If there’s a universal challenge for development staff, it’s how to get your board to engage in fundraising of any kind, much less major gift fundraising. Here are three suggestions that can help.
1. Make it easy
It’s important to remember that your board members are VOLUNTEERS, i.e. they are not getting paid for this work! Yes, they are passionate about your mission and they probably really want to help, but they are juggling their own jobs, families and other responsibilities.
Your job as a development staff person is to help your volunteers to be successful. And part of helping them to be successful is providing the support that makes their volunteer experience easier. This doesn’t mean you want or need to do everything for them, but you should provide some tools.
For example, if a board member has agreed to email a prospect with information about your program, you might provide an email template containing language about your organization’s work and mission, and the prospect’s email address. This type of help can be a big time-saver for your board member – and you’re boosting the likelihood their task will get done.
2. Make it manageable
Ever show up at a board meeting with a list of 200 prospects/donors for your board to review and recommend tailored cultivation strategy for each name on the list? That’s a sure way to make your board members’ eyes glaze over!
Rather than bringing a giant list of names that you’d never be able get through in one meeting (or even ten!), try bringing a list of 5 names and agree to spend no more than 2-3 minutes per name.
Providing a manageable task is a win-win. Your board members get to feel a sense of accomplishment, and you’ve received valuable help on strategizing major donor touch-points for 5 donors. Next meeting, you can bring 5 more names.
By making it manageable, it’s more enjoyable for your board, and ultimately more helpful for you. They may even begin to look forward to this process with enthusiasm rather than dread!
3. Recognize success
Making fundraising tasks both ‘easy’ and ‘manageable’ helps to facilitate success for your volunteers. And when people feel successful, they’re more likely to stay engaged.
Even better, for many, is when other people know they are successful!
So, be sure to recognize the success of your board members. It doesn’t need to be a parade down Main Street or a fireworks display on their birthday – something simple will do.
For example, one nonprofit I know shares “kudos” at every board meeting. The board chair or development director simply recognizes the good work of each volunteer during the previous month such as, “John sold five gala tickets” or “Sally brought 2 friends to visit the program last week.”
One final tip: Don’t drive yourself crazy by expecting volunteers to be like staff. Appreciate your board for all that they bring and do, large or small.
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What suggestions do you have for engaging your board? Please share in the Comments box below!