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5 Ways for Board Members to Support Fundraising (Without Making an Ask)

Rachel Muir Rachel Muir

Most people are afraid to ask for money. In the depths of our deepest fears public speaking is king (at number one) and death scores a close second. Jerry Seinfeld pointed out the irony of this, joking, “This means we’d rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy!”

Where does fear of asking other people for money come in? Number three. Not as scary as death but more terrifying than spiders. Perhaps no one expresses more fear or trepidation around it as board members. Which is why it may be so easy for them to deflect and suggest you “Just go ask Oprah to give.”

The good news is that there are lots of ways for board members to support fundraising that don’t involve asking for money. Here are my 5 tips for board members to support fundraising without ever making an ask:

#1 Make their own gift.

Philanthropy starts at home! I would never allow anyone to sit on a board without first making a generous stretch gift themselves. Many organizations require board members contribute a minimum amount. Others chose an amount specific to each board members capacity. There are upsides to each of these strategies, and frankly either works, as long as they are asked and they give!

#2 Call and thank donors.

Penelope Burk has done some pioneering research on the impact of a board member thanking a donor. The results are game changing. In one study donors were 10% more likely to make a second gift if they got a thank you call from a staff person but 25% more likely if it came from board member! In another longitudinal study a group of donors got thank you calls from board members. The control group did not. Results? Donors who got calls were 39% more likely to make another gift and 2 years later, 70% were still giving!

My advice is make this quick and easy with a 5 minute “thank-a-thon” ice breaker to kick off your monthly board meeting. Give each board member a short list of up to 5 donors to call with some sample thank you copy and the gift amount. Lookout for falling praise bombs! They’ll get to experience the joy of giving. It can also reaffirm their commitment to your org and board service. Bonus points if you prepare your board member with some key discovery questions to ask your donor on the call!

#3 Put the organization in their estate plan.

What low hanging fruit! If anyone should make a planned gift it should be your board members. Bonus points if you get them to share their decision at a private tour or ‘will week’ event at your organization.

#4 Invite 5-10 high net worth friends as prospects for a private tour of the organization.

Our peer network wields tremendous influence on our giving. There is no better personal introduction than through a friend. Bonus points to for sharing their personal story of why or how they chose YOU as their philanthropic priority.

#5 Write an article on why the organization is important to them.

Did your board member get cold feet and fall short of swooning about why they support your cause in person? It’s ok, they can write about it! Use it in your monthly newsletter or an appeal.

Board members often fail at fundraising because expectations aren’t clearly spelled out in recruitment. A thorough board contract should detail every possible way your board member can support the organization. A robust board contract is the most important ingredient to board success. Try this free sample board contract. Trust me, it’s called “The Only Board Contract You’ll Ever Need” for a reason! Want more ideas? Check out this free guide full if tips to develop your board: The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Board.

Want to spend an hour with me getting some free coaching on this topic? Join me this Thursday, May 21st for a free webinar with Network for Good, register here: Can’t make it? Here’s a great recorded webinar on why your board isn’t fundraising and how to fix it:

Rachel Muir, CFRE is Vice President of Training at Pursuant where she transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers through classroom, custom and online training. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.

Topics: Fundraising