There’s no shortage of board engagement advice and “best practices” out there. Sometimes it can seem like you’re the only person with a board who just won’t fundraise.
If you’re prepared to let go of your baggage and your envy of other people’s boards, read on! Some may seem counter-intuitive, but all of these tips work.
1. Let go of any written or unwritten rules you may have about the “right” way for board members to participate in fundraising.
2. Above all, let go of the notion that all board members must ask others for money.
3. Accept the 20-60-20 rule when it comes to fundraising and your board. That is, 20% of the board will enjoy being involved in fundraising, 60% will be neutral about it and the remaining 20% will want nothing to do with it.
4. Stop thinking that every other nonprofit organization’s board members do more fundraising than your board members do. It’s irrelevant (and highly improbable).
5. Recognize that your board members are volunteers who are giving you the gifts of their time and attention. In today’s world, those gifts are more precious than money. They are not paid staff, and, in most cases, do not wish to become paid staff.
6. Know that your board members are looking to you to steer the fundraising process and to make requests of them as needed. Do not assume that anyone on your board wakes up each morning worrying about the fundraising needs of your organization.
7. Treat each board member with the care and respect that you would give each major donor or potential major donor. If over time you consistently shower them with that level of personal attention and respect, they will naturally become significant donors.
8. Thank your board members sincerely and promptly for every little thing they do. A quick email, voicemail, or text tells them that what they did mattered to you. Whether they have served on your board for ten months or ten years, make certain they know you do not take them for granted.
9. Meet with each board member individually once a year to be sure you understand what most interests them about your organization. Find out why they got involved on your board in the first place and what keeps them involved. When interacting with each board member, keep these interests and self-interests foremost in your mind. Let go of any expectations or illusions that these will ever change. Do your very best to fulfill their interests first, not yours.
10. Make a list of easy and meaningful things your board members can do to advance your organization’s individual giving program and be ready to talk about any items on the list with your board members.
So stop pulling your hair out and put these tips into practice right away!
Terry Axelrod, founder and CEO of Benevon, has more than 30 years’ experience in the nonprofit field. She created the Benevon Model after serving as the first development director at a private inner-city school, where she designed and implemented the fundraising programs that yielded $7.2 million in two years and a significant endowment. Over the past 20 years, Benevon has trained more than 5,000 nonprofit teams to customize this systematic process for building sustainable funding.