be lifelong appointments. If your current board is still hesitant to support fundraising after addressing the barriers keeping them from it, consider changing up your board. There are ways to help a board member make a graceful exit. Rachel covers this topic in another webinar, “How to Change the Board You Have.” With open seats on the board, your organization has a chance to start over. Recruit board members who are eager to support you. Then, set expectations for what that support entails.
Rachel is a fan of board agreements because they work. Draft a document for each new board member that clearly sets fundraising expectations. Those expectations could be that board members give or solicit a certain amount in donations. You can also set expectations about fundraising event attendance, donor retention efforts, and fundraising support activities they can take part in.
Beyond that, your board agreement should also include a commitment from your organization to support their efforts. Outline how you plan to provide that support. You can commit to providing regular board trainings, fundraising resources, and share best practices regarding fundraising strategy. In this way, the board agreement acts as a contract. You must adhere to your end of the agreement and your board members should make an earnest effort to meet your expectations.
Your board members are busy people volunteering to support your organization. Therefore, if your board is reluctant to fundraise or isn’t meeting fundraising expectations, consider these three key takeaways from Rachel Muir’s webinar, “Why Fundraising is the F Word to Your Board.” Ask your board about what’s keeping them from fundraising. With that understanding, address these opportunities for improvement. For the most reluctant board members, consider Rachel Muir’s ten alternatives to soliciting donations. At worst, you may have to consider changing up your board. Making meaningful changes to your board requires a board agreement that reflects your expectations for your board and your commitment to supporting them in their effort to meet expectations. You can get your board fundraising. Check out this article about a well-executed board fundraising event.