Often, the image the Board has of fundraising is of constantly being pressured to “hit up” their friends, co-workers, and neighbors for money. They imagine having a conversation with them where they talk about the organization and ask their friend for money. They can see their friend shrinking away from them and avoiding them at future social gatherings. They worry about their reputation.

When I started thinking about this Board fundraising issue recently for a client, I thought we would start by looking at an organization that was close to the ideal – where the board was fundraising like champs. Only I couldn’t find any. Here’s what I found over at BoardSource:

  • 40% of  nonprofit chief executives said their boards are reluctant to engage in fundraising
  • 60% said their board is not comfortable asking others for contributions

So it seems like this is everyone’s problem. But do we know what works?

In general, the anecdotal evidence suggests the best way to get Boards to fundraise is to:

  1. Set expectations BEFORE board members join that fundraising is part of the job.
  2. Educate Board members on fundraising.
  3. Reward good performance and have an easy exit for those that do not.

So let’s see how that worked with an organization I just worked with:

  1. They inherited the Board, so we took the opportunity of a new Executive Director to announce that it was time to revise the Board of Directors requirements. With the Board, we created requirements to raise (or give) $5000 per year, noting that this amount would grow. We also created term limits, a clear policy on unfulfilled duties, and expectations of the Board Chair and ED to keep meetings on time. At this time the ED and Board Chair gently “exited” Board Members that felt they could not meet the new requirements.
  2. The next Board retreat was focused on fundraising where the Board and ED came up with a fundraising philosophy and operational plan. In this session, the Board came up with the concept that they were “Chief Executive Introducers,” charged with making connections that the ED could shepherd along until the time was right for an ask. The Board could feel secure that if the process was followed, no contact would be mistreated.
  3. We worked with the Board Chair on a yearlong campaign with a catchy theme just for the Board. This campaign had a limited time frame, clear goals, and offered the ability for the Board to track their progress. The Board Chair would give an award at each meeting (most introductions, most money raised, best pitch, most creative idea) that rewarded fundraising best practices.

There are hundred of different ways to make this work, depending on the organization. Check out these resources:

This article advises getting rid of fundraising committees because it makes everyone else thing fundraising is “being handled” and that engaging your board is meaningful work that deepens their commitment to the cause.

You can ask your Board members to sign a fundraising contract.

Often Board fundraising issues indicate deep Board engagement issues. Here’s a great resource on evaluating your Board. 

Want to talk about engaging your board?

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How do I get my Board to fundraise?