How to Engage Board Members in Fundraising

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Are you trying to engage board members in fundraising?

How about helping with major gift connections? Would you like your board members to open doors to their contacts?

Usually everyone answers “yes” to these questions. 

But getting your board actively helping in fundraising – especially major gift fundraising – is a tall order for many nonprofits. 

If you want to engage board members in fundraising, here are 5 strategies that can change everything. 

Follow these steps and you just may see new energy and enthusiasm for fundraising – I promise! 

 How to Engage Board Members in Fundraising for Major Gifts

First of all you have to acknowledge some realities about how many board members feel and where they are coming from. 

Board members are often reluctant to help in fundraising. 

Why? They don’t understand how we do it.

They make up myths that fundraising is about selling and being pushy. They are afraid they’ll be asked to “hit up” their friends.

Takeaway: Get your own attitude straight and be realistic.

It’s important to simply meet people where they are.

Acknowledge reality and their very real feelings and attitudes. It’s all ok – it’s just human nature.

Many board members are disengaged and a bit bored in general.

Let me say unequivocally, that if you have bored board members, then they will not want to help with anything. 

One step further – if you have boring board meetings, then you’ll have bored board members.

Takeaway: Give board members an interesting experience of simply serving on the board.

If you want to engage your board in fundraising, you have to start at the beginning.  

Engage them first with interesting meetings. Give them a terrific experience as board members.

They will reward you by  getting more involved and working where you need them.

Most board members don’t understand how fundraising works.

They are not familiar with our data, research and proven methodologies.

They don’t understand that major gifts are a long term process, and that there are many (fun) steps in cultivating a donor’s interest in your cause.

They don’t understand that soliciting is only one small moment in a long cycle of cultivation and stewardship.

Takeaway: If you want to engage board members in fundraising, give them training and education in how fundraising really works.

They are smart people. You’ll probably find that your board members are, in fact, really interested to learn more about how you do what you do.

They are often surprised to find out that major gift fundraising especially is relationship-based and takes time.

Board members who are educated about fundraising will make better strategic decisions that will support you.

They are often more willing to invest in fundraising – because they understand the business proposition of a return on their investment.

Many board members think that fundraising is not fun.

Most board volunteers who are inexperienced in fundraising shy away because they think it’s distasteful.

But we all know that many fundraising activities happen in a quasi-social situation.

They don’t know about the fun side of fundraising – donor cultivation parties and events, fascinating conversations about your work, sharing stories about your wonderful impact.

Takeaway: If you want to engage board members in fundraising – you need to lighten up.

Make it more fun for them. Give them positive social experiences with donors.

Take them on thank you visits. Help them tell their own story of why THEY care.

If you are heavy-handed about all this, they’ll probably run for the door! :)

Many board members think that fundraising = asking for a gift.

They think it’s all a transaction. They think it’s “selling.”

They are surprised to learn that so much of the fundraising process is focused on developing a long term relationship with the donor – NOT on the ask.

Takeaway: If you want to engage board members in fundraising, get rid of the idea of soliciting.

Take the ask off the table.  Don’t ask board members to do the asking – especially when they are not ready.

Give board members the fun stuff to do first.

Get board members involved in other parts of the fundraising cycle – identifying donors, hosting tours, coffees and porch parties.

And of course, stewardship of the donor after a big gift is perhaps the most fun of all. Especially when it leads up, to the next, much bigger gift!

Bottom Line: If you want to engage board members in fundraising, remember:

  • Meet them where they are. Acknowledge their attitudes and myths about fundraising.
  • Give them training and education about how fundraising really works.
  • Give them a terrific experience as board members. Have really interesting meetings.
  • Lighten up and make it more fun.
  • Take soliciting off the plate. Don’t scare them off. Ease them in.