If you've worked at (or with) a nonprofit, you've struggled with your board members at some point. We all have. It's normal! The relationship between nonprofits and their boards is that of checks and balances and strategy. Frustration happens.
One of the most common sources of frustration is getting board members involved in fundraising. Many—maybe even most—nonprofits expect their board members to support their fundraising efforts both by donating and by taking on an active role in finding and recruiting donors. Getting board members to donate is pretty straightforward, but getting them to actively raise money for you is another thing altogether. Asking others for money is hard enough when you're a professional fundraiser. Asking others for money when you have zero fundraising experience is intimidating.
If some of your board members are reluctant or anxious about fundraising, try some of these methods to ease them into it:
1. Ask Board Members to Suggest Potential Donors
Your board members may be intimidated by asking their friends or families for support. While you work through that apprehension with them, try asking them to suggest a few individuals who may be interested in your mission. Your board members can help you come up with an outreach strategy you can tackle together.
Once you've collected some names, work with your board members to determine the best way to approach those people. Should you write a targeted appeal to people your board members suggested? What about inviting those people to an upcoming event to learn more about your work? Could you set up meetings with those people to see if they'd be interested in getting involved?
This can be a good opportunity to introduce your board members to solid fundraising methods. Instead of telling them to bring in new donors and leaving them to it, you can get started together.
2. Involve Board Members in Writing Appeals
Board members are fantastic resources when you're putting together campaign appeals ... and not because they can share your appeal with friends and family.
Your board members are a wellspring of ideas, stories, and testimonials that you can use in your campaigns. Instead of asking your CEO to write another appeal letter, get your board members involved. Instead of putting together a formulaic (and boring) appeal letter, ask your board members to get involved. Encourage them to share their stories and make their own appeals—the new perspective will be refreshing and appealing to your donors. Of course, you'll want to have someone from your development staff guide board members through the process—they're not professionals!—to keep things on track.
Getting a fundraising appeal from a CEO or development director is pretty standard. Getting an appeal written personally by someone who's so passionate about the cause that they serve on the board is more engaging. Try it! Your board members might not be seasoned fundraisers, but their stories are great fundraising tools.
3. Build Online Fundraising Pages for Board Members
Every professional fundraiser has experienced the anxiety that often accompanies in-person asks. If it's scary for you, imagine what it's like for your board members!
One way many nonprofits work around that anxiety is by setting up fundraising pages for board members. Using a peer-to-peer fundraising platform, each board member can set a fundraising goal, share her story, post to social channels, send fundraising emails, and more. It's all digital, so the anxiety of in-person asks isn't a problem. It's also customizable, so each board member can make personalized appeals to his friends and family. Those personalized appeals feel authentic and natural (which makes them appealing to donors) instead of feeling stiff and formal (as in-person asks can sometimes be).
Whether your board members are raising money for a one-time campaign or year-round, giving them digital fundraising tools can help ease them into fundraising.
4. Invite Board Members to Attend Major Gifts Meetings
Another great way to use your board members' talents is to invite them to accompany you to meetings with major donors. You'll want to let your major donor know about their presence ahead of time, of course, and only take them along if you feel it would be a strategic advantage.
Done correctly, including board members in major gifts meetings can make your ask especially persuasive. A major donor knows that you're asking for support, at least in part, because that's your job. Having a board member who volunteers his time to support your organization speaks volumes! Your board member can share her story, explain why she were inspired to get involved, and share different perspectives about the impact you make with your work. A board member's presence is powerful social proof, and social proof plays a big role in successful fundraising.
Getting board members involved in the fundraising process can be tough. They're not professional fundraisers, so they're not familiar with fundraising best practices or strategies. They might be anxious about asking their friends and their family for support—especially face-to-face—or they might not know where to start.
Help ease your board members into fundraising by offering multiple ways to get involved. Get them involved in the fundraising process itself by having them suggest potential donors and sharing their stories in appeals. Invite them to share their excitement for your cause at meetings with donors. Give them digital tools they can use to raise money themselves. There are lots of options!
Your board members are passionate about your cause and want to support you. Give them some guidance and watch what they can do!
Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and nonprofit education manager for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.