Tough Love for Nonprofit Board Member Fundraising
Engaging nonprofit board members in fundraising is one of the most persistent challenges that organizational leaders face. Sure, we can hire and train better staff members, find contractors to produce beautiful promotional materials and design the most impactful programming possible; but without a board that is actively helping lead the development charge, there is unrealized potential.
How do you keep those volunteer board members from sinking down in their seats when you start to talk about fundraising? Even the most dedicated and enthusiastic board members might start to shut down when they start envisioning awkward conversations with friends about donating. It is time for a little board fundraising training (with a soft touch) to kickstart results.
Educate Board Members
First of all, educate your board members on the cycle of philanthropy. Just about everyone at a nonprofit can name five methods of asking for a donation, but can your board members identify the rest of the steps needed before and after an ask?
If you don’t have a skill and background matrix of your board members from their induction, ask members to assess their own networks, professional and interpersonal skills, and so on, until everyone can identify a few areas of the cycle of philanthropy they can excel at.
Every single member of the board has the ability to do some portion of the donor cycle: identify potential donors, make introductions, grow relationships, thank donors and provide meaningful updates. It’s a great way to ease hesitant board members into fundraising by inviting them to do the portions they enjoy the most. That might mean making phone calls thanking donors for recent gifts, or giving tours of programming to new potential supporters. These are comfortable and important jobs for board members to take on.
However, be sure that there is an expectation and a goal for learning and growth. Perhaps have board members commit to strengthening an area of the cycle where they feel less comfortable. This is the ultimate opportunity for a board mentoring situation, even among peers. By simply riding along with a board member who is doing a solicitation, a more “ask-averse” board member can learn how to approach these conversations and feel more comfortable with them over time. Conversely, even the most confident board members can learn a lot about building relationships from board members who excel at empathizing with new supporters.
Board member fundraising is sometimes a tricky activity to get everyone involved in, but it is crucial to your nonprofit’s long-term stability. With some thoughtfulness and tough love, you can help everyone on the board expand his or her skill set and strengthen development in a major way.
Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Ind.
Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning and everything else that goes into running a board of directors.