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My Tips on Mobilizing the Board for Fundraising

Boards

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

“I want to join your board of directors, but I don’t want to ask for money.” How many times have you heard that!? This month’s post – and podcast – helps you figure out what to do to combat that statement.

Boards come in all shapes and sizes. Some help out more with daily work because there are fewer staff, some are more strategic thinkers. Sizes range from 5-25, or even more.

No matter what, the board of directors of a nonprofit is responsible for making sure the organization is being fiscally responsible. This means making sure the nonprofit is spending money the right way, but it also means raising enough money to keep going.

But what do you do if your board doesn’t want to “ask for money?” We’ll talk through some ways that you can mobilize your board for fundraising without them outright asking for money.

How they can play a role in each part of the donor cycle

Fundraising isn’t just about asking for money. Donors go through a cycle, and board members can have a part of interacting with them at any part during that cycle.

  • Identify: Do your board members have friends, family, colleagues who might be interested in supporting the cause? Or, even people who are committed to supporting them as an individual. Or: if board members don’t want to tap into their personal networks, they can help with attending events for organizations like yours, and meeting others who care about what you care about.
  • Research: This is information gathering. Some of this is doing research online, but some of it is also just finding out more information about a donor or prospect – that could mean taking them for coffee or even just asking questions at an event.
  • Cultivate: This looks different depending on what your organization does, but this is the time when board members can often shine. It’s educating donors about the organization and the impact it is making. It’s sharing personal stories about their connection and experience, and connecting the donor or prospect with the organization. This is the friendraising portion of the donor cycle.
  • Solicit: There may be some board members who are comfortable with coming with a staff member on a major donor visit and ask, which is great. If they aren’t, they can write personal notes to go alongside appeal letters through the mail, to have a hand in the solicitation part of the cycle.
  • Steward: Stewardship is a lot of gratitude – saying thank you and showing them the ways their donation has made a difference. Board members can make thank you calls or write notes, and just keep donors informed about the organization’s work.

Systems & reports to help support your board

All of this work is for naught if it’s not being communicated back to the organization’s staff and put into the database. Build systems that are a fit for your board – some are more tech savvy and might want to fill out Google forms about donor communications, and some might want to fill out paper forms. It’s important to listen to what they want and build those – otherwise, they will never get filled out.

There are a variety of forms that can be created. One of the most important forms is a donor contact form, which is completed any time a board member interacts with a donor, and describes the communication on both sides. This is put into the database as a contact note.

Once the information from these forms is put into the database, a report should be created from the database that includes all of the information and is generated on a regular basis for board members.

A few last comments

Remember that your board is meant to help you. If you set up some systems and structures to support them, and show them the variety of ways they can get involved, they can be a force of nature for your organization.

Don’t forget, it’s always good to offer fundraising training to your board. Even if they are familiar with fundraising, there are always new insights to offer, and it can also be a good chance for people to share their wins in fundraising.

The important thing is to provide board members with information and resources they need to do their job – to an extent. Strike a balance between responding to these requests and taking care of other work. Focus on mobilizing the board to the extent that it will help you with your work because at the end of the day, the organization is what you’re all working for.

-N.C.