Nonprofit Board Fundraising – 3 Easy Steps to Engage Your Board

Engaging your Board of Directors in fundraising is a nearly universal challenge faced by fundraising staff. Plenty of articles suggest what board members should be doing when it comes to fundraising. (Here’s a good one from The Giving Institute.) 

But how do you get these important volunteers to actually do this stuff? The key is to start with the basics and build from there. Here are 3 simple steps you can take today to help your board become more engaged fundraisers.

1.  Teach them what to say.

It’s not enough simply to tell your board to go out into the community and advocate for your organization. They need talking points! Your board is not writing and talking about your mission everyday the way you are—they need the words. 

Start by giving them a short (2-4 sentence) blurb about your organization’s mission and work. Then, at a board meeting have them practice saying these sentences in their own words (board members can role play with each other). 

Another easy way to get them comfortable talking about your organization is to have them answer the question, “How did you first get involved with our nonprofit?” This question teases out a unique and personal story from each board member. Their passion for the work of your organization will come through in the telling, and (ideally) will help to engage others.

2.  Give them easy “assignments.”

Board members who are nervous about fundraising are likely picturing themselves asking a friend for a large sum of money for your organization. YOU know that only 10% of fundraising is the actual ‘ask’ for money, but they don’t.

Help engage your board in the other 90% of fundraising work by giving them meaningful, rewarding, and easy (!) assignments. For example, ask your board members to make thank you calls. And be sure to give them a script so they know exactly what to say.

Another idea is to ask board members to connect with donors or prospects at your next event. This is a dual-benefit assignment: 1) your board members will be purposeful and engaged, and 2) your donors and prospects will likely feel honored that a member of your board made the effort to talk with them. As a bonus, YOU won’t feel as frazzled trying to connect with every single donor at the event!

Note:  When assigning thank you calls, start with 1-2 calls at most. Your board will be more likely to engage in the task if they don’t have a long list to complete. Ditto for connecting with donors at an event: 1-2 max donors per board member per event.  

3.  Recognize everything they do that’s good.

We all feel good when we are recognized for a job well done. Many of us are likely to continue the behavior that elicited the positive response. Leadership guru Kevin Eikenberry cites data showing that positive reinforcement improves performance

Recognize your board members for the fundraising tasks they are currently doing and they’ll feel encouraged to do even more! One development director with whom I recently worked recognized her board members with ‘Kudos’ at every board meeting. All efforts were acknowledged, e.g., bringing a friend on a tour of the facility, buying tickets or a table to an event, making thank you calls, etc.

What “assignments” work well with your Board of Directors? What doesn’t work well?

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