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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.

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.

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!