Lately, there have been a stream of nonprofit leaders – both board and staff – contacting Spokes and asking for help to engage their board members in their organization’s fundraising efforts. Conversations around the issue are stilted and awkward. Board meetings end with directors nodding in agreement to help raise funds, then leaving the room and continuing to be inactive. Resentments build. Fiscal goals are not met.
Sound familiar? Maybe painfully familiar?
The good news – and bad news – is that you are not alone. For many nonprofit leaders, nothing about fundraising seems easy. It’s a reasonable sentiment. After all, most important work is never easy. However, there are ways to make the work easier and more of a cultural norm.
Start by formally acknowledging that most folks find it hard to ask friends and family to make donations to the organizations they serve – not because they don’t believe passionately in the mission – but because they are uncomfortable requesting a favor. There is an underlying fear that a time will come when they need their friends and family to help them with a more critical issue, and they don’t want to feel that they’ve already asked too much on behalf of their favorite charity.
It’s time to stop asking board members to solicit their friends and colleagues and take a tremendous first step to shift their resistance to fundraising. Instead, ask them to focus on what they can do within their comfort level to contribute to your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts:
“Not comfortable asking for a gift?
o Can you invite potential donors to our next event?
o Can you use your Facebook page to share our client success stories with your friends and neighbors and advocate for our mission?
o Can you wear your board member nametag at your work-related events?
o Can you help us thank our current donors in a way that is personal and meaningful?”
It’s important to clarify to your board members how the friends, associates, and colleagues they introduce to the organization will be treated. Assure and demonstrate that all prospective donors are treated respectfully, with the intention of developing a long-term relationship. Define how donors are cultivated, asked, thanked, recognized, and protected.
Finally, remind board members that the organization will be more successful with fundraising goals if donors are asked to join the board in their giving. It’s far more difficult to encourage a new donor to make a gift if current board members are not willing to do the same. Ask your board members to conduct a modest board giving campaign with 100% participation. Then ask staff, other board members, and volunteer leaders who are comfortable with asking for donations to take the lead.
Read these two helpful articles for more information and inspiration on how to make fundraising easier and more successful for everyone in your organization.
How to Run a Successful Board Giving Campaign by Joe Garecht
NOTE: Spokes member organizations have access to templates for board of director commitment forms and other policies to facilitate board giving campaigns.
Special thanks to Connie O’Henly, Executive Director of the Clark Center Association, for sharing these articles with Spokes!