An organization I’m working with is looking to launch a major gifts program. The Executive Director shared that the organization’s board did very little fundraising, which was a point of frustration and concern for the E.D.
But when I met the board, I found that they are smart people, they paid attention, and they asked good questions. Many had just attended the annual gala, sponsored tables, etc. One of them had brought a friend to the gala who spent $23,000 on auction items.
I was confused.
In my next conversation with the E.D., I asked about his fundraising expectations for the board. Turns out they were not aligned with reality.
Much of the ED’s frustration stemmed from the fact that he did not understand why the Board wasn’t raising any money. Shouldn’t they be showing up at board meetings with checks from their friends? And why weren’t individual board members giving more money themselves?
If any of this sounds familiar, here are 4 unrealistic expectations around board fundraising and how you can use the truths behind them to help move forward your fundraising program:
1. All board members will be involved in fundraising.
Data from the field suggests that in reality, only about 1/3 (or less) of an organization’s board members are significantly involved in fundraising.
But that’s ok, because know this: if that small group demonstrates success, its ranks will grow. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team. And in the meantime, it will be easier for you to work with the few who are willing rather than trying to drag everyone over the line!
2. All board members will give regular donations.
Like every other donor, board members need to be ASKED for a contribution. Very few will write a donation check without any prompting. Not because they don’t want to support the organization, it’s just not top of mind for them.
If it was made clear when they joined the board that annual donations from board members are expected, you’ve laid good groundwork for an Ask. So don’t be shy—either you or your board chair should be sure to ask each board member for a contribution.
And doing so individually—rather than asking the whole group as part of a board meeting agenda—will be most effective.
3. Give them an “elevator pitch” and they’ll be good to go.
Memorizing a bunch of talking points about your organization will not turn your board into a fundraising powerhouse. Start by getting them comfortable talking about your organization. You’ll want them to learn how to listen to donors, and to share their own stories.
One of the best ways to do this is to bring your board together for an empowerment workshop. Not only will they get more comfortable talking about the impact of your nonprofit in our world, it’s also a great opportunity for higher engagement and team building among board members.
4. Board members will demonstrate the same level of accountability as staff.
Individuals join your board for different reasons—for fun, to help out a friend, to expand their network, to give back, or because their company told them to. Their pace of work, accountability, and levels of communication will all differ from your staff culture.
Remember: Your board members are volunteers.
So, calibrate your expectations to reality and make space in your heart and mind for your board to make progress in both expected and unexpected ways! And, of course, you want to equip your board with tools to help them help you and your organization.
What is your experience with board members and fundraising? Does 100% of your board help with fundraising and/or make regular donations to your organization? Please share your thoughts or experience in the Comments box below!
Special gift for you: Conquer Your Fear of Asking for Money, a step-by-step guide, is available here (click).