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How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations by 39%

If you are serving as a nonprofit board member, I’m sure you are often asked to help in fundraising.

Here’s how you and your fellow board members can help increase donations to your organization by 39% – without having to do any “asking.”

To Increase Donations, All You Have to Do is Say “Thank You.”

Are you and your fellow board members nervous about having to solicit or ask for gifts? We understand.

So we’d like to suggest a different role in fundraising for you. How about taking on a thanking role with donors?

When you, as a board member, offer your personal thanks to your organization’s donors, you can make a huge difference.  In fact, you can directly impact your institution’s bottom line, while avoiding gift solicitations that could be awkward.

Special Thank You Treatment for Donors.

Try this test and track your results. Then you can evaluate how this strategy works for you and your fellow board members.

The next time your organization sends out a fundraising appeal, work with your staff to select out a random group of donors to receive a special thank you treatment.

Organize a team of  board members to make thank you phone calls to these donors within 24 hours of the gift being received. It’s important to make the call immediately after your organization receives the gift.

If the donor does not answer, the board member can leave a message that simply thanks the donor.

The phone calls are not about asking for another gift. They are for stewardship only.

If any of the board members are adventurous, they can take another step and ask the donor why they chose to make this gift. That would create a rich conversation that the donor will enjoy.

Track Your Results.

A few months after this first gift, your organization should send another fundraising appeal to all donors – both those who received the extra thank you phone call and those who just received a standard acknowledgment letter.

And when repeat gifts come in, compare the results of both groups.

You’ll find, when all other things are equal, some interesting results.

The donors who received a prompt, personal thank you from a board member within 24 hours of the gift being received, will usually give up to 39% more than the other group.

This is how board members help increase donations without having to ask.

3. The Original Research Findings.

Fundraising pioneer Penelope Burk performed the original research that found these amazing results. Her team originated the  “Donor Centered Fundraising” philosophy, a paradigm shift that changes the emphasis away from the organization’s needs and instead focuses on helping the donor create an impact.

Penelope Burk shared this data on board member thank you calls at an AFP International Conference from her research:

  • Donors received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
  • The next time they were solicited, they gave 39% more than the other donors who did not receive a call.
  • After 14 months, those called were giving 42% more.

4. How to Implement Board Member Thank You Calls.

Some board members may offer to make calls, but not follow through. So you will want only those who are enthusiastic and committed to sign up for this project.

  1. First, share the data with board members about the financial results from making prompt, personal thank you calls to donors. Be sure everyone understands the “why” of the project and the upside positive potential from making these calls promptly.
  2. Have one or two board members take charge of the project. Enlist a small committee. Be sure to coordinate closely with your staff.
  3. Make sure the committee members all understand that prompt timing is essential.
  4. Give each committee member specific phone calls to make. Don’t send out a whole list to the entire committee and hope that someone will make the calls.
  5. Have each board member report back weekly on the results of their calls.

One organization we know asked the board members to post their thank you call results on a shared Google document. That way each board member could see who was making their calls. Word had it that a competition took hold and each board member tried to outdo the others.

The busiest person on the board – a busy lawyer – made sure his calls were as up to date – or more up to date – as all the others. Now that is productive and friendly competition!

A Success Story of How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations:

Here’s an example from our own history:

One of our consulting clients, a local Rape Crisis Center, was staging their annual auction. One of our friends attended with us, and apparently purchased a lot of items at the auction.

The next day I was sitting in my office, when our friend called.

Excitedly, he said, “You won’t believe what just happened!”

“I’m speechless,” he continued. “I just got a phone call from a board member of the Rape Crisis Center thanking me for . . . for   . . .  for being the largest donor at the auction last night!”

“I just can’t believe it,” he gushed. “I’ve given money all over the country and I’ve NEVER gotten a call from a board member.”

We could just feel him beaming all the way over the phone. He was absolutely thrilled.

The next year, he asked us “Is the Rape Crisis Center having their auction this fall? I haven’t gotten an invitation yet?”

That year, he bought an entire table and hosted the president of the largest foundation in North Carolina at his table. I think the Rape Crisis Center has him for life now, because they gave him such special treatment.

Bottom Line: Board Members Can Increase Donations to Their Organizations – Simply by Saying Thank You.

A little effort goes a long way – remember that and remind your board. A simple acknowledgement phone call could be just the thing your donor needs to become a loyal lifelong major donor.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

We were helping one of our clients work through a challenge yesterday.

Our client, a national organization, is planning a $300 million capital campaign. The problem is, the organization’s board is not composed of “heavy hitters” so to speak, who hold power and influence.

The organization has a lot going for it. Its mission is solid and its impact is proven. But its leadership doesn’t have the connections they need to raise hundreds of millions.

Our recommended solution: we are guiding them through a deliberate networking process to bring in individuals who have power, connections and influence with funders.

Do You Have Enough People of Power and Influence Standing Behind Your Institution?

Every successful capital campaign needs powerful individuals who add credibility to the campaign. Their most important function is to help open doors to important donors – which can significantly shorten the time it takes to close a major gift.

For example, some key individuals can make a phone call, and quickly give you an open door to an important funding source. Or you have may a specific need: with one email, a key leader can suddenly access the resources to make it happen.

What You Get: Instant Leverage

Early in the game, we advise our clients to identify significant leaders of influence in their sphere and pull them in closer. As we all know, one key, well-connected individual can often draw three powerful leaders in.

When they lend their authority and back your work, their own credibility increases the standing of your organization. It builds confidence in your mission.

It’s like they are giving their seal of approval to your initiative.  Again, they can help you dramatically shorten the time it takes to forge significant relationships with funding sources. You can raise serious money much faster.

What You Get: Shortened Timelines

When you have the benefit of the right door-opener, then you don’t have to painstakingly build a trusting relationship from scratch with a donor. Instead, your “key influencer” can help you move right into a Gift Conversation with the donor. This saves you and your team so very much time and effort.

They add a backdrop of visibility and prominence so that doors to donors will fling open early in the game. Key funders will say, sure, I’ve heard about this and I’m happy to discuss your project with you.

In two of our capital campaigns, we’ve helped our clients network their way to a former governor of their state. Imagine how helpful a former governor could be to a campaign – he or she can be a key influencer of many companies, foundations, families, and even government funding sources. It’s a win-win all around.

Planning a Capital Campaign? Stack the Deck with Power and Influence

This is one of our key campaign planning strategies that we incorporate in our campaign planning studies. Who are the leaders who can help your campaign the most?

We advise all our clients – early in the game – to set themselves up for success. Add the right well-connected, influential volunteer leaders as soon as possible. As we mentioned, they’ll  bolster the prominence and visibility of the pending campaign, and make things so much easier by offering access to major and lead donors.

The Right Timing Can Build Momentum

How, and in what order, do you enlist your key influencers? It’s important to understand the whole landscape and lay out a careful sequence of priority steps.

Who is the first person you can enlist? If you can get a certain individual on board now, then who will they attract? What relationships can they leverage?

This is why the early campaign ramp up activities are absolutely critical. The right sequence of key people joining, one by one, to back your project can create that magic campaign ingredient we call momentum.

For example:

One wonderful individual joins on, and they say “have you talked to this person?”

You say, “I barely know them.”

Then your key influencer says, “I can fix that.”

You just moved from game space one to game space five.

Building Your Board Prior to a Major Campaign

If you are even thinking about a capital campaign in the next few years, you need to immediately start building connections with potential board members of influence and standing in your community.

Your board will play a key role in the campaign.  While you are working to recruit top volunteer leaders for the campaign, your board can help create the confidence and momentum needed to help attract those special individuals.

For example, achieving 100% giving participation by the board early can send a strong message to potential leaders that your board and organization are committed to the success of the campaign.

One of our campaign clients did just this. When they went to recruit their campaign chair, they were able to use the board’s early campaign commitment to successfully recruit their desired campaign chair.

It’s never too early to stack your board with people who can not only make major campaign gifts, but also bring other donors with them.

Bottom Line: Who Do You Need to Add to Your Team to Increase Power and Influence?

Is it time for you to reestablish key relationships? Who are your former board members, key funders or supporters who might have drifted away?

Can you seek out advice visits early while your campaign is still an idea? Can you engage them early in campaign planning?

Remember, stacking your deck with people of power and influence can shorten your campaign timeline, help you secure lead gifts faster, and give your campaign prominence in your community. It’s a smart strategy.

Does your institution have a true culture of philanthropy?

Diving deeper, the real question is: is there really full support for fundraising across your entire organization?

All the way from your board members to program staffers?

Often, we find many fundraising teams are not getting full support from their institutions. They are forced to operate in a silo – walled off from other departments. A sense of camaraderie between colleagues is missing.

When fundraising operates in a vacuum, results will be less successful. You’ll never reach your true financial potential in this type of environment.

If you want to reach your ultimate revenue goals you must have broad support for fundraising across your entire organization.

So how do we build broad-based organizational support for fundraising – a true culture of philanthropy?

1. It’s an Attitude Thing

We find that non-fundraisers tend to think of fundraising as only one activity: “asking for money.”

What’s more, it’s not understood that smart fundraising requires much, much more than just the act of asking.

If your colleagues and leaders get stuck on the issue of asking, they might default to thinking that fundraising is distasteful.  As a result, they certainly don’t want to get involved.

Your colleagues may think if you ask them to get involved in “fundraising,” then you’ll ask them to solicit, which they very likely will avoid.

So, you are dealing with an attitude thing – people’s thoughts and their feelings.

If you want to create change – remember meet people where they are. Your job is to slowly start to land different ideas in their heads. 

2. Redefine “Fundraising” into Something Broader and Bigger Called “Philanthropy”

The idea of “fundraising” carries with it ideas like sales, money, asking, soliciting and hitting people up.

The term “fundraising” can put people off.

Yet, on the other hand, the idea of “philanthropy” feels grand and lovely. It carries with it a sense of nobility and community.

The term “philanthropy” can attract people. It makes them want to get involved.

Don’t forget: When you redefine fundraising into the more lofty concept of philanthropy, you open people to new ideas and new possibilities.

Jeanne Tedrow, CEO of Passage Home , (now head of the NC Center for Nonprofits) told us, “Philanthropy just feels different when you are talking to your board and volunteers – they are not so scared to get involved.” 

3. Begin by Asking Everyone to Take Part in Thanking Donors

Thanking donors is an easy job. It’s enjoyable and satisfying, and it’s the right thing to do.

Why not ask colleagues across the organization about creative ways to thank your donors?  This can be interesting and fun, while introducing the idea that donors are important, wonderful people.

When you make it about honoring the awesome people who make your work possible – then it’s not about “fundraising.” Instead- it’s about philanthropy.

We find board members often really enjoy saying thank you. It’s the perfect place to get them started in fundraising. Try a thankathon to launch your next annual campaign.

Focus your board members on thanking and suddenly you just might have enthusiastic board members on the fundraising train.

Sue Acree of Literacy Connections summed this up during an Insiders webinar:“Focus on the donors and the money will follow.”

4. Find Ways for Everyone to Engage with Your Lovely Donors

Just think how much fun you could have if you got the entire organization actively engaging with, and celebrating your donors.

You may be asking: how can you engage donors with your mission? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Give them tours.
  2. Invite them to panel discussions.
  3. Introduce them to program staffers. Bring your key “subject matter expert” program heads to meet donors. Donors always love to meet your program colleagues who are carrying out your mission.
  4. Ask donors to volunteer. Ask them what they think of the work.
  5. Share stories and more stories about your organization’s work. Donors love to hear often about how they are making a difference through YOU.

As Meg Revelle from Arts Together shared after an INSIDERS webinar:

“At our board meeting, we brainstormed all the ways we could help engage donors. Each Board member left with at least one idea to implement. They chose what excited them and they wanted to do – and it was such fun!”

Bottom Line: Create a Culture of Philanthropy

If you want to create a culture of philanthropy at your organization, make it easy and make it enjoyable for everyone. You’ll find broader support across your organization once more colleagues participate.

As Suzie Acree said, “This is changing my thinking….I am gaining a new perspective on donors that makes it more fun, for not only me, but my staff and board!”

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

NO ASK fundraising strategies for board members? Is this possible?

Often, we find that board members are nervous about the idea of fundraising. They want to help, but shy away from the idea of “asking.”

We recently shared our favorite list of the Top 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Board Members. Today we want to dive deeper and discuss how each board member can find a comfortable role where they can personally support fundraising, without having to solicit.

Here are just a few of the productive jobs they can do to raise friends, thank donors and help create a sustainable fundraising program.

1. Spread the word among their networks and social circles.

Your board members need to be roaring advocates for your organization; they need to talk it up wherever they go. Every organization needs their board members to be in action, spreading the word and making friends for the cause.

It’s important for all board members to enthusiastically share news about their favorite cause with their friends. Most are willing to share posts, videos or images with their social networks. For example, many board members jump in to support Giving Days by reaching out to friends via social or digital channels.

One thing board members need to remember: they have immense credibility within their communities.

One reason is because they are unpaid volunteers.  They are only supporting the organization out of the goodness of their hearts – because they care. This gives board members more stature within the community and their circles of friends than they realize.

So the job is clear: ask your board members to introduce your organization to everybody they know. Let’s start a groundswell of good news about your cause that will spread through your community.

2. Open doors by hosting Small Socials.

You can expand your community relationships and make new friends through gatherings such as Small Socials. This job is perfect for socially oriented board members who have a large network.

A Small Social can take several formats. For example, it can be a coffee, a tea, a dinner, a porch party, a cookout, or cocktails. The event can be a breakfast meeting or luncheon. It can include 3 people or 100.

Here’s our preferred format for a “door-opener” Small Social:

  1. Board members, volunteers or donors invite guests, underwrite it and serve as hosts.
  2. There is no charge, because this is a cultivation event designed to introduce new people to your organization’s work. The goal is to work the room, so to speak.
  3. There is a short presentation (max 15 minutes) in the midst of the socializing.
  4. The board volunteer host welcomes everyone, and the CEO gives a short high-impact message about the work and your results.
  5. You follow up with attendees after the event, by asking them about their impressions and if they’d like to get involved.

Small Socials are one of our favorite no ask fundraising strategies for board members. Opening doors and making connections is a most important role – one that can pay off in future major gifts. 

3. Host a tour to showcase your organization’s impact.

Board members can host tours to bring prospective friends closer to your organization. We find that a carefully scripted tour can be a powerful way to demonstrate your organization’s good work and to illustrate unmet needs in the community.

The tour lets your work speak for itself.

Your guests will hear staff members, or even clients/students/stakeholders, express in their own words their personal first-hand experiences with your organization’s mission— and the good it does—in the community.

A well-planned tour is hosted by a board volunteer. Just like in Small Socials, the CEO will share a visionary message. Use the same follow-up plan as a Small Social.

By hosting a tour of your organization for donors or friends, board members play a powerful role showcasing your organization’s work. Even more, their presence adds credibility and stature to your organization.

4. Thank you calls to donors.

One of the most powerful actions a board member can take is to make thank you phone calls to donors. This should always happen soon after the gift is received by your organization.

When board members call to thank donors, the donors are usually quite impressed. Donors will  think:

“This organization appreciates me”

“I am a real person to this organization, not just a checkbook”

“This organization is well run”

Donors who receive phone calls from board members invariably tend to give larger gifts the next time and tend to stay on board as donors longer.

Some studies have shown that donors who received a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours of making a gift, later made subsequent gifts that were 39% higher than donors who did not receive a call.

This means that board members can directly improve your organization’s bottom line without having to solicit.

Bottom Line: NO ASK Fundraising Strategies for Board Members

Every board member can support your organization’s fundraising.

There is a fundraising role for each person on your board – whether they are in an asking role or not. Opening doors, making friends and thanking donors are valuable jobs that can pay off with increased gifts to support your cause.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

What are the fundraising responsibilities of board members of a nonprofit organization?

Above all, board members carry the legal responsibility for the fiduciary care of their nonprofit. In that vein, it’s their responsibility to ensure that the organization has the funding it needs to carry out its mission.

Given that it is each board member’s job to support fundraising, here’s our list of fundraising activities that everyone on the board can help with. What’s more, these activities are easy, productive and fun.

1. Make a proud, personal annual gift.

Above all all else, board members have a moral duty to support the organization financially. It just shows that they are putting their money where their mouth is.

If board members (who hold the legal responsibility) don’t support the nonprofit financially, then why should anyone else?

The gift each person makes can be large or small. But it always needs to be a gift that each board member is personally proud of making.

Everyone needs to understand that this is the #1 fundraising responsibility of every board member.

2. Understand your organization’s fundraising program and strategies.

Many board members don’t understand how fundraising really works today.

Every organization has a different fundraising strategy. Some rely on events, others on grants or major donors to fund their mission.

As a board member, you need to understand your own organization’s specific fundraising program.

What’s more, you need to understand the profitability of various fundraising approaches. For example, why events are the least profitable way to raise money, and how seeking major gifts is the most effective and efficient way to fund your mission.

3. Help thank donors.

This is the easiest and most joyful fundraising job of all.  And, it’s one of the most important jobs a board member can do.

Why? Because when board members call or write donors to thank them, those donors will become more loyal. They are typically honored to receive a thank you from a board member.

Studies show that when board members thank donors promptly and personally, then future gifts from the donors who receive the call will rise as much as 39%. 

4. Communicate with donors and tell them about your organization’s great work.

Clearly every board member needs to serve as a personal advocate for the cause.  You can share why you care about your organization’s work – with friends, on social media and everywhere you go.

As a board member, you need some interesting stories about your organization’s great impact in the community. Have a statistic or two that will get someone’s attention.

Ask for more training in messaging. It will help you spread the word in your community, gain more recognition for your nonprofit, and perhaps draw new donors to your work.

5. Help identify prospective donors and open the door with introductions.

When we ask nonprofit CEOs what they need most from their board members in fundraising, we usually hear only this:

“I just need my board members to open doors.”

And most board members would be happy to help. Often they just need a bit more training and support.

As a board member, it is your job to be on the lookout for possible new supporters. Look for opportunities to bring your friends in to volunteer, or attend an event or a tour.

You may be surprised: someone in your circle of friends may turn out to be passionately interested in your cause.

6. Help cultivate donors.

Many donors really do want to learn more about your organization’s work.

Remember, they often want to be involved and in the know. Donors would not be supporting the mission unless they were passionate and committed to your cause.

Board members can play a huge role in helping to bring donors closer. As a board member, you can host behind-the-scenes tours or small socials. You can also ask donors to share their personal stories about why they care about your work.

That’s the first step to a much larger donation.

7. Only when appropriate, ask for contributions.

Board members are great at some forms of asking.  They can:

  • Sell tickets and sponsorships for events.
  • Encourage their friends and colleagues to get involved and consider giving.
  • Ask current donors to renew or upgrade their gifts.

When it comes to major donors, however, the best role for board members is simply opening the door.

Master fundraisers take a slow, delicate approach to major donors. It’s important for board members to coordinate with staffers who are directing the overall strategy with key donors.

8. Support and encourage the fundraising team.

An acknowledged staff becomes a more productive staff.  Remember, nonprofit staffers are often working long hours for lower pay. They need the full support of board members for their work.

Board members can encourage not only the staff, but also their peer board members. Celebrate the fundraising team, and cheer them on.

When board members make fundraising important, everyone is more successful. And more dollars come in the door.

9. Ensure that fundraising has adequate resources and support.

When an organization invests in and fully staffs its fundraising operation, it raises much more funding  than organizations with poorly staffed and underfunded programs.

When fundraising is consistently staffed and funded – your organization enjoys long-term financial stability and success.

Above all, it’s important for board members to support the overall fundraising operation. Otherwise your mission will suffer from lack of funding.

10. Attend public events and bring prospects and friends.

Board members need to show up at important events. You have an important role – you are official hosts and hostesses – welcoming donors and attendees to your event.

Ask staffers what they need from board members at events – what’s essential and what’s optional? That way you can show up and help them be successful.

BOTTOM LINE: 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Board Members

All board members can, and should, vigorously support the fundraising program. There are many ways to be involved, even if you are not directly asking for funds.

Everyone needs to join in and help make fundraising successful!

New Year – New Outlook. Time to sharpen up a positive outlook for 2021.

This post is updated from earlier years – but it is so popular that I’m updating with a 2021 twist!

Here are some ideas for nonprofit board members – to remind everyone of what’s truly important, and help focus on positive action.

How about these for a list of New Year’s Resolutions for Board Members?

1. I resolve for my contributions to be positive and optimistic.

I will bring a positive point of view to all discussions, and discourage negativity. My voice will focus on ideas of abundance rather than scarcity.

Moreover, I will aim to be always hopeful for the best; to encourage discussions of great possibilities. Knowing that negativity wipes out our board’s energy and passion, I commit to being a positive influence on other board members.

2. I will make my own proud, personal gift to support my institution.

AND I will encourage all other board members to give. I understand that if we don’t put our money where our mouth is, we have absolutely no credibility.

I will set an example by giving cheerfully and generously, and model appropriate generosity to the rest of our board.

3. I will encourage everyone to think big.

As a board member, I know that thinking small will not get us where we want to go. We are not going to change the world, alleviate suffering, change our community, find a cure – by thinking small.
So I will think big. I understand that there is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. Because, a big juicy vision will help attract people – and financial resources – to our cause.

4. I will have a bias towards action.

Knowing that my organization needs more than “talk” out of board members, I will focus on positive actions we can take.  I refuse to be one of those board members who thinks their job is simply to come to meetings and just offer an opinion.

I will ask our CEO and staff how we can help them and what support they need. I will encourage a can-do attitude  – because THAT is what can change the world.

5. I resolve to deeply understand our financials.

I promise to take my role as a fiduciary guardian of our nonprofit seriously. I will work to truly understand the data about how we raise money, and how we spend it.

It will be important for me to learn more about where our money really goes, and why we need more funding. I want to learn about my organization’s fundraising plan and our specific funding/business model.

Like Tom Peters said,

“Without data, I’m just another person with an opinion.”

6. I will wholeheartedly support our fundraising program, and will encourage others to do so.

I understand that there are many ways I can support fundraising and help celebrate our donors.

Since fundraising is not just just about asking for money, I know I can play a valuable role even if I am not out there soliciting – by opening doors, making connections, meeting prospects, thanking donors, involving new people, and more.

I am interested in educating myself about fundraising – how it works today in this changing world and what works best for us. As for me, I won’t suggest a new fundraising idea or project without first understanding its potential impact on our staffing and volunteer resources.

7. I will help foster an organization culture that will support fundraising and philanthropy.

I understand my various fundraising responsibilities as a board member, and will help foster an organizational culture that will support philanthropy.

I will encourage everyone in the organization to support the fundraising program in whatever way they can. In addition, I will help celebrate our donors as important stakeholders in our mission.

Finally, I will ensure that fundraising is respected and acknowledged as an important mission-centric activity.

8. I will dare to challenge the status quo.

Knowing that change is hard for all organizations, including ours  – I will be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

I will encourage my fellow board members to be willing to let go – no matter how threatening change is.

I will remember Jack Welch’s famous quote:

If change is happening outside the organization faster than it is on the inside, the end is near.”

I resolve to be willing to ask, “Why are we doing this?

9. I will support our CEO and staff.

I will not ask the staff to overwork themselves, or sacrifice their personal lives in the name of our cause.

Understanding that they carry enormous responsibility on their shoulders, I will support paying them competitive salaries, giving them a healthy, happy workplace and ensure that adequate training is provided to do the job.

I resolve to support an appropriate boundary between board members and staffers. This means that I will not attempt to direct individual staff members. Instead I will deal with their boss, our CEO or Executive Director.

I resolve to show up. To return their phone calls and e-mails.  And help out when asked.

10. I will advocate for our cause wherever I go.

Knowing that ideas can be contagious and spread among people like wildfire — I will spread the word about our work wherever I go.

Above all, I want to help create an epidemic of buzz about my organization all around.

I resolve to be a terrific personal advocate for our organization and our cause. And I’ll have fun doing it!

Bottom Line on New Year’s Resolutions for Board Members:

For the coming year, and all years, I dedicate myself to making my service on the board meaningful.

If you’d like to reprint this article in your newsletter or distribute it to your board members, please link and attribute to this site.

 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

If you want to build and expand your major and principal gifts programs, keep an eye on your inbox. Applications will open soon for our 2021 Major Gifts Intensive Coaching Program.

Wishing you a prosperous and positive New Year!

Are you ready for something that happens every year-end – soliciting board members for their annual gifts?

We get many questions about how to set this delicate process up for success, so here are our recommendations.

We originally published this post a few years ago, and it’s one of the most popular on our site. So today, we are updating it and hope you enjoy:

Take Charge Behind the Scenes

Intentionality behind the scenes will make sure that soliciting board members goes smoothly and productively.

We strongly recommend that you take charge of this process. Don’t leave it to chance. You may not be the person directly making the ask to a board member, but you should be running the show in the background.

1. Show why it’s important that board members give generously.

Make the philosophy clear.

The importance of board member participation in annual giving is rarely explained properly to members.

Instead, the issue of their giving is apologized for, snuck up on, or swept under the rug.

When the reasoning for their giving is established in an open and straightforward way by board leaders, then staff can cheerfully and enthusiastically talk about it, without feeling awkward.

Board members know that their cash contributions lend vital credibility to your fundraising efforts. They know they are supposed to give.

But often they need a reminder, or a nudge – especially during such a busy time in the midst of such a crazy year. 

Point out the significance of their gift, and the importance of the timing. You must always make the ask.

2. Be very clear about board member expectations.

Clear expectations avoid misunderstanding.

When new board members join, always say what is expectedverbally and in writing.  And be sure board members have a say in the expectations. Above all, they should discuss and agree on the expectations themselves. When they discuss it themselves, they are more bought in.

Spell out giving expectations in the commitment letter that members sign when they join. And don’t stop there. You and your board leaders must also talk out loud about expectations for giving, and often. This isn’t a “one-and-done” conversation.

Frequent and transparent communication will make you all feel more comfortable, and feel like you’re on the same team.

3. Give the subject of board donations plenty of visibility.

Put the issue in front of them often and clearly enough.

Try these tips:

  • Report on the status of board gifts at each board meeting
  • Put pledge cards and return envelopes in every board member’s packet
  • Set a deadline for all board gifts to be completed. For example – say, “we need all board gifts to be in by March 30”

That gives you – or your board chair – an excuse to be in touch to follow-up. Don’t forget that your board members are extremely busy people and need to be cheerfully reminded of their duty to give.

4. Let the board chair be the face of it all.

The board chair or another board member can do the talking and signing of letters. As staff, you can direct the entire effort like a quarterback behind the scenes.

You can (and probably should):

  • Ghost-write the letters
  • Give the board chair talking points
  • Be sure ‘board gifts’ is on the agenda repeatedly
  • Promote the conversation
  • Publish frequent reports on board gifts to date
  • Thank the board members early and often for their generosity

Make it happen. But let a board member be your political cover, if needed.  

5. Leave soliciting of board members up to other board members.

We think it can be awkward for staff to be in the situation of making an ask of board members.

Here’s why: you work for the board, and you report to the board via the executive director. What’s worse, you may already be seen as asking for too much as it is.

It’s hard for you, as a staff member, to have a conversation with your board members about their giving, without it lapsing into the wrong tone.

We say, let the board members and board leaders be in charge of this! (But remember, you need to intentionally run things behind the scenes. It’s delicate, but effective.)

6. Give board members lots of credit and acknowledgment.

Remember the power of positive reinforcement. Praise behaviors you want to develop and those behaviors will show up more often.

Remember that board members do not get much acknowledgment – (just like you!). We like to amply give credit for all the resources that board members bring in – corporate, foundation, in-kind, public/government.

Create an environment of abundance, rather than scarcity, in your handling of board contributions.

7.  Tie the board’s gifts directly to your program results.

It’s a wonderful idea to let the board members know what they are accomplishing through their gifts, just as we do with all donors.

We like to even focus board giving on something specific that the board members can get excited about.  When they get enthusiastic about what they are actively accomplishing through their work and their personal gifts, they will invest more and more.

Like all donors, they experience joy when they see the results of their gifts. Here are a few ways to show them impact:

  • “With your leadership, support and financial contributions, we were able to accomplish X .”
  • “The generous gifts from board members funded this special project, X.”
  • “The board’s gifts made all the difference in serving X group of people.”

These are the magic words that board members (and donors) love to hear. Use them!

BOTTOM LINE for Soliciting Your Board:

Take charge behind the scenes, and you will set up a successful solicitation strategy. Set clear expectations, promote transparent discussion around the topic of board gifts, show impact, and thank your board. Clear and appreciative communication is all it takes.

Expect the best from your board  – and you’ll get the best out of your board.

Good luck with you – and your (generous) board!

What do you think of these ideas? What’s YOUR experience with your board? Let us know with a comment!