Does Your Board Avoid Fundraising? 5 Simple Ways to Get Them Involved

by Heather Stewart

Often one of the biggest complaints I hear from fundraising staff is that their boards either don’t help with fundraising or that their help is unfocused and creates more work without much in the way of results.  Another complaint being that they focus solely on the money coming in and not the efforts involved in fundraising.

Sound familiar?

However, often boards that are too focused on the money in the bank and don’t give you any credit for the relationship building, often have no other measures of success than money.  And it’s your job to give them those.

Many board members are hugely enthusiastic but go off half-cocked, asking people for money without telling you (often asking for the wrong thing or the wrong amount).  While some are obsessed with running fundraising events, despite the fact that you have no team and no budget.

And then, of course, there are the board members who are scared to fundraise – and, in my experience, it’s fair to say that quite a large number fall into this category.

So, how do you get them involved, focused and supportive?

1. First of all, make sure that you have fundraising measures of success other than money in the bank.  Yes, the money is important but relationship building takes a long time and going from no relationship to inviting a major donor in to meet key staff is progress and should be measured – it has, after all, used resources and anything that uses resources effectively needs to be measured and reported on.  So establish early on what the other measures of success are in the process of moving a donor along the donor ‘pipeline’ from initial contact to visit to your project, to dinner with the Chair to writing that cheque – and use them.  Chances are that your board will come away with a better understanding of the resources and time required.

2. Have a plan for your fundraising.  Be clear about the goals that you want to achieve with your fundraising – be that an annual target or a specific project – and make sure that your board are clear on what these are.  Ideally, you should involve them in the creation of the plan and get them to ‘sign off’ on it.  That way, they will be involved and will have ownership and responsibility for the fundraising.

3. Give them a specific role.  This is good where board members are enthusiastic but misguided or where they are lacking confidence about fundraising.  So, ask them to approach a specific donor or group of donors on behalf of your organisation – and support to do this.  Ask them to make thank you calls to donors – a hugely effective way of raising even more money without your board members actually having to ask for money which has been shown by Penelope Burk, to result in an increase in donations by 39%.  Ask them to raise consciousness about your organisation among their networks (which is in their remit as a board member anyway).  Or ask them to introduce you to someone or an organisation that you’d like to engage with your fundraising.  Be clear about the role that you want them to have and they will be clearer about what they need to do.

4. Ask them to donate.  Its been said many times that if you haven’t given money to a cause yourself, you can’t ask for it.  And often, by becoming a donor, a board member gains confidence in making the ask for money themselves. Or perhaps you’re running an event and would like them to donate a high value item to your auction?  Or maybe, you’re trying to engage more people through social media so want to run a raffle with an iPad as the prize – would they donate it?  By becoming a donor, a board member will have another facet to their relationship with your organisation that provides a different view and can help them to see fundraising – and your efforts – from a donor perspective.

5. Ask their opinion.  Often boards have ideas for fundraising but feel that they’re either not being listened to or that they don’t want to voice them because they’re not ‘experts’.  So speak to board members individually to get a sense of how they would like to be involved and what they think you should be doing in terms of fundraising.  These 1 to 1 conversations can be a way of explaining why you’re not following up with certain ideas that they have had and can help you to clarify your position – while giving you a better understanding of your individual board members concerns – without having to confront an entire meeting.  Often, these conversations are the most constructive approach.

All of these are ways in which to involve your board in fundraising without making them feel uncomfortable; making it clear what you need from them; and providing them with a clear course of action that they need to take.  Board members are volunteers.  They give their time freely and willingly and that should never be forgotten – even when they are being challenging and unfocused.  By harnessing their obvious enthusiasm for your organisation in the right way and working together, you can achieve fantastic results.


Gail Perry has a huge amount of experience working with boards in the US.  I love this post about giving your Board members the answer to just 3 questions that will increase their understanding of fundraising beyond money in the bank and help to inspire them to support your fundraising.

And another gem from Gail about looking at putting together your ideal board if its time for a revamp or you need to introduce new members with different skills and networks to your organisation.

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