When you ask for your board’s help with fundraising tasks, what’s their response? Supportive? Enthusiastic? Or is it evasive? Perhaps even fearful? Healthy boards want to help with fundraising. They are responsive and supportive. This article identifies eight common board fundraising maladies and provides
recommendations for improved health.
If your board is less than enthusiastic, diagnose why. Then use the recommendations to doctor them to philanthropic health.*
1. They Don’t Get Philanthropy. Your board members equate philanthropy, development, and fundraising with selling. To them, your request to help is akin to standing on Main and First panhandling. Even if they lack this extreme viewpoint, they equate obtaining income with discomfort.
Recommendation: Cure them of confusion. Educate them about philanthropy, development, and fundraising. Teach them about the value they can offer. Establish the differences between philanthropy and selling. One possibility? Ask them to compare and contrast the two.
2. Foggy Memory of Donations. They’ve forgotten the joy of giving. They don’t understand their opportunity to help others feel good.
Recommendation: Engage them in sharing stories about gifts they’ve given that make them feel proud. Enlighten their self-interest. Remind them how they can offer others this opportunity.
3. Confused About Roles. They are unsure what you want them to do.
Recommendation: Don’t make them guess. Be specific. Give examples. Demonstrate typical interactions. Remember, what’s easy and obvious about fundraising to you may not be to others. (Do you remember the first time you called someone for an appointment?)
5. Scared to Ask for Money. They fear you will embarrass them, or worse cause them to embarrass themselves.
Recommendation: Create processes to gain their trust. Build their skills. Anticipate their challenges. Help them succeed. Start with easy, high-win actions such as email invitations to forward to friends and calls to thank donors.
6. No Peer Giving. They hear your words. They understand the expectations. They’re willing to be part of a group effort. Unfortunately, when they study your nonprofit’s statistics, they discover that their peers view your requests for support as empty rhetoric.
Recommendation: Stop group appeals. Privately elicit individual leaders until you reach critical mass.
7. Board Members Who Lack Passion. They like you and your cause — but not that much. They serve to fulfill an obligation or obtain member benefits.
Recommendation: They joined the board for logic. To grow their involvement, engage their hearts by showing how their contributions matter. You might, for example, organize times to hear your customers’ success stories. As necessary, be ready to thank individual members for their service and recruit new members.
8. No Hurry. They will do the work tomorrow when they have more time.
Recommendation: Recognize that no one will have more time tomorrow. Help your board members to give fundraising activities a higher priority. One method is to develop deadlines. For example, when sharing plans to contact a major donor who always asks about the gifts of others, offer your board this proposal, “When we meet with her next month, we want to show her real progress. One way to do that is to double board giving. Will you help us?”
8. No Resources. No money. No friends. No desire to change.
Recommendation: See through this mega-excuse fog. Identify the real reason or reasons from the above list. Is it lack of understanding? Passion? Fear? Skills? Peers? Heart? Then, apply the appropriate recommendation above.
Eight Causes and Cures
Healthy boards support fundraising. If your board is unresponsive or unenthused, take action. Use these recommendations to doctor your board to health.
* An ongoing discussion is taking place in the field about the role of boards. Many believe the role of boards is to govern, not fundraise. No matter your opinion, it is likely that if your nonprofit seeks donated funds, it will benefit from board support of fundraising activities.