7 Rules for Successfully Soliciting Your Board
Getting the financial support of your board doesn't really need to be such a huge challenge. If you just take charge behind the scenes, you can really make it happen. And it just might be easier than you think.
It's our own fault when board members do not give 100 percent. The real issue is that we often don't set up their solicitations in the right way.
Here's how to make the process simple and successful:
1. Show why board members need to give generously
The importance of board member participation in giving is rarely explained properly to members. Instead, the issue of their giving is apologized for, sneaked up on or swept under the rug. Most board members know that their cash contributions lend vital credibility to your fundraising efforts. They know they are supposed to give. Their heads are not in the sand.
2. Be totally clear about expectations
Be sure the board members themselves agree on the expectations. Make sure that the commitment to give is written in plain English, in black and white, for everyone to see. Do not stop there, however. You and your board leaders must also talk out loud about it, and often.
3. Set up the ask correctly. Get board members to solicit other board members
Never get in the situation of asking your board members yourself. It is 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. Let the board members be in charge of this! (But you run things behind the scenes.)
4. Give the subject of board donations lots of visibility
Report regularly on the status of board gifts. Put pledge cards and return envelopes in every board member's packet. They are great reminders. Try setting a deadline for all board gifts to be completed: "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.
5. Take charge of the process yourself
Staff has to direct the entire effort like a quarterback behind the scenes. You must take charge. Don't just leave it to chance. But just direct everything quietly — with the board chair or the development committee chair as the front person. Your role is to write the letters, give the board chair talking points, be sure it's on the agenda repeatedly, promote the conversation, publish frequent reports on board gifts to date, and thank the board members early and often for their generosity.
6. Give the members lots of credit and acknowledgment
Remember the power of positive reinforcement. Reward the behaviors you want to develop, and those behaviors will show up more often. Giving ample thanks makes them all feel great and successful. Create an environment of abundance, rather than scarcity, in your handling of board contributions. Creating the feeling will help make the reality happen.
7. Tie the board's gifts directly to your program results
Let the board members know what they are accomplishing through their gifts, just as you do with all donors. Give them meaningful information on the results they have created. If you can get them enthusiastic about what they are actively accomplishing through their work and their personal gifts, you will have lots more money coming from them.
You can take charge behind the scenes and successfully get your board members to give. But it will never happen if you are passive about it!