(In case you missed it, this originally appeared on NonProfitPro)
As a wise colleague once told me years ago, philanthropy is a team sport. More hands on deck means more money raised. Makes sense.
It’s fair to expect every board member to be involved in fundraising and be accountable for their part. But too often staff try to do it alone. Or, board members may be hesitant to join in for a variety of reasons.
Here’s the thing: When you equip boards to confidently participate in your year-end efforts, the results can be amazing. Their voices and connections amplify your work and lead to even greater mission impact during the time of year when most philanthropy occurs.
But where to start? Here are three ways your board members can participate in order to achieve best results.
1. Involve Board Members in the Planning
Now I get it — staff members are the experts at philanthropy. And your board members want to be sure you’re having the greatest impact, so are you allowing them to influence your planning? Do you have a philanthropy committee or task force or ad-hoc group to work alongside staff in the planning of your year-end strategy?
Imagine if you empowered the board to review last year’s data with you and be part of the goal setting.
- Not just the financial goals, but what about retention goals?
- Is your case for support clear and compelling?
- Will you focus on converting current donors to monthly donors?
- Will you have a strong multichannel campaign laid out?
- Will you determine if Giving Tuesday is an effective strategy?
- Is your donation page on your website easy to navigate and focused on the right things?
What we know is that when people are involved in the planning, they have more buy-in and the odds increase that they will assist in execution of the plan. In fact, assuming you have the right people on this committee, they can provide leadership by influencing their peers to participate too. Wouldn’t it be great to have board members as accountability partners?
2. Be Unapologetic About Insisting That All Board Members Invest
It’s not an option for board members. Let’s face it. It’s going to be a lot tougher for a board member to raise money if they haven’t already invested in your cause themselves.
Remember that each member has their own giving capacity to consider and you can influence their giving by helping them define their “why” — their personal story and connection to your mission. Why do they care about your work? What about your impact inspires them?
To fully engage them, you may need to provide them with more facts, data, stories and real testimonials from people who have benefited from your work. Recently I was with a board that collectively said, “We’re ready to contribute. But tell us again how our money will be used.”
I don’t think you can over-communicate when it comes to sharing stories about the real impact you’re making.
3. Get Laser-Focused on External Relations
There are so many ways that board members can help execute your plan. So it’s important to delegate tasks and follow up.
We are experts at telling them to reach out to their networks but what does that mean?
For example, every board member can help identify potential donors. You may need to educate them on who is most likely to give though. Do they understand your donor profiles?
Maybe you can spend time at a board meeting brainstorming what their affinity groups are that might be most likely to contribute. Does your organization focus on the development of girls? Maybe some of your board members are active Girl Scout alumni or have a Bunco group that might be interested or are active in a PTA.
Perhaps your mission is STEM-related and a board member belongs to a biotech trade association or the National Society of Black Engineers that might align nicely. Or, a sports focus could motivate a board member’s soccer team to invest.
The list goes on — help your board members identify where the opportunities lie.
So then how does the actual connection happen with some of these potential donors? We want your board members to be confident in their approach.
For potential or current donors who have capacity to contribute large gifts, volunteers can invite them to meet the CEO. Chat about your plans over coffee or lunch or at one of your sites and deepen their connection. When board members attend these conversations, it sends an important message to the donor about dedicated leadership.
The whole board should be prepared to share your social media posts and emails, especially if you participate in Giving Tuesday. This is a relatively low barrier for volunteers new to philanthropy. Be sure to outline what to share, when to share and what the call-to-action is.
If you’re hosting an event in the fall as part of year-end giving, help board members build their invitation list. Clarify what their role is during the event — serve as a table captain, share their story, follow up with guests the next day, etc.
If you’re active in holiday gifting, some of your board members can reach out to businesses for in-kind gifts as well. This is a great way to start fostering a relationship that can lead to employee giving, matching gifts and other ways of giving in the long term.
Your board members can be important partners in your philanthropy work. Be bold and request their participation. It’s their responsibility.
You just might be amazed by what’s possible.