Engaging Your Board in Fundraising: Overcoming Fears

Board members can create many reasons why they should not be required to fundraise on behalf of your great cause. Many times these reasons are really based in a fear of fundraising. Let’s face it, how many of us, when we were young, said “I want to be a fundraiser when I grow up.” What fears hold us back from assisting in the growth of our organizations. First, I believe that it is the fear of the unknown. Next, many feel that asking for a charitable contribution is one small step above begging on the street corner. Finally, many board members do not know where to start looking and who to start talking to. There are many other fears as well, but these are the primary ones I have seen in the boards I have worked with.

Fear of the Unknown
For many, stepping into a fundraising role is a new experience. There are three ways to address this objection. First, educate your board about fundraising. There is a simple five-step process that board members can follow to ask for money (Prepare, Call, Visit, Ask, and Follow-Up). Sharing about the state of fundraising in the US is also a good idea. Over 80% of donations in this country come from individuals – and many board members do not know that. Another good way to take away the fear of the unknown is to begin with just one or two board members. As they go through the process, let them share their experiences and successes with the rest of the board. Many times, board members who hear about successes from their peers will venture in. Finally, select an achievable goal for the first year and together develop a plan on how to achieve it.

Fear of Begging
There is a difference between doing anything to get a one-time gift and asking people to invest in a cause they believe in. In the first, people beg, plead and do anything else that is required. In the latter, we build relationships with people, find out what their passions are and find out if our organization is the right one to accomplish their goals. What it really comes down to is the mission of your organization – and not the money. A major gifts strategy is about investment – not small one-time gifts. For those board members who are still not comfortable with the idea, they can be involved by calling large donors to thank them for their gifts. Speaking with current donors can ease them into becoming more involved in other aspects of fundraising.

Fear of Not Knowing Who To Start With
I think some board members are afraid that they will be asked to go out and ask all of their friends and colleagues for money (similar to the common technique in school fundraising of taking a brochure to work and asking everyone to buy something). Major gift fundraising needs to be a little more strategic than that. One way to accomplish this is to complete a spheres of influence exercise for the organization. Through this, the board identifies stakeholders and people who are already involved with the organization in some way. At the same time, the board should also be speaking with their friends and associates to gauge if they have an interest in the cause that the organization is addressing. If the organization has a large list of current supporters, it can be helpful to have a donor wealth screening completed on that group. This would provide a list of prospects for larger gifts.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

Comments are closed.