One of the most constant refrains I hear from non-profit fundraisers is that they wish their boards would be more helpful when it comes to fundraising. They lament that their board members don’t want to make calls or ask for money, even though they have strong networks.
On the other hand, board members often tell me they feel hounded by development directors and other fundraisers. They feel as if the organization’s fundraising staff wants them to go out and berate their friends and colleagues to write checks to the organization, and twist their arms into coming to events, galas, and silent auctions.
Many times, the board / development director relationship builds into a game of cat and mouse, with board members ducking the fundraising team’s requests, and the fundraising team trying to “catch” board members to ask them to perform a specific development task. Other times, the development director or executive director issues an ultimatum, such as “we need each board member to raise $3,000 for our gala ball in October.” Both scenarios breed resentment and missed fundraising opportunities.
Thankfully, there is a better way… one that honors your board members’ commitment to your organization, preserves their relationships, and make them want to be involved with fundraising and development. This “better way” is to gently introduce your board members to fundraising by giving them ways to help you raise money that don’t involve making asks or hounding their friends for checks. In this article, we’re going to take a look at 5 different ways that your board members can significantly help your fundraising efforts without ever making an ask.
Note: Board Members Must Be Involved in Development
Before we launch into the 5 ways your board can be helpful, it is important to note that all of your board members – every single one – should be involved with fundraising in one way or another. Fundraising is at the heart of what your non-profit does… without raising money, you wouldn’t be able to carry out your missions or programs. Your non-profit does good work, and needs money to continue.
Your board serves as the leadership of your organization. If your non-profit relies on fundraising to allow you to carry out your work, then your board should be leading your development efforts. Your board members need to take their fundraising leadership role seriously, because your success depend on it. Every board member should be donating to your organization, as well as helping with development.
This doesn’t mean that they need to take over the work of the professional development staff, however. Your fundraising staff is likely far better equipped to do things like make asks, set up events, and write grants. But your board still needs to be intimately involved in development. Here are five different ways that your board members can help with fundraising without making asks:
1) Host a Non-Ask Event
One of the best ways your board members can help your non-profit with fundraising is by expanding your prospect universe. The more people your team comes into contact with, the more prospects you will have for future fundraising programs. My favorite way to allow board members to introduce you to their network in a non-threatening way is by asking them to host (or co-host) a non-ask event.
As its name implies, a non-ask event is an event where there are no fundraising asks. These events are an opportunity for people to hear about your work, meet your team, and get a feel for your big-picture vision.
Ask your board members to hold small events in their homes or offices, or to team-up to hold events at local restaurants or at your facility. Be sure to collect the contact information for everyone who attends, and follow up with each attendee at a later date to continue building the relationship and see if the person would be a good prospect for fundraising further down the line.
2) Make Thank You Calls to Donors
Board members can provide a significant boost to your fundraising efforts by making thank you calls to donors. Many donors love to get calls from board members thanking them for their financial support… this is particularly true for mid-level donors who don’t usually have access to the board members of the organizations they support.
Likewise, your board members will enjoy the chance to make “easy” calls and speak with real, live donors without having to make asks.
3) Go Out and Ask for Advice
In my experience, one of the easiest ways to build interest in your non-profit is to get prospects to start providing advice to your organization. Even if you don’t act on the advice, once someone starts to invest their time and knowledge in you, they will often want to invest their money in your non-profit as well.
Several organizations I have worked with ask their board members to go out for “advice meetings” on a regular basis. These are meetings with people in the board members’ current network, or with people who have come across the organization’s radar screen in one way or another, and who have specific knowledge that may be beneficial to the non-profit.
For example, you could ask a board member to meet with the president of a local advertising agency to get some advice on how to market your non-profit, or to meet with the head of a young professionals group in your town to get advice on how to reach more young business people for your volunteer program. Your board members’ goal for these meetings is to start building a relationship that can be turned into a fundraising opportunity later down the line.
4) Be an Ambassador
Each of your board members should be an ambassador for your organization. This means that every board member should constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to introduce your non-profit to people who might be interested. This includes the board members’ family, friends, colleagues, classmates, business partners, neighbors, clients, vendors, and other connections.
Members of your board can invite you to make presentations or attend various networking opportunities such as chamber of commerce meetings, Rotary events, etc.
Be sure that your board members have all of the tools they need to successfully serve as ambassadors on your behalf. This includes brochures, conversation scripts, and intimate knowledge of your organization’s current case for support.
5) Make Sure the Development Program is Fully Resourced
One oft-overlooked way that board members can assist with fundraising efforts is by making sure that the non-profit’s development program has all of the resources it needs to be successful. This includes time, money, and manpower.
Recent studies have shown that one of the biggest problems facing non-profits is that they have too few development team members (many of whom are overworked and underpaid). When it comes to budgeting for development, I have seen hundreds of non-profits that are so worried about “overhead” that they try to raise money while spending almost nothing to do so. This creates an untenable position for the organization, where they are never able to raise the amount they need to thrive and have constant turnover, both on the fundraising staff as well as on the board.
Non-profit board members can provide a significant boost to their organization’s fundraising efforts by becoming advocates for the development program. Board members can champion fundraising and ensure that the development team has the people, time, and budget to carry out the fundraising plan and raise the money the organization needs to carry out its mission.
Not every board member is intimidated by asks. Some board members may be good at asking for money and enjoy reaching out to people to ask them to financially support the organization. Whether or not you have board members who enjoy fundraising, every board member can and should be aiding your development program by doing one or more of the things listed above to make sure you can raise the money you need to thrive.
As part of Bloomerang’s Content Donation Program, $100 was donated to the Wolf Performing Arts Center.