A fairly common concern among nonprofit directors is that their board members won’t participate in fundraising efforts. Some board members may claim they weren’t told they were expected to ask for contributions when they joined the board. Others might say they don’t like to impose on their friends (or they want to avoid their friends coming back to them asking for money for their favorite charity). And still others promise they will help but never follow through.
Before you give up on your board, leaving you and your staff to take on a greater share of the fundraising efforts or to resort to having a series of fundraising events, there are a few things you might want to consider.
Is it possible that your board members don’t really know how important fundraising is to the organization? While you may tell them how vital it is over and over again, actions often speak louder than words. For example, how often is fundraising a major part of the board’s meeting agenda? Does it get as much (or more) time and attention than other topics like building maintenance, staffing concerns, budgeting, etc.? Or is it only talked about during the “annual campaign” or at year end and is relegated to the last or nearly last item on the agenda?
And when fundraising is a part of the board’s agenda, is it just for a progress report or are there discussions about how charitable contributions make a real impact on your community? For example, I attended a meeting a few years ago where the board members were challenged to seek out an impact story that demonstrated the impact contributed dollars made possible and share it with the rest of the board at the next meeting.
What is your rallying cry? Do you ask the board to help raise money so you can achieve your fundraising goal in order to stay within the approved budget? Or do you talk about how contributions make it possible for the organization to transform lives?
For example, how many teens are on the waiting list for your job-training program? Without the skills and competencies they would learn in the program, those teens may not get a summer job. Instead they might be hanging out at home without adult supervision getting into trouble rather than being challenged to take on responsibilities and earning their own money. “Put a face to the case” by asking one of the teens on the waiting list to say a few words during a board meeting about how much it would mean to them to be able to participate. The opportunity to make a significant difference in a teen’s life is more than likely to be much more inspiring than raising money just to meet a dollar goal.
Assume that board members aren’t just reluctant to help with fundraising; they probably also don’t know how or what to do. So whenever you ask the board to participate in fundraising, make sure you also provide them with the training, knowledge and practice they may need to be successful.
Some board members may rise to the occasion once they participate in some training experiences. Others may need to take smaller steps such as accompanying a more experienced board member to visit with a donor or introducing you to one of their colleagues who has a special interest in your organization’s mission.
When you help your board members realize that fundraising is more about “friend-raising” than it is about asking for money, they may find it much more enjoyable and fulfilling.