Is your board made up of great people who say they want to help, but never actually do anything? Or perhaps they tell you outright that they “weren’t recruited” for fundraising and aren’t willing to do it.
Shifting your board’s attitude and actions toward fundraising may seem as daunting as turning the Titanic. But it can be done.
Here’s the scoop. There are three things that are consistent across the many cases in which we’ve seen a board’s culture shift toward fundraising. And, in the cases we’ve seen fail, one of these three things is always missing.
Understand and act upon these three things and your board will become better fundraisers.
1. You can’t force the board to fundraise. They need to inspire each other.
You may have found yourself trapped in what I call the Exhortation Model of board fundraising. That’s the model in which you go to board meetings and beg everyone to please do something or you’re not going to meet your fundraising goal. That model doesn’t work (as you know if you’ve tried it).
What does work is getting one board member — or champion — to take the leap and do something big. They might host a house party, they might make a few major gift asks, they might introduce you to the giving officer or CEO at their company, or they might launch a crowd funding campaign. Or something else!
Then, at board meetings, you can have that person report on what they’ve done and encourage others to do the same. That’s when the culture starts to shift. It’s when people start changing their thinking from “we should be a fundraising board” to “we are a fundraising board and I’m going to look like a slacker if I don’t do something”!
2. They won’t do it by themselves. You need to provide training and support.
It’s essential that you don’t just ask your board to “fundraise,” but that you tell them exactly what you need them to do. Check out this earlier blog on running an effective board fundraising training.
Once they get started with their fundraising work, it’s the staff’s responsibility to provide them with the systems and supports to keep them on track. This might be practicing a solicitation with them, attending an ask with them, providing them with reminders for activities they’ve agreed to do, making a presentation at their house party, giving them excellent materials, and so on and so on.
3. You’re not the best nudge. It’s better if they hold each other accountable.
The real pressure to move forward on fundraising tasks should be peer to peer. This can happen in a variety of ways. Certainly the Development Committee chair can provide much-needed pressure to keep things moving. Even better, create a buddy system. Have members establish very specific action steps for their fundraising work and then pair them up to see it all through.
Of course, it all starts with a great nominations and orientation process that ensures board members understand their fundraising responsibilities before they even begin!
But, if you’ve got an existing situation you need to turn around, start by finding that champion and go from there.