Are your expectations of your board members realistic? Especially when it comes to fundraising?

Sometimes it’s hard to know. 

You may ask something of your board members. Then when they hesitate, you may wonder, “Did I expect too much?”

That is a common question we hear when fundraisers ask their board members to share the names of their friends and family members for fundraising.  

Maybe you made the request in a recent board meeting and everyone turned silent. Or shuffled their papers. Or responded enthusiastically, “Sure!” and then didn’t follow through with any names.

Now what?

Kathryn Gamble and I recently addressed that question in a livestream event. We discussed how we help our clients move through this roadblock. Our solution creates board members who are actually willing to open doors. You can watch the recording here.

The key thing to remember about asking for names: You need to approach your board members in the right way. And that means thoughtfully and sensitively.

Here are our recommendations:

1. Explain how their referral names will be used.

Remember, your board members are naturally nervous about sharing names of their personal friends.

If they don’t have enough information about how the names they provide will be handled, they may imagine the worst: Are you going to cold call these unsuspecting people? Ask for a big donation out of the blue? Are you going to drop the board member’s name into a request?

You can see why your board members hesitate. These are their dear friends! Naturally, they are protective of their personal relationships. 

What they need is more information and some reassurance. You need to explain how the fundraising process works.

It’s about the slow and steady nurturing of donors. You will be taking time to get to know each potential supporter and find out if they are interested or not. If they are, in fact, interested, then you’ll ask questions to learn how their interests intersect with your organization’s needs.

As you provide this assurance, many of your board members will feel more confident connecting you with their friends.

2. Find a board champion who can lead the charge.

There’s always at least one board member who understands fundraising and has experienced great success. Give that person the floor! 

At an upcoming board meeting, the champion can tell their story of how they invited one of their friends to become engaged with the organization. They may have made an introduction that led to a major charitable gift.

Hearing that person’s success will encourage other board members to do the same. And it’s a beautiful way to celebrate a win and recognize your champion for their part in it.

3. Set up one-on-one time with each board member.

Often board members will be much more forthcoming in private. Asking for names is never a group affair. That can make everyone feel put on the spot.

Rather, treat your board members as individuals when it comes to fundraising.

It’s very effective to reach out to the board member and ask for a meeting or “advice call.”

Here’s what we recommend that you ask: “Would you be willing to brainstorm with me about some potential donors?” 

See how that feels personal and non-threatening? The board member will feel pleased that you are asking for their input.

4. Bring a curated list of names to get the conversation flowing.

Coming to the meeting empty handed can feel intimidating to the board member. Instead, why not look through your current database and select five to 10 names your board member may already know? 

This list will get the brainstorming session flowing beautifully. Maybe the board member knows only a few of the names on your list. But that might prompt them to think of other people they do know who may be interested in supporting your organization’s work.

Isn’t that a nice way to create a back-and-forth conversation around names?

5. Do you have an activity or event that would make for an easy next step?

Sometimes the easiest way for board members to engage their friends is through an invitation to an event. Maybe you have a gala or golf outing coming up, or a service project that needs volunteers. 

Or a board member may be willing to host a small gathering (we call them “porch parties”) where their friends hear about the organization in a relaxed, social setting.

Another easy way for board members to open doors to their friends is with a storytelling tour. You can follow our recommended tour format here, for a powerful experience for visitors. 

Leading with an invitation helps your board members introduce their friends to your organization in a natural and non-threatening way.

6. Does your board need more training in fundraising?

When your board members are clear and confident in their role in fundraising, the enthusiasm follows. I’ve seen it hundreds of times after we finish a fundraising board retreat for a non-profit organization. The board members can’t wait to get started! 

They won’t just give you names; they will reach out to those friends themselves to tell them about your organization.

BOTTOM LINE: Be thoughtful and strategic when you ask your board members for names of their friends.

Remember, each board member is an individual. The whole team will shine when you tap into each person’s gifts and support them in their growth.

Do you need assistance getting your board members trained and motivated to help with your fundraising campaign? We have designed The Fired Up Fundraising Board Workshop, especially for that purpose. If you’d like to know more, reach out for a conversation. We’d love to contribute to your success.

If your organization is planning a capital campaign, we are capital campaign experts.  Email if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.


How to Get Your Board Members To Help Identify Major Gift Prospects

The Important Role of Board Members at a Porch Party Friendmaking Event

Engaging Board Members in Major Gifts Fundraising

If you’re a board member serving an institution or organization, you are probably dealing with many challenging decisions in this time of crisis.

This is a difficult time for everyone and board decision-making is not easy. Your organization may be facing serious financial issues.  Or, the pandemic may require shutting down parts of your work. Even more, your hardworking staff may need to reinvent your programming and services. 

With everything now upended, many boards face decisions that involve major restructuring of programs and initiatives.  In these times, boards are creating new strategies and policies that can have major long term impact. 

How is your board approaching decision-making in times of crisis?

We’re currently seeing some boards step up to the plate and make bold strategic moves. Because of wise decisions now, they are setting their institutions up for a successful post-pandemic future. 

Other boards are taking a slash and burn approach – cutting staff, programming and revenue streams in an effort to save the organization. Other, less bold boards are simply withdrawing from their roles, leaving their organizations adrift.

Here are three ways that brave, committed board members can approach the current crisis:

1. Step up to the plate and deal with the difficult decisions.

Board members, your time is now! Of all times, this is the time to pay deep attention. When there is a crisis, it’s urgent that the board step up and face the issues frankly.

Renew your personal commitment to your organization to support its mission, no matter what effort it takes. Educate yourself thoroughly on what’s happening.  Explore options. Look at the deeper issues thoughtfully. 

This is absolutely not a time to step aside. Bring the best of yourself to your work and your role. Thoughtful decisions take time. So, put in the time you need to ponder the implications of these difficult decisions.  

2. Commit yourself to the long-range overall health of your organization. 

Make sure that you keep the bigger picture in mind. Once the current crisis passes, then how will your organization fare? Will your nonprofit be in a position to move forward vigorously? 

Or will it be crippled with a lack of trained staff or decreased fundraising revenue? If board decision-making considers only the short term and not your long term positioning, then your organization may not make it on the other side.

3. Consider your organization’s long-term financial health.

Above all, don’t cut your fundraising program. And, don’t layoff your fundraising team. Remember the revenue relationship:  your fundraisers are responsible for a significant part of your revenue stream. 

If you cut back fundraising right now, you are cutting off major sources of current cash flow. 

And think outside the box, the pandemic has really provided some unique opportunities for fundraising!

Cutting fundraising programs right now will irrevocably hamper long-term cash flow. This is because you will lose vitally important donor relationships that you have already invested so much in. 

When your donors are no longer hearing from you or their regular fundraising staffer, they will gradually drift away to other organizations, ones who are fundraising. 

What will be the result?  Your organization will be poorly positioned to grow and flourish when times move forward.  You may have even more severe financial challenges, because your revenue streams have been irrevocably damaged.

It may be wise to consider pulling reserves out of your endowment to cover short-term cash flow issues, rather than cutting so severely that your organization is crippled when the pandemic is over. 

Bottom Line: The key decisions you make now will have long-term impact.

Adapting to this changing environment is not easy. But there are many resources out there, such as blog posts and trainings, that will help your board, and your organization, understand how to quickly pivot fundraising strategies in order to keep operating. Use these resources, and dig deep. Now is the time to move forward boldly and make key decisions.

Make these decisions carefully, considering all options – and keep the endgame in mind. 


As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you.  We hope you will continue to capitalize on our years of experience by joining us Wednesdays at noon ET on Facebook Live and following us on social media. 

Planning a capital campaign? If you would like to learn about our unique Capital Campaigns by the Numbers approach, let us know. You can also join our INSIDERS community for more fundraising training and content. We would love to have you! 

Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Gail Perry's interview on capital campaigns.

Is your organization looking to raise more money this year? Do you want to learn the steps to meet your fundraising goals? If so, then you are in luck.

Amy Eisenstein from Tri Point Fundraising and I recently spoke about the key steps in preparing for a successful capital campaign. You can find our introduction to the basics of capital campaign fundraising in the video below.

To discover the true secrets of capital campaign success please visit Capital Campaign Magic, a joint project between Andrea Kihlstedt and I where you will receive newsletters, webinars, and coaching that provide the building blocks to your success.

In the video interview you will learn:

  • Whether an organization is ready to start a capital campaign
  • The value of feasibility studies and how to get around them
  • 3 objectives to keep in mind when meeting major donors
  • How to develop and rate your prospect list
  • How to get your board to open the door to prospects


Bottom Line:

If you are just getting started, never fear! Start with these steps:

  • Go for your goal with great vigor
  • Have a clear, feasible and compelling vision that is supported by your board and community
  • Use a donor pyramid to run the numbers
  • Have your first 5 to 10 donors be top level gifts to get you half way to your goal

Two questions to ask yourself and your organization’s leaders before beginning a capital campaign:

  1. Can we raise this money?
  2. Where do we think it may come from? (Know your top donors.)


Wouldn’t you love to enlist the right team of people who can catapult your organization to a whole new level?

The Holy Grail: Dream Team Board Member

Yes, that’s the Holy Grail for lots of nonprofits. Getting the boards we need and deserve. Getting the leadership, the skill sets, and the connections.

Then, we just might be able to change the world.

How do you do it?

Creating a great board may seem like an impossible dream. But it’s not.

If you decide that you want to have a high performing board, one that has talented, effective and passionate members who work smoothly together, guess what:  it is entirely possible.

We all know it is not an easy job.

Who is on the board matters of course, as well as how all the members work together.  Lots of the time, it all starts with recruitment: How they are recruited can set up high expectations or lead to failure.

How we enlist our boards has everything to do with their ultimate success, not only in fundraising but in the leadership they offer our organization as well.

Your approach makes all the difference!

The approach you use to enlist new board members can set up your board to be a dynamic team that tackles its charge with energy, responsibility, and heart—or not.

A high-quality, formal, organized enlistment and orientation process will set you apart from other organizations and will ready you and your organization to win.

I’ve created a free workbook: Enlist Your Dream Team Board! to guide you through a step-by-step process to determine what kind of board members you need and give you the right kind of process for recruiting them. If you click on the link, you can download the pdf of the workbook.

I’m giving you charts and checklists for identifying the attributes you want in new board members you seek so they’ll compliment your current board.

Most importantly, I’m showing you how to set expectations properly with a sample Board Member Job Description and Board Member Information Form. And how to discuss these expectations with your board member candidates.

Here’s the link again for the workbook: Enlist Your Dream Team Board!

Use this tool to help your Nominating Committee get organized, productive, and help them enlist the best possible leaders to join your board team.

Let me know what you think – I’d love to hear your comments!

Download the workbook

10 basic responsibilities of nonprofit board members responsibilities | Gail Perry GroupThere’s so much confusion about the appropriate job of a nonprofit board member.

Lots of boards ask me to help them understand what their work really is.  I often refer to a list that BoardSource created a few years ago that has become a reference in our sector.

Here’s the list.  I’ll be discussing these responsibilities in my upcoming blog posts. There’s lots to talk about here! What do they really mean? How do you implement them?

10 Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards Members From BoardSource

  1. Determine the organization’s mission and purpose. It is the board’s responsibility to create and review a statement of mission and purpose that articulates the organization’s goals, means, and primary constituents served.
  2. Select the chief executive. Boards must reach consensus on the chief executive’s responsibilities and undertake a careful search to find the most qualified individual for the position.
  3. Provide proper financial oversight. The board must assist in developing the annual budget and ensuring that proper financial controls are in place.
  4. Ensure adequate resources. One of the board’s foremost responsibilities is to provide adequate resources for the organization to fulfill its mission.
  5. Ensure legal and ethical integrity and maintain accountability. The board is ultimately responsible for ensuring adherence to legal standards and ethical norms.
  6. Ensure effective organizational planning. Boards must actively participate in an overall planning process and assist in implementing and monitoring the plan’s goals.
  7. Recruit and orient new board members and assess board performance. All boards have a responsibility to articulate prerequisites for candidates, orient new members, and periodically and comprehensively evaluate its own performance.
  8. Enhance the organization’s public standing. The board should clearly articulate the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and goals to the public and garner support from the community.
  9. Determine, monitor, and strengthen the organization’s programs and services. The board’s responsibility is to determine which programs are consistent with the organization’s mission and to monitor their effectiveness.
  10. Support the chief executive and assess his or her performance. The board should ensure that the chief executive has the moral and professional support he or she needs to further the goals of the organization.

Used with permission from Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, Second Edition by Richard T. Ingram, a publication of BoardSource. For more information about BoardSource, call 800-883-6262 or visit BoardSource © 2008. Content may not be reproduced or used for any purpose other than that which is specifically requested without written permission from BoardSource.