An Easy Way to Ease New Board Members Into Fundraising

How often have you heard the lament “none of our board members want to help with fundraising?”

Study after study quickly points out how few board members step up to various fundraising tasks. One such research project – “Underdeveloped” – features a very compelling graphic on board engagement:

underdeveloped-board-member-engagement

Notice that no matter what the size of an organization, the highest level of board engagement is merely 35%. Those under $10 million in size, which is nearly 95% of all nonprofits, average less than 20% in board engagement.

Major gift fundraising success also hinges on board engagement, a point uncovered in a more recent report that Bloomerang was honored to sponsor entitled “Major Gift Fundraising: Unlocking the Potential for Smaller Nonprofits.

An Analogy

We could continue listing research data showing engagement of nonprofit board members in fundraising is a concern, if not an outright problem.

However, the balance of this post will focus on a few simple ways to reverse this dangerous trend.

I doubt if there is a single person who is not an accomplished and seasoned professional golfer who would feel comfortable being placed in the pressure cooker of media attention and intense competition we affectionately call the Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup.

This short video provides a bit more insight into what is at stake:

None of the four teams involved in Ryder Cup or Solheim Cup play would think of bringing a brand new golfer or even a golfer of moderate experience onto the team to play in these matches.  The right to be there is often earned over many years.

If you use the information above as a potential analogy to asking board members to directly fundraise, you begin to see just how big of a stretch that is for most board members. 80% of your board members have most likely never had any experience with successful fundraising actions.

As you might guess, any experience with unsuccessful fundraising actions actually work against any future fundraising engagement!

Yet, time and time again brand new board members of many nonprofits are asked to jump directly into the fundraising process.

There is a better way!

The Solution

Why not ease them into direct fundraising by beginning with one of the most rewarding endeavors in the overall fundraising process, namely, involve them in thanking donors?

Yes, let them experience the pleasure and feedback provided by either calling, writing or visiting donors who recently made a gift or pledge. You can begin with first-time donors and progress to repeat donors and then to repeat major donors.

The new board members will see first hand the joy giving brings to those donors. The feedback provided provides the needed insight and confidence to do much more after their first year as a board member.

Another avenue of introduction to fundraising is to assist in some manner with smaller more intimate donor events such as dinner parties or receptions. Notice the suggestion of assisting, rather than hosting. They will witness even further the ultimate joy of giving provided to most donors. Hosting should only come after they have been part of one or preferably more such intimate events. Once again, never plan on hosting such events in the first year.

Summary

If this slow build-up of lesser to more involvement with fundraising activities is performed properly there is a much smaller chance of failures happening in the first year or two.

In fact, the new board members brought along in this manner will be brimming with enough confidence in some cases that they themselves may be asking to do more sooner rather than later!

For those of you reading this who are professional fundraisers or nonprofit board members have you tried this ramp up method? If so, can you share your results?

As a rookie board member many years ago for a local food bank,  I can personally attest to the success and confidence such a methodology brought to me!

year-end fundraising

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman.
Jay Love
By |2018-10-31T15:44:27-04:00July 27th, 2016|Donor Communications, Fundraising, Nonprofit Boards|

2 Comments

  1. Ron Newlin July 28, 2016 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I wish I had read this 30 years ago. I’ve been giving this advice for the past 10+ years, but at the start of my career my approach to board expectations was similar to the scene in the movie “Enemy at the Gates,” based on the Battle of Stalingrad — where raw Russian recruits were herded off of box cars and into cattle shutes where every other one was handed a rifle, while the officer shouted repeatedly, “The man with the rifle shoots! The man without the rifle follows! When the man with the rifle is shot, the man without the rifle picks it up!”

  2. Samuel Guidry August 7, 2016 at 10:35 am - Reply

    I think that few Non-Profits make this a clear expectation when recruiting and bringing on new board members and then the leadership is disappointed when the board members do not live up to a standard that was never presented to them.

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