Welcome to the next video in the Major Gifts Challenge series! If you’re unfamiliar with the Challenge, check out the introductory video here.
There’s a Secret Weapon in your toolbox for raising major gifts.
When this tool is engaged major gift victory becomes more certain. It never fails to make annual and capital campaigns more successful.
That tool is your board members.
Board members have connections with and access to individuals you don’t. They broaden the network of the organization.
One asset board members bring to your organization is credibility. When they give their time and resources, it’s easier for them to ask others to do the same.
Board Members Don’t Just Ask
Your board members don’t need to ask for money to be a successful part of the fundraising team. If you expect everyone to ask, you are going to fail.
No matter how much training and encouragement you provide, some board member will never be comfortable asking.
It’s great when they do ask, but that can’t be the only contribution board members make. It’s important to provide a variety of meaningful ways they can help with fundraising.
The long and short of it is you must engage and train board members all year long.
Consider How Board Members Can Help
First, develop a list of activities which will benefit from board member’s help. Be as specific as you can.
You can start the list with asking, but it must expand from there. Also think in short, doable tasks. The quicker they can do something, and the easier it is to do, the more likely they are going to do it.
Here are a few sample items to get you going:
- Ask in person
- Add a personal note to an appeal letter
- Send an email to a potential sponsor
- Coordinate a meeting with the DOD or ED
- Schedule a tour
- Send a handwritten thank you note
- Make a thank you call
- Write a thank you email
Engage Board Members During Meetings
Keeping fundraising at the top of your board member’s minds, means you must keep it at the top of the agenda for every meeting.
Don’t simply read the development report. Send that in advance and field questions at the meeting or in advance via email.
Engage board members in a fundraising discussion at every meeting. Possible discussion topics include:
Topic 1: Building great relationships
Have a discussion about how board members can build relationships between people they know, as well as current donors with the organization. Ask them what it means to them to have a relationship with an organization. How did they get involved? What was most meaningful to them? Ask what other organizations are doing and how you could learn from them.
Topic 2: Taking the money out of solicitation
Asking people for money can be scary. Ask for examples of times when they gave a donation and it felt great. Ask why it felt great and how you might replicate that at your organization.
Start a discussion about how you can change fundraising language from negative to positive. Give examples of negative language like, “twisting arms, begging, or shaking down.” Then ask for some positive words – for example, “investing in our community.” Talk about how donors can help your mission by curing a disease, or housing the homeless. Take money out of the discussion altogether.
Topic 3: Providing stellar stewardship
Ask how your board members have been thanked by other organizations. Ask which were the most meaningful and why. Discuss what you’re currently doing and how you can do better.
Discuss how board members can get involved. Start by writing thank you notes and making thank you calls during a board meeting. Remember to provide bullet points and scripts for both written notes and calls. Then ask board members how it felt to thank donors firsthand.
Topic 4: Making bequests
If you expect people to leave your organization in their will, you are going to need to start talking about it and your board members will need to lead by example.
Prior to your meeting, ask if anyone has a charitable bequest in their will (it doesn’t need to be for your organization). Get in touch with anyone who responds and ask if they would feel comfortable sharing why they chose to do so at the next meeting. Have them talk about how it feels to know they are leaving a legacy, and how easy it was to set up.
Challenge Yourself Action Item
Step 1: Improve your board meetings.
Develop a schedule or calendar of topics to cover at every board meeting. You ought to also consider some board training activities, many of which can be conducted right in your conference room.
Step 2: Include your ED/CEO.
Discuss your schedule with your ED/CEO and board chair to make sure they are comfortable changing the format of your development “report.” Put the schedule into place and start changing the culture of your board at your very next meeting.
Going Further with Major Gifts
There are many activities and exercises you can do with your board members at each meeting to keep them involved and engaged. Mastering Major Gifts can provide you with a number of them.
Mastering Major Gifts is a 7-week online course that’s dedicated to teaching you everything you need to know to consistently bring in 5, 6 and even 7 figure gifts. You owe it to yourself to check this program out!
Act, Comment and Participate
Now it’s your turn to share your progress with the Major Gifts Challenge. How do you engage your board members with fundraising? Do you provide training and meaningful discussion throughout the year?
Let me know about your experiences with board engagement in the comments.