So for the last three months of the year, I’m going to veer off the course we’ve been on a bit and tackle some important related topics.
The topic of this week is the importance of using your board members to help with fundraising. I realized that I have not covered this important topic nearly as much as I might have in the Major Gifts Challenge, and I don’t want the year to come to an end without doing so.
Why Should Your Board Help Raising Major Gifts?
So, why should you use board members to help with major gifts?
1. Fundraising is about relationships
Remember that fundraising is about relationships. When board members bring friends, family, and colleagues to the fundraising table, there already exists a level of trust that doesn’t need to be built.
Think about a walk-a-thon. It works so well as a fundraiser because it relies on walkers to solicit their friends. Friends give because someone they trust asks them to, and not necessarily because they have a strong affiliation with the charity.
That being said, before a board member can ask someone for a major gift, that person must develop an affiliation with the organization, because unlike a walk-a-thon, it’s not a token contribution that you’re looking for.
2. Board members are volunteers
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “put your money where your mouth is.” Board members (at least the ones we want asking for major gifts) have already made their own significant financial contribution. They are not receiving any financial compensation for their work on the board and they generously offer their time and money.
Who better to ask for a gift, than this type of volunteer? It’s hard to say no to that type of dedication and commitment.
3. Board members are networked
Board members often have connections with people in the community, that you as staff, would never have. Six degrees of separation applies here, and the more people you have working (or volunteering) for your cause, the more people your organization “knows”.
4. Organizations with active board members raise more money
The fact is that organizations with active board members usually raise more money than organizations without active board members for the above reasons.
Every time I’ve ever come across an organization where board members participate in fundraising, the organization raises significantly more than if they didn’t. And, it doesn’t have to be all board members (although that would be nice). It’s often a few, key board member who actively participate.
Getting Your Board Members Involved in Raising Major Gifts
That’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but how do we get our board members involved?
A. Start with 100% participation
Do all of your board members contribute financially? At the level they could or should be giving?
B. Provide ongoing training
At each board meeting, dedicate time to discuss fundraising, not simply review a fundraising report. Select a topic for discussion, such as identification, cultivation, solicitation, stewardship, annual fund or planned giving. Discuss how board member can get involved in each area.
C. Plan a board retreat
Plan an annual board retreat. The main two agenda items should be strategic planning and fundraising/development. For details, see my post Board Retreats: An Excellent Tool for Getting Major Gifts.
D. Create a board member expectation form
Create a one to two page form for board members to sign annually, which states exactly what they will be responsible for. Include committees they will serve on, specific dollar amount they will give, which fundraising activities they will participate in, etc.
Action Item of the Week — 2 hours or less
So what have you tried in the past to encourage your board members to participate? Did it work? Share your story in the comments.
This post is part of Amy’s Major Gifts Challenge. Read the entire series to learn how to get major gifts by spending just two hours each week.