Five Tips for Engaging Your Board in Fundraising

If there’s one thing that seems to come up again and again as I talk with Executive Directors and Development Directors, it’s that board members don’t want to be involved in . And in some cases, I can’t blame them. They’ve been recruited because someone thought that they’d say yes – not because of any passion for the cause. They were assured that all they would have to do is show up at meetings. And we get what we ask for.

That leads us to the first suggestion:

  • Set expectations while you are recruiting potential board members. We get what we settle for, so please, don’t be afraid to talk about what you really want your board members to do while you are recruiting them.

In many cases though, we’ve come in down the road a ways and are, for the time being, stuck with those people who were either 1) recruited under a different set of expectations, 2) thought that said expectations didn’t apply to them or 3) have gotten used to the status quo of not being involved with fundraising. In this (much more common) situation, here are a few steps to take.

  • Start with one person (or two). If you wait until you have everyone on board, you’ll be waiting a long time. Having a little momentum is better than spinning wheels in place.
  • Do everything you can to make that one person successful. I’ve seen the transition from reluctant participant to engaged advocate. The transition occurs for a variety of reasons. Most important, I think, is that they get to see for themselves what an honor and privilege it is to ask for money. And they see first hand that most donors are not offended by the ask.
  • Have that advocate share their experiences. It’s one thing to have a paid staff member or consultant talk about raising funds. It’s a complete other for a board member to see one of their own – who was reluctant not so long ago – now being enthusiastic about asking for donations.
  • Lastly, talk about fundraising at every meeting. Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught us that we should expect what we inspect. Using a dashboard of some sort makes that easier because then you’re sharing the same type of information at each meeting. And go beyond just talking about the money.

If you do not have this struggle in your organization – Congratulations! And please, share information in the comments about what you attribute your success to.


Five Tips for Engaging Your Board in Fundraising — 4 Comments

  1. First, I love the photo of sleeping board members! I tell my clients that it takes, on average, 3 years to turn a board with a non-fundraising mentality into one with a culture of fundraising. Board members must be trained and recruited properly.

    And, Yes! I agree completely with your last point about including fundraising as a subject for discussion at every meeting. I worked with an ED who always had fundraising last on the agenda – and we always managed to “run out of time” before getting to it. Everyone knew exactly where it was on her priority list!

  2. Thanks for your comments! Amy – I saw the picture and couldn’t resist buying it :-). Three years sounds about consistent with what I’ve seen as well. Although there are some things we can do to help move that along a little quicker.