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The Do’s And Don’ts Of Getting Board Members To Fundraise

getting board members to fundraise
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Is your board engaged in fundraising?

I speak across the country at fundraising conferences, training fundraisers and doing board retreats. When I ask audiences that question, I rarely get a positive response.

Last week I was coaching a client who confessed, “Everything you said NOT to do is exactly what we did, help!” When it comes to getting board members to fundraise there are some things you SHOULD do and other things to avoid. This gem, Makeover My Board, is loaded with over 50 tips to manage your board (including how to let low performing board members go) but here’s a quick cheat sheet of the Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Your Board Members to Fundraise:


1. Don’t circulate a list of wealthy, well connected influential and important philanthropists in your community and ask each board member to write their names next to the ones they know. Board members hate this. It puts them on the spot and can potentially embarrass them. They feel “hit up” if they do know these contacts or awkward and sheepish if they don’t. Fundraising is not a one-size-fits all type of activity.

What to do instead: Research your board members network on LinkedIn and identify which connections you want to request a personal introduction to via email. Ask and share your intentions with your board member, i.e. “I’d love an introduction to Julie at Dropbox so that I can invite her to our upcoming open house.” Keep them in the loop and follow up with your board member to let them know what response you did (or didn’t get).

What to do instead: Do you have board members who frequently have a table at an event? Ask if you can be their guest at the table. Work the room with them and brag on their participation as your board member.

The most important thing that you can stress to your board members is that if they are building relationships as an ambassador of your cause they are advancing your fundraising efforts.

2. Don’t assume that just because they have prior board experience, they understand fundraising and are ready to be a great fundraiser.

What to do instead: Include an element of fundraising training in your board meetings. Start out with your mix of revenue sources, especially fundraising, and how your organization compares with the national trends in giving from Giving USA. Highlight where board members can add the most value to the fundraising program and how staff will support them in the process. Have program staff and clients share impact stories and testimonials. Invite successful board members from other organizations to come talk to your board about how their board fundraises (this is not only effective, it’s free!).

What to do instead: Invite board members who have successfully introduced the organization to a new potential supporter tell the story of how they did it. Interview them with questions like, “How did it come about? What did you do? What made it work? How did you feel about it?” Again, these personal stories don’t have to be limited to your board. Bring in board members from other organizations.

What to do instead: Make it easy for them. For example, involve nonprofit boards in year-end fundraising by sending board members a weekly fundraising message that they can personalize and send to their network of prospects.


  1. Be clear and specific about how board members are asked to contribute. Have an open conversation during the recruitment process led by a board member with a positive attitude towards fundraising where you share the fundraising expectations of board members. Offer a fundraising “menu” boasting a wide selection of fundraising opportunities in writing. Here’s a great example from Andy Robinson and Garden City Harvest. Having something in writing makes it easier to have the conversation. Offering a wide selection of opportunities lets board members select what appeals to them most.
  2. Share the outcome of their cultivation. At one charity board members are asked to invite prospective donors for an introductory tour of the organization. When thanking board members, the staff shows them that the average gift by a person who has been on the tour is $3,000 compared to the average gift from a person who hasn’t taken the tour ($150).
  3. Make it FUN. You expect a lot from your board members. How do you make serving on your board fun and rewarding? Tap into their motivation drives, give them rewards, recognition, and special privileges. Many of your members are likely joined to expand their professional network so make sure you give members time to enjoy each other socially.

What other strategies do you have for getting board members to fundraise? Let us know in the comments section below.

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