Getting Your Board to Willingly Fundraise

Getting Your Board to Willingly Fundraise

A common complaint from nonprofits is that their board members are reluctant fundraisers. Many are simply uncomfortable asking others to donate. Maybe they haven’t been coached on how to approach donors or, like most of us, they fear rejection.

Whatever the reason, getting board members to donate — and, especially, to get others to donate — is a delicate dance. On one hand, you don’t want to treat board members like cash cows — after all, they bring passion, expertise, and other assets to your organization. But the truth is you need them to bring in heaps of money.

Having established that universal truth in the nonprofit world, how can you get board members to be more committed and engaged with fundraising? Consider these suggestions:

Be honest. Don’t woo them to your board only to surprise them later with fundraising expectations. Make clear the roles and responsibilities of board members from the outset, including what they’re expected to “give and get.”

Help them embrace the mission. To raise funds successfully, board members need a passion for your mission. Help them to understand and communicate it.

Give the big picture. Board members also need a nuanced understanding of the organization’s finances and how fundraising fits in, which will help them to be more confident fundraisers.

Hold the board accountable. Create fundraising goals for the board and individual members alike and review progress at every meeting. Many organizations use an anonymous or blind matrix for this purpose that shows how much individuals have donated and raised but without names attached. This strategy is useful for tracking progress and reinforcing individual responsibility for fundraising.

Make fundraising an agenda item. While it’s important to report on actual numbers vs. targets, aim to also inspire and educate the board about fundraising at each meeting. Share success stories and meaningful outcomes made possible through fundraising.

Address problems. Don’t ignore the problem of reluctant fundraisers. Ask the board president or a development committee member to talk with underperforming board members to address any obstacles. Sometimes it’s necessary to ask board members to step down and consider supporting the organization in other ways.

Keeping your board committed to fundraising requires continuous focus and dialogue — both to support and inspire board members and to enforce expectations. Being transparent about your fundraising needs should also help you attract board members who are comfortable and capable in that role.

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