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Rules of (Board) Engagement: How to Activate Your Board as Fundraisers

Rules of (Board) Engagement: How to Activate Your Board as FundraisersYou’ve recruited a strong, dynamic, and influential board. So, what now? It’s time to activate your board as fundraisers. Each of your board members needs to actively participate in fundraising to support your organization. Cultivating a fundraising mindset among your board of directors is a critical step in implementing a culture of philanthropy. 

It can be challenging to hold board members accountable for their fundraising roles and responsibilities related to board giving requirements. While most nonprofit board members may be deeply engaged in mission advancement, many do not identify as fundraisers. 

How do you change that mindset? While remaining respectful of your board members for volunteering their time and resources, you must promote your organization’s mission and hold board members accountable for achieving agreed fundraising goals. 

We’ve set some guidelines to help nonprofits get the most from their boards. 

Set Expectations

Creating a culture of philanthropy and financial accountability requires clear and regular communication.  This process should start when new board members are recruited and continue through regular touch points to keep board members on track. Simply defining the board’s roles and responsibilities or setting a minimum give-get requirement is not enough. 

It is especially helpful to find a peer champion on your board who can help promote these expectations. Identify a board member who makes a meaningful gift each year and successfully fundraises on your behalf and invite him or her to serve as your board’s development chair. Utilize your development chair to report on fundraising at the beginning of each board meeting and set expectations for future fundraising efforts. 

Go Beyond the Mission

Building a culture of philanthropy across an organization starts with turning your biggest advocates into successful fundraisers. Many individuals serve on nonprofit boards because they have been impacted by, or strongly believe in, an organization's mission. Engage your board members in conversations beyond the missiontell them exactly what it is you hope to achieve and the impact it will have.

This allows them to translate the mission into tangible necessities. By helping your board members communicate organizational needs, you are creating a natural ask for their spheres of influence to support. 

Foster a Fundraising Mindset

Each board meeting should include a fundraising update from your development chair or chief development officer. He or she should provide an update on revenue to date, progress against goals, and important upcoming donor meetings or events. The fundraising update should include a holistic overview of the organization's philanthropic efforts, identifying any funding gaps and needs for support. Once your board understands this need, it is easier to activate them as fundraisers. 

Board members often think of themselves as “friend”raisersinviting contacts to join events as their guestsrather than “fund”raisersasking for financial supportbecause the idea of asking for money makes them uncomfortable. Before you ask your board to introduce new donors to the organization, actively engage them in your current stewardship process. By bringing your board into this process, you are adding an additional touch point for your donors and coaching your board on the fundamentals of fundraising. As board members become more familiar with your fundraising process, they will be more willing to identify donors from their personal networks and spheres of influence. 

Sustain Board Engagement Year Round

While some board members may have a higher capacity to give than others, everyone can afford to give something. To maintain a fundraising mindset and hold your board accountable throughout the fiscal year, follow these steps: 

  • Do your research. Allow each board member to participate in a way that is meaningful to him or her. Some board members like to give through event support, others give incrementally throughout the fiscal year, and a handful will make a single gift at year-end. By allowing your board members to give in a way that is meaningful to them, you will secure recurring contributions rather than singular gifts to an event or campaign.
  • Set board action plans. Meet with each board member at the beginning of the fiscal year to set personal goals that support your fundraising efforts. Agree on the campaigns and fundraising initiatives each board member will support, identify donor prospects, and develop a timeline for donor cultivation.
  • Hold regular touch points with board members to gauge progress against their action plans and to help them remain on track with their goals. Provide coaching on donor outreach, accompany board members to meetings, and support them in follow-up for financial asks.
  • Don’t wait until year-end to ask your board to give. Steward your board members like any other donor. When you meet about their individual action plans, make a point to discuss their personal giving. 

To effectively advance fundraising within your organization, it is important that board members become fully engaged in the fundraising process. Encouraging each board member to serve in multiple roles, including donor, fundraiser, and leader, will help to foster a culture of philanthropy. 

Board members set the tone for philanthropy and have a direct impact on your pace of growth. Setting expectations for board engagement, developing a fundraising mindset through training and coaching, and monitoring board giving closely will pay dividends for your organizations mission and its growth.

For more information on how to recruit a dynamic board, please see the first article in our Rules of (Board) Engagement series. The final article in this series, on how to tackle board transitions, will publish next Friday, October 5. 

Rules of (Board) Engagement: How to Activate Your Board as FundraisersRules of (Board) Engagement: How to Activate Your Board as FundraisersBecca Bennett (left) is a director and Jordan Ritchie (right) is a senior associate director at Orr Associates, Inc. (OAI).  OAI is a strategic fundraising firm that leverages top talent and innovative technologies to help nonprofits grow and diversify revenue. 

Topics: Board Development Nonprofit boards and fundraising Nonprofit Board Giving