What’s the best way to keep your board active and engaged in the fundraising process? Make them a part of it, every single month.
The only way for board members, or anyone for that matter, to get good at fundraising is to think about it frequently and to do it frequently. This is achieved by the development director consistently being in front of board members and being empowered to ask them to fundraise. This is not typical at most charities. Most charities might ask board members to do a fundraising task seasonally: hosting a gala table in the spring, writing personal notes on year end appeal letters and making thank you calls in the new year. This arrangement puts fundraising on the backburner and makes it an afterthought. The board knows that they are expected to fundraising since you put fundraising expectations in your board job description, but now you need to show them how to do it … monthly.
The monthly task need not be onerous, but it should be something that moves the development process forward and gets them to think about it and take action each month. You’re essentially building a fundraising habit in each of them — wouldn’t it be nice if fundraising was a habit and it just happened? I’ve found that if you do this long enough that does start to happen — they call you with ideas, prospects, insight, etc. At the same time, consistent monthly involvement in the fundraising process actually helps to cultivate the board member, keeps them connected to the organization and inspires them to increase their giving.
Now that we’ve seen the benefits, let’s go over a few steps to put this in place …
1) Compile a list of ways the board can assist with fundraising. Here’s a sample list of requests that I have made over the years:
- Make their personal donation to the cause (should be your first request of each new fiscal year);
- Serve on the host committee for a special event (recruit # attendees);
- Schedule a lunch with a new prospect for the charity;
- Acquire 3 silent auction items (give them a list of suggested items);
- Sign & personalize appeal letters to donors that they know (and you don’t);
- Make follow up contacts to lapsed donors;
- Invite 3 prospects to an acquisition event;
- Make donor thank you calls (be sure to provide training & a script).
2) Find a way to make a monthly request and incorporate it into your system. This will automate the habit of you asking them, and therefore automate the habit of them asking others. It could be as part of a regular monthly email update, at a meeting or via personal phone calls.
3) Once you’ve asked them to do something you need to follow up. Most board members will make an initial effort to do what you ask, but they won’t finish unless you follow up. They are busy people and life happens. I like to give 10 business days and then reach out to see how things are going and I find email to be the best contact option here.
So give it a whirl and see what happens. Ask your board members to fundraise monthly and watch it kick your development efforts up a notch.
If you’d like more help motivating your board to fundraise, please check out my board training workshop, “Fundraising Isn’t So Scary After All.”