Five Strategies to Help Spark Board Fundraising
Mobilizing board members to fundraise often requires a jump start. In her book, “The Best of the Board Cafe: Hands-on Solutions for Nonprofit Boards,” Jan Masaoka offers actionable tips that provide the spark necessary to enhance board involvement.
Masaoka is the former executive director of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, a nonprofit consulting and training firm, and is editor of the Board Cafe, an online newsletter that offers ideas, information, news and other resources to help board members maximize their service.
The book is a compilation of some of the most popular articles from the Board Cafe e-newsletter. It includes page after page of useful information on various topics, including urban legends about nonprofit organizations; the board structure and the relationship between the board and the executive director; board self-management; new-members recruitment; productive board meetings; and fundraising.
Everyone on the board should be raising funds, but it can be hard to know how to begin to get all board members doing it. One installation in the chapter on fundraising describes “Five Ways One Board Member Can Raise $100 to $5,000.” Masaoka offers these five tips for board members looking to get the fundraising ball rolling:
1. Make a personal contribution. “Write a short, handwritten note to the board president to explain why you are making the contribution, and give the check and note to him or her at the end of a board meeting,” Masaoka writes.
2. Collaborate with another board member to hold a dessert party at your residence. Plan the party for a weeknight (7 p.m.) and invite 10 friends and relatives each, letting them know in the invitation that they will learn about the organization and be asked to make a contribution, along with enjoying dessert. Call everyone the day before the party and urge them to attend. Also invite three or four other board members so that they can learn how to hold a dessert party. Serve finger desserts at the party, and make cupcakes but don’t serve them.
“At the party, have one client speak for three minutes about what the organization has meant in his or her life. Then have one staff person speak for another three minutes,” Masaoka writes. “Next explain to the group why you’re on the board, and why you think the organization is important.”
Ask party-goers if they have any questions you can answer and urge them to make a contribution before leaving the party. “Tell them that you’ll give them two cupcakes to take home if they make a contribution before they leave (that gives them a ‘reason’ to write the check that evening),” she adds.
3. Write a letter and send it to 10 friends and relatives. Explain why you volunteer your time to serve on the board and ask them to consider making a donation to the organization. Be sure to include the organization’s name and address. Give the list of the names of the people you mail to the organization’s development staff and ask them to notify you immediately if any of them donate.
4. Volunteer to match contributions from other board members. “Tell the board that you will match, dollar for dollar, every contribution from a board member within the next 30 days, to a total of $2,000,” Masaoka writes. But tell them you’ll only do it if every board member makes a contribution.
5. Partner with two or three other people on the board and pledge sizeable gifts. Write a letter to all board members that announces this, listing your names, the pledge amounts and the reasons for the pledges, and ask fellow board members to join you in making a donation.
“After a few of these steps are taken and a few months go by,” Masaoka writes, “fundraising will be less mysterious and more familiar to board members, and the board may be open to agreeing on standards of board participation.”
Some quick tips Masaoka recommends for board members who run into donors at a reception, holiday party or out in the community are:
1. Thank the donor for her support of the organization.
2. Introduce yourself, letting her know that you’re a member of the organization’s board and add a few words about why you think the cause is so important.
3. Ask why she gives.
4. Ask for advice -- is there something she wishes would change at the organization?
“The Best of the Board Cafe: Hands-on Solutions for Nonprofit Boards” by Jan Masaoka. CompassPoint -- Fieldstone Alliance, 2003. $34.95. www.fieldstonealliance.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=2