Does your board refuse to accept their fundraising responsibility? Are they willing but not educated/trained in fundraising? Does the board lack enthusiasm for fundraising? Have you wondered if it is time for an extreme makeover of your board?

Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, recently joined us for a webinar in which she discussed the role the board plays on the development team. She showed us how to involve them in the fundraising process and how to assure that they will enthusiastically get involved with the fundraising efforts of your organization.

In case you missed it, you can watch the full presentation here:

Full Transcript:

Steven Shattuck: All right. Cool. Let’s go. Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon if you’re on the East Coast and good morning if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Getting Your Board to Fundraise.” My name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the VP of Marketing here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

Before we begin, I just want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation. I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides a little later on this afternoon. So, look for that to hit your inbox from me a little later on. In case you have to maybe leave early or if you wanted to review this content a little later on maybe with someone in your team, you’ll be able to do that with the recording a little later on today.

As you’re listening to today’s presentation, please feel free to send us any questions that you may have using that little chat box there on your screen. Send questions to me, send questions to Linda and we will answer those, just as many as we can before the 2:00 Eastern hour towards the end of the presentation.

So, I want to introduce today’s guest. We’re very happy to have her back. She’s a great friend of hours, Linda Lysakowski. Hey, Linda, how is it going?

Linda Lysakowski: Just great.

Steven Shattuck: Thanks for being here again. For those of you who don’t know Linda, she’s actually one of fewer than 100 people worldwide to hold the advanced CFRE designation. In her 20 years as a philanthropic consultant, Linda has managed capital campaigns, she’s helped hundreds of nonprofits achieve their development goals and she’s trained more than 25,000 development professionals in Canada, Mexico, Egypt, Bermuda and almost all of the 50 United States.

She’s a graduate of Alvernia University and she’s also AFPs Faculty Training Academy, she’s a master teacher there. Linda is the author of “Recruiting and Training Fundraising Volunteers,” “The Development Plan,” “Fundraising as a Career,” “Capital Campaigns: Everything You Need to Know,” “Are You Ready for a Capital Campaign?” So many books-I can’t even list all these, Linda. How do you find the time to write all these books?

Linda Lysakowski: It would take the whole hour, probably, to list them all.

Steven Shattuck: Probably. And we’ll send a link to those. I’ve actually got a couple of copies of those books. She’s a great writer. You’re all in for a treat. Linda, I’m not going to take any more time away from you. Why don’t you go ahead and get us started?

Linda Lysakowski: Okay. Thanks so much, Steven.

Well, it’s great to be here. I have to tell you that I just love talking about building a fundraising board because it’s one of my favorite topics. I’ve worked with probably hundreds of boards over my 20-something year career in fundraising. I find that as a consultant when I talk to organizations that are struggling with their fundraising, often times it goes back to how involved the board is. So, this is why I love talking about this topic because it is so critical to your fundraising success to really have a board that’s involved and engaged in your fundraising activities. What I find instead is that many boards really struggle with understanding fundraising.

I often ask people when I meet with boards and do board training and board retreats, “How many of you woke up this morning saying, ‘Boy, I can’t wait to go out and raise money for XYZ organization?'” Once I actually had somebody raise their hand and say, “Yes.” He loved going out and raising money for the organization for which he sat on the board. But most of the time, I hear a lot of groans like, “Oh, not me. I’ll do anything but I don’t want to do fundraising.”

So, what I find is a lot of times it’s the attitude of the board. Sometimes boards have what we kind of call the “tin cup mentality” where they think that fundraising is kind of akin to standing on the corner with a cup like the gentleman is on this photograph asking for money. They think of it as begging for money. That’s really not what fundraising is all about.

So, one of the first things that we often have to do with boards is get them to think differently about fundraising, to change their attitude. When you think about this-and this is one of the questions I often ask boards-think about the last time you sat down and wrote out a check to a charity. I know that folks at Bloomerang just got done writing a whole bunch of checks out to charities because they did this great little experimental model if you haven’t seen it on how donors get thanked.

But the last time you wrote out a check to a charity, I think almost everyone would agree that they didn’t feel like they were being begged for money. They felt happy to write out that check. They felt a real joy in being able to help an organization that they really care about.

So, I think if you think about fundraising as the way you think about giving, that’s how your donors think. They’re not going to give to an organization they don’t care about and they’re not going to give to an organization that is begging them for money. They’re going to give because they want to give and they really want to make a difference in someone’s life. So, changing that attitude of our board is probably the first step.

Some boards I find also understand that they have to do fundraising but they think of it as kind of a necessary evil. Its like, “Well, I know we have to do this fundraising, so let’s get it over with.” And that’s not really a very healthy attitude either because when a board has that kind of an attitude, they’re going to look at it as a job rather than looking at it as a joy. So, I think the necessary evil is something that we have to change in our board’s mentality.

There are some boards, believe it or not, who don’t think the organization needs fundraising at all. I remember once working with a group that was starting a first development program. They were talking about hiring a director of development. This organization had-it was a large organization-they had an $11 million budget, which is fairly substantial for the community they were in. But they didn’t get fundraising because a lot of their sources of funding were government grants and contracts. But they still needed to raise a lot of money for unfunded programs.

So, sometimes they just don’t quite understand that the organization needs it. When they were talking about hiring their first development director and starting a full blown fundraising program, the board chair actually said, “I don’t see why we need to do fundraising. We have government grants. Why do we need to do fundraising?” So, sometimes it’s just a matter of educating your board to show them where your organization would be if you didn’t have the fundraising income.

Then there are some boards who think, “Well, yes, I know fundraising is important. But it’s not my job. That’s why we hired a director of development.” I’ve often sat with groups that are hiring their first development director and you can almost hear kind of a collective sigh of relief around the board table, like, “Oh, boy. We don’t have to do that fundraising stuff anymore. Now we’re going to hire somebody to do it.”

I always tell them, “Guess what, board members? You’re going to be doing more fundraising now than you ever did before because now you have a professional and someone to coordinate the fundraising and to really focus on getting the job done. But the board’s role is going to be even more important than ever.”

And then I find there are some board members who understand that fundraising is important and they do want to do it, but a lot of times they just don’t know how. They don’t understand what they as a board member can be doing to help with fundraising. Sometimes they think like, “Oh, well, I don’t want to go out and bug my friends for money.” But again, it goes back to attitude. It goes to educating the board members. So, today I want to talk a little bit about attitude and also talk about educating your board members.

Some board members-I always like this little cartoon-that think about fundraising as the four stages of the donor cultivation cycle: ask, plead, cajole and beg. That’s certainly not what we as professional fundraisers are all about. What we’re all about is building relationships with people and helping your donors feel the joy that can come by being a part of the solution and not part of the problem, of being someone who’s going to be able to help a family, a child, a community, the environment, an animal, whatever it is your organization is raising money for. So, a lot of times if you can change your board members’ attitude, you’ll find a big difference.

So, one of the first things I like to do is educate board members on the psychology of philanthropy and helping them understand who gets money. In the United States, we’re lucky. I know we have some folks from outside the United States. I see Raj on here from India. You’re probably ready to go to bed soon.

But for those of you who are based in the United States, there’s a great publication called “Giving USA” which I highly recommend because it talks about what type of nonprofit organizations are getting money. In this country, every year the number one source of funds goes to religious groups, followed very closely by groups like education and healthcare and human services. There are all types of organizations that get the money.

But who’s getting money in your community is a good question to ask your board members. What are some of the organizations that they think are being successful at fundraising and why do they think those organizations are more successful at fundraising than perhaps yours is? Often times the answer is going to come down to things like they have a strong case for support. They have a very active board who’s engaged in fundraising. When they look at other organizations that are successful, sometimes it helps them get encouraged about, “Gee, we can do this too in our organization.”

The other thing that they have to understand is who gives money. I’m going to talk about that in a minute. But lots of times board members get this misinformed idea in their head that, “Well, we’ll just hire a grant writer to write grants all day because all of these foundations have tons of money to give away.” It’s true that foundations do give money but they’re not the largest source of funding, at least not in the United States and probably nowhere else either.

So, one of the questions that I often ask boards to think about is who they’re giving to in addition to your own organization. Hopefully they’re supporting you financially. But they’re probably also supporting their church or their synagogue or their mosque or their temple or some religious organization. They may be supporting their local community hospital. They may be supporting their alma mater. They may be supporting any number of nonprofit organizations. But ask them to think about who they support and why support those organizations because often that can be translated into why should I support this organization?

And then also ask them to think about what organizations they’re not giving to and why. Some of the answers I get when I ask this question are always very interesting because lots of times people are not supporting an organization because they’ve been asked too much. They haven’t been asked enough. They haven’t been asked in the right way. They’ve been asked for the wrong amount. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t give. When you start to understand those things, you’ll start to be able to build a stronger fundraising program for your own organization.

One of the statistics that always blows the minds of board members, especially the ones who decide they want to go out and hire a grant writer-I’ve worked with a lot of groups that say, “Well, we’re not going to do what you call fundraising. We’re going to just hire a grant writer and go out and raise grants.” Well, that’s a great idea. But when you look at foundation giving, you can see that it’s only about 15% of all the giving that’s done in the United States.

And then lots of times people say, “Well, let’s go out and talk to the businesses. Look at all the businesses in our community that have a lot of money.” They’re only giving about 5 to 6%. So, the majority of funding is coming from where? Individuals. That’s really where the money is that we need to think about it.

These statistics might go up or down a percent or two year after year. But basically, that pie chart always looks very similar. Individual giving-and bequests here are listed separately, but they’re really gifts from individuals. So, they should be lumped together with individuals. So, I think it’s important for board members to understand that most of the money comes from individuals and that most of the money is coming from a very few number of donors.

When I first came into this business way back in the 80s, I guess it was, we have what we call the 80/20 rule. Many of you who have studied economics are probably very familiar with Pareto’s Law that says 80% of the output usually comes from 20% of the input. That’s very true in fundraising. When I started in this business, it was said that 20% of the donations came from 80 percent of the donors and 80 percent of the donations came from 20%.

Over the years because of the emphasis on planned giving and major giving and because we’ve become a lot more professional in the way we do this, that 80/20 rule morphed into the 90/10 rule and now the latest statistics seem to indicate that we’re looking more at 95/5, that 5% of your donors are usually accounting for about 95% of the funds that you raise.

If you don’t think this is true, you can simply go to your Bloomerang software and ask for some inquiries about what percentage of your donors are giving how much of the money that you get. A lot of organizations tend to focus on things like special events or they’re raising small amounts of money from a lot of people where they should be focusing more of their energy on raising larger amounts of money from a smaller sector of their donor base.

So, I think if your board understands how important this major gift fundraising is for your organization, they’ll be much more likely to support it. So, just giving your board some of these educational things, I think, is really important.

I want to us to talk about the development team. Whose job is it to do fundraising? Well, I think it’s everybody’s job. Its board members. Its staff members. Its other volunteers. Those are important areas to think about too, although today we’re going to focus on the board’s involvement.

But it does take a team to raise money. The executive director has to be involved, the development director and other development staff if you are lucky enough to have a larger staff, volunteers and the board together really have to focus on this to make it successful because if one person is responsible for everything, it’s not really going to happen because that one person is limited in the amount of contacts they have, the amount of time they have and possibly the amount of expertise they have.

So, let’s talk about the board’s role in fundraising. Sometimes it’s not just asking others to give. In fact, I see five areas where board’s involvement in fundraising is important. Only one of those includes going out and asking someone to give.

So, for those board members who are really terrified of making the ask, some other things that they might get involved in are helping you establish policies. Every nonprofit organization should have a list of gift acceptance policies and recognition policies and investment policies. These are all important roles that the board plays.

They also should be monitoring your revenue streams. The board should know how much money you get from grants, how much money you get from fundraising. Are there funders that possibly you’re going to lose this year and you have to have a plan B? Is there an event that maybe wasn’t as successful as you hoped it would be? They need to be very active in monitoring these revenue streams so they know what your fundraising needs and expectations are and what’s realistic for your organization.

The board should also be involved in helping you plan fundraising. A good development plan is the first basis that I usually like to start with. I was just talking to a group that wants to get their board more involved in fundraising. But I said we really need to look at putting together a comprehensive plan on how you’re going to raise the money.

So many times I’ve talked to people who put together a development plan and then they wonder why their board isn’t helping them implement it and they are kind of complaining to me, “Gosh, my board isn’t doing what I expected them to do.” My first question to them is always, “Well, how involved was your board in developing the plan?” If they weren’t involved in developing the plan, they are not going to be involved in implementing it. I guarantee it.

So, you want to get the board involved in setting realistic goals and determining what type of fundraising is going to be working for your organization because if they’re involved in the planning, then they will want to get involved in making that plan work.

Board giving is really critical. We’re going to talk a little bit more about that. But I think if the board doesn’t give themselves, it’s going to be very hard for them to ask anyone else to give. So, the first thing that I think you really need to focus on is making sure that in your board recruitment, you make it clear to people that board giving and board asking are important roles that they’re going to play.

So, you might want to think first-and I think this is the root cause of most organizations that have issues getting their board members to give or to get involved in fundraising-have you recruited board members in the right way? How do you choose candidates for the board?

I can sort of tell you probably the worst case scenario that I ever witnessed was I was at a board meeting of a client and it happened to be December and their board terms ended in December and new board members were brought on in January. At the December board meeting, the executive director said, “Oh, yeah, three of you, your terms are ending this month. We want to thank you for your board service. Now we need to find at least three more new board members. Does anybody have any ideas?”

That’s certainly not a very careful way of choosing candidates for the board. First of all, it was too little too late. They waited until December to even think about this. Secondly, it should not have been the executive director raising the issue. It should have been the board itself who realized terms were ending and they needed to be responsible for bringing on new board members.

You can’t just throw out a question at a board meeting and say, “Does anybody have any ideas?” What you’re going to get is the first name that pops into their head, whether it’s their sister, their next door neighbor, somebody they work with. It may not be the right candidate for your board. It may not be the person who really is the best candidate.

So, what you want to think about is how do you evaluate board members commitment? This doesn’t happen at board orientation or once they’re already on the board. It has to happen in the recruitment process. You need to sit down with board members, share the job description with them, make it clear that it is the responsibility of them to make a gift to the organization, to help with fundraising. Really find out if they’re committed to your organization.

I once worked with a board where one of the gentlemen actually bragged a board meeting that he sat on 17 different boards simultaneously. I thought well certainly this person is not committed to this board or any of the other 16 boards that he’s on because nobody can be that committed to 17 boards. Nobody has that kind of time and commitment. You want to make sure that the person is committed to your organization, that they’re willing to devote the time and the effort and the energy and the money that is going to be involved in this.

Do they really believe in your mission and vision? Sometimes people sit on boards because it looks good on their resume or they think they want to make contacts or they’re just looking for something to do to fill their time. But if they don’t really believe in the mission and vision of your organization, you might not have the right person. You want to get someone who really feels an ownership of your organization.

Lots of times organizations make the mistake of thinking, “Well, we have to go get the people with the deep pockets,” or, “We have to get the top CEOs in the community on our board.” I don’t care how many contacts they have and how deep their pockets are, if they don’t feel committed to your organization and really feel that sense of ownership for your organization, they are not going to be successful board members and they’re certainly not going to be successful fundraisers if they don’t really believe in the cause that you’re organization serves. So, you want to make sure you have people that are really committed.

You want to make sure that you’ve discussed the board’s fundraising role. I’ve seen board recruitment and I’ve sat in on some of these meetings so I know what happens. I sat in on a board recruitment meeting once where the executive director said to this potential board member, “Well, I know it says in here that you’re required to give money and help us raise money, but don’t worry about that. We just want you on our board.” She just kind of glossed over the whole fundraising aspect of it. So, of course that person came onto the board thinking not very seriously about her commitment to serving on the board.

So, you want to make sure that you are very open and honest with people when you meet with them during your recruitment process. You want to interview a board member just like you would interview a potential staff member. You would never hire a staff person and just say, “Well, just show up for work and we’ll find something for you to do.” I don’t think any of you have ever hired a staff person that way.

But I think that sometimes is how we kind of hire board members. We tell them, “Show up at a meeting and I know you’re going to love being on this board.” They don’t really know what’s expected of them until they get there and then it’s too late because you can’t-the old saying about teaching an old dog new tricks is really true. Once a person is on the board, if they’ve come on with the wrong expectations, it’s very hard to get them to understand what your current expectations are.

So, you want to make sure that you do that recruitment right. Once you have recruited people, have you provided them education and training? Are you really committed to work with the board as a team? It’s so important that you’re organization really focus on the board being a part of the fundraising team. If you don’t give them the right education for this, they’re not going to have the tools to do it. So, that’s a real important aspect of the board recruitment process.

So, why is board giving and asking so important? Well, first of all, board members have a fiduciary responsibility for your organization. Those of you who remember Harry Truman, most of us probably don’t remember him, but it was a well-known fact that when he was president, he had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said, “The buck stops here.” I think that’s very true in boards too. The buck stops there.

If something goes wrong within your organization, people are going to look to the board and say, “Didn’t they know what was going on?” Believe me, we’ve had a lot of scandals in the community and the country as a whole that people did point to the board members and say, “Why didn’t they understand what was going on? How did they let this happen?”

But also I think the fact that board members are volunteers is critical too. When a volunteer makes an ask, it puts a whole different light on it. They’re not being paid. Their job doesn’t depend on it. They’re making an ask because they really care about the organization. The fact that they are a volunteer lends credibility to your organization.

I always tell people when they do a direct mail appeal to never, never, ever have their executive director sign the letter. It’s much better coming from someone that’s a volunteer in the community, someone who people know and respect and they’re going to be thinking, “Gosh, this organization must be really good because they have volunteers that are helping with their fundraising and they’re the ones signing the letter.”

A lot of funders really expect the board to give. I happen to live in Nevada and we have a community foundation based in Reno, Nevada. I’m in Southern Nevada. But I really admire this community foundation. It’s the Western Nevada Community Foundation. They’ve implemented a program in the Reno area where they recognize at philanthropy days, which is done by AFP, but they recognize every organization that has 100% giving from their board.

They recognize them publicly. They give them certificates. But they also make it very clear that the boards who are not 100% giving to their organization, their applications to the foundation get to the bottom of the pile. Those that have 100% giving come to the top of the pile. So, funders expect this, not just foundations but corporations and individuals.

I know as an individual donor, if I’m solicited by someone, I look at their annual report and if I don’t see every board member giving, I won’t make a donation because I feel that the board members certainly should care more than anybody else about that organization. If they’re not caring enough to make a gift, I’ll be darned if I’m going to make one. So, I think it is really important that boards understand that they’re giving and asking is very critical for a lot of different reasons.

So, how do we help board members understand this role? Well, as I said, the first step is in the board recruitment. I think that is so critical that board members are recruited in the right way and that we make it clear to them right off the bat. Another good way to do this is having a development committee, perhaps they can help the rest of the board understand their role because often times board members maybe are a little reluctant to give. But if it comes from a peer or somebody that’s on their development committee, I think they’re going to be a lot more willing and involved in giving.

We’re going to talk a little bit about the board appeal. That’s another thing. And then board education-I’ve kind of mentioned a little bit. I’m going to focus on each one of these areas a little bit more. And then finally brainstorming and helping your board understand that they can help with fundraising and that they probably have a lot more connections than they realize that they do.

So, I’ll start with the first step of recruitment. To have the right board, I think it’s really critical that you have a governance committee that is not-and I like to call it a governance committee, not a nominating committee because often times nominating committees usually tend to be appointed towards the end of the year and often times the really stellar board members are already committed to doing something else. So, sometimes the board member who’s not doing much else and hasn’t been very involved gets appointed to the governance committee just because they want to have somebody in charge and, “Well, this person hasn’t done anything else this year so let’s put him on the governance committee.”

This is a really important committee. In fact, I think it’s the most important committee on your board because this is the group that’s responsible for what your board is going to look like in the coming years. So, you want to have a year-round committee that looks at things on a year long basis, not waiting until December or September even to say, “Oh gosh, we need to find new board members.”

So, this committee can help you put together a position description for the board. I think that’s something that’s really important. Having that job description is a critical component of this recruitment process.

And then interviewing the prospective board members-don’t just because Sam says his nephew Bill would be a great guy to be on the board take Sam’s word for it. Maybe Bill isn’t really the right person for your board. Maybe he would be good for someone else’s board. Maybe you’re the animal rights group and he doesn’t really care about animals. So, you don’t want to just take some board member’s word for it. You really need to sit down and interview these people just as though you were interviewing someone for a job.

Then you want to provide that orientation. But as I said before, orientation is not the time that you slip in, “Oh by the way, we expect you to give money and we expect you to raise money.” That needs to be discussed in the recruitment process. Orientation is where you give them more details. Maybe you give them your development plan, your strategic plan, your budget if you haven’t already given those things during the recruitment process.

But you have to think about recruiting the right board. And sometimes, as I say, sometimes people focus on, “Well, we need an attorney. So, let’s just go out and find an attorney.” Maybe they want an attorney to help them put together a planned giving program. They happen to go out and recruit a litigator. That’s not a person that’s going to help you with your planned giving program.

So, think through the needs of your board and who you really want on the board. But no matter how qualified a person is, no matter how many people they know, no matter how wealthy they are, remember that it still goes back to they have to believe and support the mission of your organization because if that doesn’t happen, they’re not going to be successful at fundraising.

I’ve seen many board members who need some education and need some training, but they have so much passion for the organization. They have this fire in their belly. So, they are going to be good fundraisers just because they feel so much passion for the organization and because they themselves are supporting the organization.

So, what is the board’s role in putting together… This is very important that the development officer and the board really need to have good relationships. Sometimes organizations, especially the larger they get, it seems like the executive director is the only one who ever gets to see the board. I think that’s a really sad thing when that happens because the development officer should be invited to the board meetings, should be working with the development committee to make the presentation to the rest of the board.

I have seen some organizations really make a huge difference because they have a strong development committee that is not just board members. Sometimes when I ask groups if they have a development committee, it’s, “Oh, yeah, we have two board members that said they would be willing to do fundraising.” Well, two board members is not a development committee. You need to have a committee that has some board members on it, certainly, but also some community members.

This is the perfect training ground for new board members. I worked with an organization once that was a classic example of this. When I started working with them, it was an organization that served people with disabilities. They had eight board members. Every one of the board members was a family member of someone served by their program. While they were some great people and they certainly had the passion for the organization-that is important-on the other side of the coin, they didn’t really have the financial capability that they should have had. They didn’t have an understanding of a lot of things about the way the organization was run.

So, we decided that instead of firing the board and starting from scratch, which is usually a very politically unwise thing to do, what we decided to do was start a strong development committee because the board was not at all comfortable with fundraising. But we had two people on the board that said they’d be willing to serve on the development committee and learn more about fundraising.

Those two people sat down with the staff and we selected about a dozen community members to serve on this committee. The committee was so good at what they were doing and so strong. They were the ones who came to the board and said, “Hey, guys, we have to support this organization financially ourselves if we want to be successful in asking other people.” They implemented a lot of different cultivation activities, even planned giving seminars.

By the end of that year, the development committee was so impressive that when it came time to nominate people for the board, the first names that came to mind were three people from the development committee who then moved on to the board. After a couple of years, they went from a board of eight family members to a board of 20-some community members.

The organization itself was much stronger in its development program. It went from a part-time development person to a full-time-they actually did a capital campaign and a second one after that. It was all because of the development committee and putting together a solid development plan that they were able to do that. So, those are some things that you can think about with your board.

Board giving, as I said, is really important. But what a lot of people get hung up on is, “Well, how much should the board give?” I think a lot of times board members don’t really realize how important their giving is. As I said, some of those funders are going to demand that the board is giving. But instead of focusing on, “Board members need to give $1,000 a year or $100 a year or $10,000 a year,” I think it’s far more important to focus on these three things.

First of all, that 100% of your board gives and that each board member is giving at a meaningful level and that they make their commitments early in the year, early in the campaign if you’re doing something like a planned giving campaign or a capital campaign. The 100% giving is really essential.

Many of you have some requirements on your board. For example, I’ve worked with groups that have had to have X-number of clergy people on their board or X-number of clients on their board because it was written into their bylaws. They say, “These people can’t afford to give. They’re not in the top giving range.” But every board member should be able to give a gift of some level.

I’ve worked with people in a capital campaign I once worked with a group where one board member gave a total of $25 to the capital campaign and other board members were giving $10,000, $50,000, but it was a meaningful gift for that particular board member. So, we were fine with that. I said, “We have 100% giving. That’s what’s really important.” I think it is also important that everyone gives at a meaningful level.

So, the way I like to word my job descriptions is instead of saying, “Board members are required to give X-number,” or worse yet, “They’re required to give or get,” I like to have people say, “We expect you to make this organization one of your top two or three charitable priorities.” That makes it very clear that no matter what their giving capability is, you’re going to be one of the top organizations that they support. That, to me, makes it much clearer to an organization as far as how much they should be expected to give.

As I said, the early commitment really is important. I do a lot of capital campaigns and I always tell my clients that we are not going out and asking for one dollar in the community until every board member has made their pledge. That goes not just for capital campaigns but your annual giving.

So, if your fiscal year starts in July and you’re planning a lot of fall activities for fundraising, in July and August, you should be going to your board and asking them to make their annual commitment so that in September when you really get started with fundraising then everyone can say, “Yes, 100% of our board members have made a gift.” That really does make a big difference when you’re going out asking others to give.

But sometimes I see organizations approaching their board in such an awful way. In fact, I had a friend who was in development and he took a new job. He called me one time about a month or two into his new job and he said, “Oh, I just had my first board meeting last night. It was awful.” I said, “Oh my goodness, what happened?” He said, “Well, the board chair started the meeting as soon as the agenda was approved, he said, ‘You know we all have to give to this organization. So, here’s your pledge card. Fill it out and hand it to me before you leave.'” That is certainly not a very thoughtful way to approach your board members.

So, what I would like to suggest is that you think about doing a really formal board appeal. Treat your board members just like you would treat any major donors. They are major donors to your organization. It doesn’t matter what the size of their gift is. But their gift is so important that I consider every board member a major donor.

So, first of all, I would start with the chair of the board. Of course, they’re going to have to be asked most likely by a staff member. But once the chair makes their gift, then the rest of this all gets done by the board itself. They are the ones who are forming a committee. If you have 25 people on your board, you should probably have 5 people on your board appeal committee because when you’re asking people face-to-face, you never want to do more than 5 calls because people don’t get them done when you assign them 10 or 20.

So, the board chair doesn’t have to ask every person on the board. If you have 15 people on your board, then you’ll probably need at least 3 members of your committee. But they should sit down together and evaluate what is the board giving potential? Maybe one board member can only give $25 but maybe another can give $50,000 a year. So, have them do an honest evaluation.

And then prepare your materials. Now, board members don’t need a lot of fancy brochures or anything. They should be very familiar with your organization. But one tool that I have found really helpful is kind of a board commitment form that lets people know right up front at the beginning of the year what’s expected of them. What I find gets board members really frustrated is being nickeled and dimed to death.

I’ve sat on boards like this myself where every month I went to a board meeting and they were asking me for something different. It was, “Okay, we’re having a raffle this month. How many tickets can you sell?” or, “Here are your 100 tickets to sell. Next month we’re having a golf tournament now and we want you to try to get a foursome for the golf tournament.” And then the next month it was, “We need your annual gift.” And then the next month was, “We’re having a gala dinner dance. How many tables can you sell?”

I would get so frustrated because I felt like every time I went there I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to bring my checkbook to every meeting.” If you give them a form in the beginning of the year that says, “Here’s our development plan for the year. We’re going to be hosting,” hopefully you’re not doing more than one or two events a year because if you are, you’re probably doing too many anyway, but, “We’re hosting a golf tournament and we’re hosting a gala dinner dance.”

So, some of your board members may not have the remotest interest in golf and they don’t want to participate in that but they are willing to get three tables for your gala dinner dance. But let them know up front what’s expected so when they’re making their annual gift they can keep in mind, “Oh, that’s right, at the end of the year I have to have money for this table at the gala dinner dance.” I think if you can prepare them up front and let them know everything that they’re going to be asked for during the year, it makes it a lot more appealing.

I think it’s also important to just create kind of a philanthropic environment in your organization. The staff should also be giving. Sometimes I’ve seen boards increase their giving just when they see the level of staff giving that’s been done because they know that the staff are usually underpaid and overworked. So, they’re very impressed by that. So, creating a philanthropic environment is really important.

And then asking board members individually, personally, one-on-one, face-to-face is really the way to do it, not just handing them the pledge card or sending them a letter saying, “You haven’t made your gift yet this year and we’re expecting that.” But do it face-to-face and let them feel that they are important major donors because if they do, they’re going to be much more supportive going forward.

We have to educate our board on an ongoing basis. Well, I think one of the things that you can do is do some fundraising training at your board meetings, even if it’s just a 15-minute presentation. I think the best board meetings have what I call mission moments where maybe for five minutes to ten minutes or fifteen minutes of a board meeting might be spent on focusing on some area of your program, something that makes board members feel that they’re tied to the mission.

I know that one of the best boards I ever sat on did this on a regular basis. It was a family service agency. They would have a case manager come in and talk at every board meeting just for about five minutes about a case they were working on, which really tied us to the mission. But then periodically, we might have someone come in and maybe we were thinking about staring a planned giving program and somebody would come in and talk about that or maybe someone would come in and spend 15 minutes talking about ethics and fundraising or social media and how it’s used for fundraising.

But design some ongoing education programs in addition to some things you can’t do in ten minutes at a board meeting. Some things may be done at a board retreat. A lot of board retreats may be focused on fundraising. I do a lot of board retreats. I think most of them want to focus on either board development or fundraising or sometimes strategic planning. But those kinds of things you can do. Some board members might want to do some one-on-one things like take them to an AFP meeting, take them to a conference, sign them up for a webinar-things like that that will really help.

I also find that teaming up board members is a great way to educate board members who maybe are newer at fundraising or they’re a little shy and they’re not quite sure they can do this. Team them up with somebody who is experienced in fundraising and let them go together on a major gift call. You would be surprised how sometimes it’s the shy the person that’s not saying as much that is the best fundraiser that you have on your board once they get their comfort level raised. So, anything you can do to raise their comfort level I think will really help.

I want to allow enough time because I see it looks like we’re getting lots and lots of questions in here. So, I’m going to kind of quickly get through the last couple of slides. The one question that people always ask me is, “Well, what if I have a board who absolutely doesn’t want to go out and ask or I have a board member who doesn’t want to go out and ask?”

Well, there are things that board members can do to raise money that really don’t involve asking. One is that every board member-I assure you, everybody on your board knows three people at the very least, that they can maybe invite to come in and have lunch with the executive director and take a private tour of the place or they can host an event either in their home, if your board members have a nice home, maybe they’d want to have a cocktail party in their home and invite some of their friends. Maybe they want to just invite people to come to your organization as a group or maybe they’d want to take them out to a restaurant or a country club or whatever. But every board member could host an event. They don’t have to ask for money. They’re just introducing people to your organization.

Boards can work a thank-a-thon. I think this is a great way to get board members accustomed to talking to donors. If your board meets at 7:00 on Thursday evening, ask them to come in at 6:30 before the board meeting and give everybody just two or three names of donors and ask them to just call those donors and thank them for their gift. You should prepare a little list of talking points for them.

But they’re not asking for money. They’re just calling and thanking donors. First of all, your donors will probably be so shocked that someone took the time to do this. They’ll be amazed and really feel a close relationship with you. But it also puts your board members at ease. I think that’s really important too.

Board members, some of them may be really great at public speaking. They can go out and do speaking engagements for you. Others might just belong to a lot of organizations like the rotary or the Lyon’s club or something and they can invite someone else to come in and speak about your organization.

All board members should feel comfortable with that 30-second elevator speech. A lot of times they’re going to be at a cocktail party or maybe even literally in an elevator. I did find myself in an elevator once with a bank president where I had three minutes to tell them what I wanted to talk about. So, those things do happen. If your board members feel comfortable about that, that’s a way that they can open doors.

Sometimes I find board members are maybe having a birthday or maybe they’re getting married for the second or third time or maybe they’re having a big anniversary. My husband and I had our 50th a couple of years ago and I said, “You know what? After 50 years of marriage, you don’t need junk. You don’t need any more stuff. I would rather have someone make a donation to an organization in my honor instead of giving me that type of thing.” They can just help you open doors.

There are a million different things that board members can do without actually making an ask. So, get your board members comfortable with some of those things.

Remember that there are four steps in fundraising-identifying potential donors, cultivating potential donors, soliciting the donors and then stewardship. If you look at those four steps, only one of them involves asking. The others are identifying-every board member knows people. Cultivating-hosting those events. Stewardship-doing the thank-a-thons and signing thank you letters to donors. All of those things are really, really important.

So, I want to just spend one minute talking about the identification process because I’ve worked with so many boards who say, “Well, we don’t know anybody with money and our board doesn’t have influence and affluence and they don’t have the clout in the community.” I am just constantly amazed that when you do some brainstorming with your board, how many contacts you probably already have on your board that you have no idea are out there if you’ve never done this with your board.

So, get your board together and do some brainstorming about people that they know. I actually have a brainstorming form if anyone’s interested in it. It’s available on the 4Good website, but you can email me as well and I’ll be happy to send it to you. But this brainstorming form helps people think about people that they do know, maybe they’re accountant, their car dealer, their insurance agent.

Sometimes you think just because your board members aren’t people that have a lot of money that they don’t know anybody with money. But who knows, that person on your board who is a retired widow living on a fixed income may sit on a committee at her church with the wealthiest CEO in town. So, don’t just write off your board and say they don’t know anybody with money because believe me, they do. I’ve seen it happen over and over again. So, think about doing some brainstorming with your board.

Finally, I want to just suggest that sometimes we think we have to just throw out our board and start all over. But I really find that in most cases, it’s not really an extreme makeover that you need. It might just be some minor surgery. Maybe you need a better recruitment process. Maybe you need more education for your board. Maybe you need to do some brainstorming. Maybe you need to just strengthen your board appeal. It might just be one small thing that you really need to think about.

I see that-thank you, Steven-it looks like he put up the link to get that form, which is great.

Before we go to questions, I do want to make a special offer for you. If you purchase my book “Fundraising for the Genius,” it has a lot in there about getting your boards involved in fundraising plus other things. If you purchase that before September 9th, you can get a 15% discount on the book. Feel free to jot that down and do that.

I’m going to try to get to some of these questions. I’m not sure how many we have. I know some of the questions in there are about sound and things like that. Steven, do you want to go to the questions and read off some of the ones that you think are important?

Steven Shattuck: Yeah. I think they’re all important. We’ll try to get to all of them here. I’m just going to kind of go down the list. So, Mary Jo is wondering, “Is it a normal procedure to have your development director be a voting member of your board?”

Linda Lysakowski: I don’t think any staff should ever be a voting member of the board because I think you really get yourself into an awkward position. I’ve never seen a director of development be a voting member. But I’ve worked with groups. I worked with one group one time where the executive director was a voting member and there was an extremely controversial issue. He abstained from voting but it was still clear what his idea was. Soon after that, he was fired.

Steven Shattuck: Oh, no.

Linda Lysakowski: I think it can be really a dangerous precedent. I think they should actively be at board meetings but not be a voting member. Technically you’d be voting on things like your own raise or firing people or hiring people and those kinds of things.

Steven Shattuck: That makes sense. We’ve got one here from Cheryl. Cheri is wondering, “What are expectations around board annual gifts versus giving to a campaign? Can or should the board annual gift be wrapped into the campaign or should they be separate? What should happen there do you think?”

Linda Lysakowski: It depends. Usually when you run a capital campaign, there are campaigns that are called comprehensive campaigns where the whole campaign wraps in your annual giving. But I actually worked once-I think it depends on your organization-I worked once for an organization that part of our campaign was a comprehensive campaign and part of it was not. Our major donors we approached in two separate appeals, one for annual giving and one for the capital. But our staff members-we had the staff members give a comprehensive campaign. They made one gift and they could either divide it 50% to the campaign and 50% to annual giving or they could choose to divide it some other way if they wanted to.

So, it depends a lot on the organization. For some groups, a comprehensive campaign is easier. But the cautions with that is once you wrap annual giving into capital, sometimes it’s hard to go back and pick it up on its own. So, you have to make a real strong case for the annual giving.

Steven Shattuck: Yeah. That makes sense. Okay. Cool. Well, here’s a good one from Margo. I was actually just wondering this myself while Linda was talking. Margo wants to know, “If 100% of board giving is important and we think it is and some are not in a financial position to give a relatively large amount, should all board members donation amounts be visible to the entire board?”

Linda Lysakowski: I think that’s a tricky one. In most organizations, I would say no because I think it is sometimes embarrassing for some people if they can’t give as much. The total should definitely be announced and the fact that everybody gave should be announced. It depends a lot on how you list donations too. If you list donations in your annual report by amounts and the board members are comfortable with that, then I think its fine to do it.

Steven Shattuck: Okay. Cool. Susan here was wondering how you feel about a board member who is responsible for an annual gift but it comes from an estate and they’re not giving personally necessarily? Do you think that matters? What do you think there?

Linda Lysakowski: If it’s coming from an estate and that person is the recipient on the estate it probably would be okay. I think what you get into trouble with-this is kind of a similar question-let’s say I’m the vice president of the local bank and I’ve joined this board and I say, “Oh, I have to make a gift to this board.” So, I go into my bank and say, “Oh, I have to make a gift because I’m on this board. So, I need to bank to give a $5,000 gift.” Well, that didn’t come out of my money at all. So, that I think is not the same as giving a personal gift.

Steven Shattuck: Yeah.

Linda Lysakowski: But if your board member is a small business owner like myself, I’m an LLC and if I give a gift from my company, that is a gift from me because I’m the sole owner of the company. So, I think it depends on the situation. If it really is coming from the individual’s personal income, then I would say its okay. But if it’s coming from-lets’ say they’re a trustee of a foundation. It’s great that they get the foundation gift, but I would want them to also give a personal gift then.

Steven Shattuck: Yeah. Okay. Well, I know there are a lot of questions still in here. We probably don’t have time for all of them. I’m probably going to do one more. But Linda, is it safe to say that you’d be willing to answer questions via email? Is that okay?

Linda Lysakowski: Yeah. I was just going to say if we don’t get your question answered, feel free to email me directly. I do see that somebody wants to the book information slide back up. I’ll put that back up in case anybody wants that. But you have time for one more you said, right?

Steven Shattuck: Yeah. And we’ll definitely include Linda’s email address in my follow-up email with the recording. I want to get to one last one. It’s from William. William is wondering, “Is there a percentage of the total revenue of an organization that the board should be expected to raise?” Is there a hard and fast rule on that or anything to show what the average is or do you think you shouldn’t hold the board to a certain percentage?

Linda Lysakowski: I think it’s really hard to do that. One percentage-I’ve never really heard a real hard and fast rule, although I have heard many times in capital campaigns people say the board should be giving one third of the goal. I can tell you that in my experience, I think only once have I ever had a board member and one board member was responsible for more than a third of the goal. I think it’s really hard to say that because every board is different and every board is unique. Some boards just aren’t going to be able to do that much of a percentage. I don’t think the percentage is important as are they doing the best they can do to help with fundraising.

Steven Shattuck: Right. That makes sense. Well, cool. We’ve got about a minute left. Linda, thanks so much for being here and sharing all of this information. I think everyone who is listening really enjoyed it just based on some of the comments and questions. So, thanks so much for being here.

Linda Lysakowski: Okay. And as I said, feel free-is there a way that I can see these questions that came in through the chat room?

Steven Shattuck: Yeah.

Linda Lysakowski: Send those to me.

Steven Shattuck: Definitely. I will do that.

Linda Lysakowski: Okay. Great. If your question didn’t get answered, feel free to email me and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Steven Shattuck: Cool. Thanks to everyone for listening in and taking an hour out of your day. We know everyone’s busy especially as we’re approaching the last quarter of the year here. Thanks so much. I will be sending out the recording here in about an hour or so. So, look for an email from me. Definitely reach out to Linda if you have any additional questions.

So, thanks so much for joining us. Look for an email from me a little later on this afternoon. Enjoy the rest of your week and have a great weekend. We’ll talk to you soon. Bye now.

Linda Lysakowski: Okay. Thanks.

Steven Shattuck: Bye, Linda.

Linda Lysakowski: Bye.

Major gift fundraising

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.