20 Jan

The (Not So) Secret Trio to Get Your Board to Fundraise

One of the questions that executive directors and development directors ask me the most is, “How can I get my board to fundraise?”

My answer is that boards need 3 things to become fundraisers:

Mindset: Some people are not comfortable talking about money with their family and friends, let alone asking others to give their hard-earned money. Nonprofit board members have to flip their mental switches and internalize that it is not only okay to talk about money, but it is a good thing. Money is the primary necessary ingredient to solve whatever societal issue an organization seeks to address. When board members ask others for financial support, they are not asking to enrich themselves. Rather, board members are asking prospects to help fund the solution to a problem that both of them care about (if the proper prospect qualification has been done)! Giving money is an expression of values and inviting someone to join the solicitor in investing to address a societal challenge is honorable.  There is no shame whatsoever in fundraising. On the contrary, it is a noble and a respectable undertaking. If board members don’t believe this, they won’t fundarise or they will do so with a lot of apologizing and questionable effectiveness.

Will: One of the primary responsibilities of board members is to ensure that the organization has the adequate financial resources to carry out its mission and pursue its vision. This means that board members are accountable to make sure that there is sufficient revenue. Provided that the organization does not have enough earned income, this means the organization must fundraise or the board has to cut expenses (sadly, many boards prefer to cut expenses to the point of under-resourcing the organization rather than fundraise). The board is responsible for fundraising in partnership with the paid staff. It doesn’t mean that every person is going to be out soliciting, but they certainly can help with prospecting, cultivating and stewarding donors. Board members must acknowledge their accountability and responsibility for fundraising before they assume their position on the board and be informed how to carry out their duties upon taking their seat on the board.  This begins with board members making their own meaningful financial contribution or meeting the give or get requirement. It also means showing up and bringing friends to fundraising events. Board members must work in partnership with the development professionals to carve out their unique way to discharge their responsibilities and collectively, hold the board accountable for development.

Skill: Even with the right mindset and the will to do so, fundarising is not an innate skill for most people. This is the easy and fun part for me. Boards can be trained to be fundraisers. At a minimum, they need training on three topics: (1) Storytelling, learning how to convey the organization’s and their stories in a compelling way ; (2) The Development Cycle, understanding how to prospect, cultivate, solicit and steward donors and the ways they can help; and (3) Making the Ask, learning and practicing the mechanics of soliciting.

One of the absolute privileges of my life is working with good people who are fighting the good fight in the nonprofit sector. It is rewarding for me to partner with board leaders and nonprofit professionals to help board members master and combine their Mindset, Will and Skill.  Armed with this trio, board members are empowered to raise the funds to carry out their organization’s missions and achieve their visions, making the world a better place. So, if you want your board to fundraise, work on their Mindset, Will and Skill.

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