I get it. You’ve got a million things to do as you’re leading your nonprofit: phone calls to return, money to raise, meetings to attend, and fires that need to be put out. With all of the spinning plates, it’s often hard to even think about how to better engage your board. It almost comes "secondary" to everything else.
In fact, isn’t it true that many times we’re just happy they’re not making things more difficult? It’s like we’re content to just put the board on cruise control even though they’re not hitting on all cylinders or contributing in any significant ways.
I’ve certainly been there! But I truly believe engaging with and ultimately deploying your board members to assist in the fundraising process is crucial if you want to achieve all of your goals. They have networks, platforms and leadership gifts that you need to make sure they’re utilizing to help advance the cause they love.
If you haven’t been engaging with your board in the past to actually help you with fundraising (and not just telling you to fundraise), then it’s likely you’ll get a little pushback when you first start. We want to help you navigate some basic beginning steps:
- Make the “ask” personal.
Your board members should be giving. Period. And while it’s easiest and a lower personal risk to take the comfortable route and either (A) hope your board members are listening to the overall need identified during the meetings and will actually give or (B) more explicitly announce the need for each of their gifts at the board meetings hoping that does the trick, there’s nothing as effective as sitting down with your board members individually to make the ask. And yes, it can be tough to do for a lot of us, but it’s much more effective.
And hey, if this isn’t your strong suit, find someone else in your organization (who has been there for a long time and is trusted) to help you make that personal ask to your board.
- Remember, not all board members have to ask.
Should every member have to be charged with making the ask? No.
Should every member at least be charged with helping fundraise? Yes.
What’s the difference? Fundraising has many elements to it. It involves identifying donors, cultivating relationships, educating people about the cause they are a part of, and thanking donors for their gifts. All of these things are aspects of the process that those who aren’t as gifted at asking for the actual gift can play a large role in.
- Every board member should be giving what they can.
Depending on the size of your nonprofit, your board may not be full of people who can make large gifts that essentially keep the cause afloat. But just because someone may not qualify as having the financial capacity to be a “major donor” doesn’t mean they shouldn’t at least be giving something.
Maybe that means some give $4,500 a year, and others $45 a year. Regardless of the size, their gift proves their belief and investment in the cause they champion and help guide.
- Have them tell their personal story – not the organization’s story.
Trying to get everyone to tell the same organizational story, repeat the mission statement by heart, and rattle off the core values like a robot when trying to educate a potential donor can be next to impossible. Instead, have them tell their own personal story as it relates to your nonprofit.
Have them explain “why they serve” or “why they love this cause.” Hearing people explain why something has impacted them and their life will always have me leaning in. And it’s a much more relatable and interesting conversation between two people than to start with some calculated sentences.
Afterwards, once they've intrigued the prospective donor enough, they can lead them to the website for more “official” information.
Don’t be afraid to ask more of your board. Not only will it help your nonprofit grow, it will also help the members become more invested partners in a cause they care about, helping them make more sound decisions and be even more passionate about the nonprofit’s success. And if they’re not willing to be involved in any fundraising efforts whatsoever, there’s a good chance they may be a better fit elsewhere. :)
We recorded a great podcast with our CEO, Maurilio Amorim, and senior ministry strategist, Pete Wilson, on this very topic. Listen in online or on iTunes for some deeper application and discussion around engaging your board in fundraising.