Teaching Your Board About Fundraising

confused attendees at a trainingAs I looked around the room, I realized that just about every single person had a deer in the headlights look. You might recognize the feeling too – like someone has just sprayed a firehouse at you.

That was about 10 years ago as I gave one of my first board trainings. My goal had been to teach everyone as much about fundraising as I possible could in 90 minutes. It was basically a summary of about 180+ hours of training I had received at that point. No wonder everyone was overwhelmed!

Since then I’ve been slowly focusing in on some key topics that (1) will help board members make informed decisions about fundraising and (2) provide information that will help them as they get involved as ambassadors for their organizations. When in a position where we’re training board members, we don’t need to teach them everything, we (and they, and our organizations) are better off when we simple focus on those aspects of fundraising they need to know.

So what are some key things I teach now? They focus around three different facilitated events, each of which takes about 2 hours. The first focuses on visioning. The second focuses on fundraising planning and the final one focuses on asking and everything involved in the asking process. As an aside, not everyone on your board needs to be involved in asking. But everyone should be serving as an ambassador and being part of the overall fundraising process (this is the case with just about every small- and mid-sized nonprofit I’ve worked with).

  1. Visioning Exercise. Some organizations have already done this as part of a strategic planning process. But in cases where it hasn’t been done, we take some time to dream about what could be – and what should be – for the community that is being served. We focus in on the big idea the organization is addressing and develop a statement to summarize that. Then that becomes part of the core message as they move forward with their fundraising activities.
  2. Facilitated Fundraising Planning Session. During this session I share key information on a very high level as it applies to planning for fundraising activities that the board will be engaged in. This includes things like closing ratios for different types of asks (phone vs in-person vs social media outreach, etc.) and ROFI (return on fundraising investment) of different strategies (major gifts versus direct mail vs planned giving, etc). Then we focus in on a few ways board members can become involved. Based on that, we develop a personal board member fundraising plan (this becomes really helpful as you follow-up with board members).
  3. Asking. While not everyone is involved in the asking process, everyone should feel comfortable with what the asking process is – and what it isn’t. It’s not manipulating and it’s not arm twisting. And if you feel that way you’re doing it wrong. It is helping people through the process of determining what impact they’d like to make on the world and whether or not our organization is the best one suited to help them do that. And just in case you’re tempted to skip the asking part, just remember that if we don’t ask, people assume that the money part is all taken care of. We need to ask.

Fundraising can be fun – and inspiring! And with these changes in my approach to trainings I no longer get that confused look. Instead it’s far more common to see people inspired, smiling and encouraged!

What additional information do you share with your board? Please let me know!

Comments are closed.