How to Disrupt Your Board’s View of Fundraising


How to Disrupt Your Board's View of Fundraising

Board members and fundraising. These words often don’t mix together very well.

Board members are generally well-meaning, good hearted people. But when you mention the F-Word (fundraising), many board members shift nervously. 

What’s wrong? Well, for one thing, they think fundraising is all about “asking for money.”

They think you want them to go out and “hit up” their friends and associates.

Well-meaning but a bit uneducated.

Most board members know little about the science of fundraising: The data that back up our strategies. The emerging new, best practices. How major gift fundraising really works.

What’s more, they don’t typically understand how fundraising totals go up.

We know that if we want to raise more money year after year, then it requires consistent investments in fundraising infrastructure.

Disrupting your board’s view of fundraising.

I’ve worked with hundreds of board members over the years. And I’ve served on 24 boards in my life.

So I know these strategies will work for you!

We have to disrupt their notions of what fundraising is about.  We need to change their thinking.

And I dare say, if we can help them understand how fundraising works, then they can make better decisions about fundraising investments. And they can find a way to engage in fundraising personally.

1. Board members and fundraising: Get them talking about why they care.

Your board members are there because they care about your work and your mission. And they LOVE  talking about their passion and excitement for your cause.

When they start talking about why they believe in your work, amazing things start to happen. Eyes mist up. Hands wave in the air. Intensity grows. Enthusiasm builds.

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Your board members’ message about why they care actually encapsulates your case for support.

Listen deeply to them, and you’ll get words and phrases for your next appeal letter!

2. Take the conversation away from “money.”

When you make fundraising all about money, you make your work small and yucky.

Instead of standing in the white light, high up on a hill, working for humankind, you lower yourself into a beggar or supplicant.

Good fundraising is never, ever, ever about the money. Instead, it’s about the work, the mission, the vision, the impact, the project to help people.

You “sell” the vision and impact, then followup with the investment request. The money is merely a followup.

Nobody wants to ask for money. But everyone loves to help a child or a sick person.

3. Put discomfort squarely on the table.

Yes, fundraising can be awkward sometimes.

It happens when we get too pushy. Or we are all about the money. Or we don’t let the donor talk much – we are too busy making the pitch.

For board members, it’s ok to acknowledge that fundraising discussions can sometimes feel out of place, inappropriate and uncomfortable.

When that happens, it’s a red light to stop, back up and breathe.

For board members and fundraising success: Help them understand that we are here to listen to the donor and help them achieve their vision.

We are not here to make a pitch and push them.

4. Help them learn “What are we raising money for?”

Why not help board members understand what we are raising money for – where it goes and how we spend it.

This helps take the conversation away from MONEY and make it about  your work.

So you need a new roof. New staffers.  A new kids program. More training for your teachers or staff. A new space. THESE are the things you ask for  – so you make it NOT about the money.

Discuss with board members:

  • What’s our top program area and about how much does it cost?”
  • “Why do we even need private contributions anyway?
  • “Why does it take so much staff to do this work?
  • “About how much does it cost per person helped?
  • What else do we really need? 
  • “How many people are we missing? What happens to them if we can’t help them?
  • What would we do if we had an additional $100k? (or $500k or million – whatever is relevant to your budget.)

These discussions take fundraising away from “money” and make it about something real. It is amazingly powerful!

5. Find a comfortable role for everyone to support the fundraising process.

There are so many jobs that help close more gifts – and many do not require asking or soliciting.

Your board members could help open doors to new donors, and build up the community network for your nonprofit.

They can host door opener events just to make friends and spread the word in your community.

They could boost donor retention:

  • Help host thank you events for your current donors.
  • Write thank you notes to your donors – a board member’s note is hugely powerful!
  • Make thank you phone calls – statistically shown to increase giving by over 35%.

They could help you identify new major prospects and help you find out more information about your identified prospects.

How? By hosting screening sessions.

Board members can serve on committees to support the gala. They could help secure sponsorships, and sell more tickets.

BOTTOM LINE: Board members and fundraising

So much is possible when you educate board members about how it really works. Engage their passion. Ramp up their enthusiasm.

Maybe board members and fundraising DO MIX after all!