You Asked—Fundraising Questions Answered, Part Three
How can we get our board more active in introducing our nonprofit to their circle of influence? Most importantly, don't invite someone to be on your board without laying out your expectations. Potential board members need to know what the job description is and should feel free to turn the appointment down if they don't want to fulfill the expectations. The Bridgespan Group offers a great resource to help you get started writing the job descriptions if needed. If it's too late and you already have a board that has no expectations that they need to assist in fundraising, try to find one advocate on the board who can serve as an example and encourage others on the board. Look for less threatening ways for a board member to be involved, such as hosting a small dinner party where you make a presentation, or inviting contacts to fill out a foursome for a golf event. Start small and let them discover for themselves that introducing their contacts to your organization is a good thing—for your organization and for them. If all else fails, hope your bylaws have term limits so you can bring on new board members who know the fundraising expectations upfront.
How can we deepen the engagement of current donors? Make sure you are regularly communicating with a mix of progress reports (like newsletters) and fundraising appeals. Don't always be asking; you're building a relationship and that requires more effort. Look for ways to make your asks tangible. A donation of $50 to the general fund will likely be less attractive than that same donation to provide something more tangible. Yes, you are going to have to make a good case for designated (even loosely) contributions to your accounting team, but it's a battle worth fighting—engagement grows when a person knows exactly what he or she is making possible. Look at your data: Are there points where donors are more likely to walk away —and if so, what can you do to prevent that? For example, if people tend to give for two years and then lapse, start acknowledging their giving anniversary and reaffirm how much of a difference they have made with their support. Call just to say thank you. Send a hand-signed holiday card. Don't just say, "Go to our website to see/learn about _____." Instead, be proactive about bringing the information to them. Yes, everything is probably online, but you're leaving a lot to chance if your entire strategy is that the donor will seek it out.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.