Engaging Board Members in Fundraising

Are you frustrated with board members that won't help with fundraising? If so, you're not alone and you've come to the right place. 

Are you frustrated with board members that won’t help with fundraising? If so, you’re not alone and you’ve come to the right place. 

Hi, my name is Sharam Kohan and today we’re going to talk about five ways to engage your board members in fundraising and the reason that I think that this topic is so important is that any campaign that I’ve ever worked on a capital campaign or an annual fund campaign when the board members were involved and engaged the organization raised significantly more money than they would have had the board members not been engaged. We want that for your organization. So let’s go ahead and get right into the 5 ways to engage your board members in fundraising. 

The number one is to prioritize fundraising at every single board meeting so that means carving out 15 or maybe even twenty minutes of every single board meeting having a meaningful fundraising discussion and I’m not talking about reading the fundraising report that can be sent in advance but really having a topic to engage your board members around fundraising. Sometimes I go to an organization and I’ll see that fundraising is last on the board meeting agenda. Actually I see that pretty frequently and that tells me and your board members that fundraising is in terms of the priority of the organization. Boards should have fundraising up on their board meeting agenda and dedicate 20 minutes to having that meaningful fundraising discussion. A lot of development directors say oh the organization will never give me 20 minutes. That’s another indicator that fundraising just isn’t that important to your organization so it’s time to change the culture and make it a priority now. 

The number two that we’re going to talk about in terms of engaging your board members in fundraising is to provide orientation and make sure that you’re setting expectations about fundraising right at the onset when board members join your organization for the first time. What I can say is that you want to make sure that they really understand what you’re providing and what you’re doing for the organization, give them a tour, introduce them to a client, make sure that they meet some staff members and even pair them up with an experienced board member mentor if they have questions and you expect them to give money and to help with fundraising that needs to be laid out right up front when they join the organization.

Number three is to plan an annual board retreat so if you don’t have a board retreat on your calendar yet for the next 12 months go ahead and add one and what a board retreat does it’s not just an opportunity for planning although it’s an important opportunity for strategic planning. It’s also an opportunity for team building and of course fundraising training, learning all of the best practices tools and techniques even fundraising 101.  Aboard retreat is not just a longer board meeting, it really has a totally different agenda. 

Number four is to meet with each board member individually so you may see your board members frequently at board meetings and committee meetings but how often do you sit down with each board member and have an important meaningful discussion? You should ask questions like how’s their experience as a board member at your organization. What do they love most about serving and what frustrations do they have and how would they like to help and engage with fundraising. That’s a conversation that should happen one-on-one, not in a group setting.  

In the fifth and final way to engage your board members in fundraising is to keep all of your requests short and simple so whatever fundraising tasks you’re asking of board members make sure that you remember they are busy people with lots of things going on in their lives and fundraising doesn’t come naturally to most people so we want to ask them to commit to fundraising for 15 minutes a month for your organization and whatever we’re asking them should be really concrete and spelled out for them. So, if we want them to add personal notes to appeal letters we’re going to give them scripts and bullets if we want them to make thank-you calls or phone calls of any kind. We’re also going to give them scripts and bullets to know what to do differently if they get a voicemail versus a live person on the phone. If we want them to send an email, we’re going to be very specific and concrete so that they can be successful. 

Those are the five ways to engage your board members and fundraise all year long.

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