How Do You Get Board Members to Understand Their Role in Fundraising?


Here’s the pain point!  Board members and fundraising.

It’s a perennial question that everybody asks.

But you know what I think?

I think board members exist in another universe than staff.

It’s sorta like parallel universes: board members live in one universe with its rules and mindset, and staffers are in another galaxy, far far away.

Boards are supposed to help raise money?

The universe that is inhabited by nonprofit staff thinks “boards are supposed to help raise money.”

But board members, over there in their separate board member universe, will say, “Whaaaat? Not so fast now. We don’t necessarily agree. We didn’t sign up for that!”

And they will reply many things such as “I’ll do anything BUT fundraising. . . I hate fundraising . . . Do you really want me to hit up my friends? . . . Talking about money is tacky . . . etc and etc and etc.

The fundamental truth – whether we like it or not – is this:

Board members don’t have a role in fundraising unless they are willing to accept this role.

Yeah, they “should” be helping in fundraising, and they are supposed to be helping in fundraising.

BUT they are volunteers.

And you can’t MAKE volunteers do anything. I guess you could fire them, but then where would you be?

You can read them the riot act, wag your finger at them, even give them seminars titled “the art of the ask.”

Finger wagging does NOT work with board members!

But if they honestly don’t want to do fundraising, then I don’t think they will.

You have to inspire, motivate and encourage your board members.

This frustration is what drove me to look for a better way.

After reading, thinking, interviewing folks and observing many boards, I finally concluded the only way to get your board members to take on their fundraising responsibilities is to motivate them.

We have to inspire them into action.

We have to show them easy ways they can help raise money.

We have give them practical hand-on training in how to open the door, how to talk about their favorite organization without being pushy, how to encourage their friends to get involved, how to have an “advice visit” with a prospect.

They need to understand that fundraising is so, so much more than “asking for money.”

They need to find roles in fundraising where each person feels comfortable and motivated.

Amazing board members of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy last weekend!

I know this is a challenge. But I promise you, if you change the way you approach your board members, you can get different results out of them.

As my friend Laurie Taylor at Cape Fear Hospice said about some of these ideas:

“I can’t change them, but I can change me.”

I’m working with a lot of boards these days, and it’s a joy to see them turn around from discomfort to enjoyment.

Let me know if I can help you!

And what do you think about these ideas?

Am I off base or on target? Let me know with a comment!