GuideStar Blog

9 Ways to Engage and Motivate Your Board Members to Raise Money

Old-fashioned alarm clockRecently I provided a webinar for Candid (formerly GuideStar and Foundation Center) called How to Engage Board Members in Fundraising in 15 Minutes Per Month (recording available here). There were a number of great questions at the end of the webinar.

I promised the attendees I would respond in a blog post. This is that post, and I thought my regular readers (like you) would benefit from the answers, too.

4 Ways to Engage Your Board Members in Fundraising

Engaging your board members in fundraising is pivotal to your success in raising major gifts. Here are four interesting questions I’ve been asked by fundraisers—their answers will help you to effectively engage your board members in the fundraising process.

1. Make sure every ask is personal.

My board chair won’t meet with our board members one-on-one to discuss their giving. He prefers to make a group ask during several board meetings a year. How can I break that habit?”

While it’s not a bad thing that your board chair encourages board giving at board meetings, you definitely need a more personalized approach. I suggest sitting down with your board chair and explaining the merits of meeting with board members individually, on an annual basis.

Maybe you can encourage him to announce at the next meeting that you will be reaching out individually to discuss their gifts. He may be too uncomfortable to do it himself, but instead allow you to engage board members in individual conversations, with his support.

Another option is to have him appoint a board member who is more comfortable to conduct the individual meetings (probably the vice chair or development committee chair). It should be someone who has been around for a while and is well-respected at your organization.

2. Not all board members have to ask.

Should we expect ALL board members to help in fundraising?”

Yes and no. YES, all board members should be expected to help with fundraising. But NO, they should not all be expected to ask.

There’s a huge difference between asking and all other aspects of fundraising. If your board members can’t distinguish between fundraising (including identifying donors, cultivating them and saying “thank you”) and asking, you have some educating to do.

Board members who can’t (or won’t) ask should be expected to help identify donors, build relationships, as well as helping with the thank you process.

All board members can help say thank you in 15 minutes per month by making three phone calls or writing three thank-you notes. It’s a great way to get board members started helping with fundraising.

3. Every board member should give what they can.

I work on a small non-profit board so we don’t necessarily have any ‘power’ players. Some might not be able to financially gift to the organization. What do you do in that situation?”

Just because someone isn’t a “power player” doesn’t mean they don’t have some money to contribute. In fact, some of the poorest people in the world are the most generous.

Each board member should give what they can. For some, that might be $25 per year. For others, it might be $2,500 or even $25,000. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule—but for the most part, your board members should be able to give something—even if it’s just $1.00.

4. Tell your story—not the organization’s story.

How do you ensure consistent messaging when many different people are asking?”

Instead of worrying that board members are out telling the “same” story, focus on making sure they can tell “a” story. Simply begin with “why they serve” and “why they care” about your organization. Once they’ve gotten someone’s attention, they can refer them to the organization’s website for the “official” story.

I’m much more interested in board members telling a story they are passionate about (i.e., why they serve) rather than getting all the little details right. For details, prospective donors should be introduced to a staff member and referred to the website.

5 Actions Board Members Can Take to Raise Money

In the webinar, I talked about the importance of giving board members short, achievable tasks. If you simply ask them to “help with fundraising,” they won’t know where to begin or what to do.

So instead, ask them to:

  1. Write three thank-you cards

  2. Make three phone calls

  3. Forward an email

  4. Share on social media

  5. Invite someone for a tour or to volunteer

Even more ways to engage your board ...

There are many ways board members can help with fundraising, even in under 15 minutes per month (which makes it very appealing). Download my latest ebook, 3 Essential Keys to Motivate Board Members to Raise Major Gifts. You’ll also get my second new ebook for free!

What other ways have you used to engage your board members? Share your ideas with everyone in the comments below.

This post is reprinted from Amy Eisenstein's blog.

Amy EisensteinAmy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is one of the country's leading fundraising consultants. She's raised millions of dollars for dozens of nonprofits through event planning, grant writing, capital campaigns, and major gift solicitations. She has a real talent for making fundraising simple and accessible for her clients and followers.

Topics: Fundraising Nonprofit boards and fundraising Nonprofit Board Giving