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:
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.
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!
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.
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!
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.