Most nonprofit executive directors have complained at some point that they need their board to be more engaged in fundraising.  It starts with their own meaningful investment.  In recent years you’ve likely become more aware of how important it is to achieve 100% board giving.  Besides wanting to look good to funders, if your board isn’t leading the way, it’s not realistic to expect them to be enthusiastically raising funds for your mission work.

There are two other important reasons to maximize board giving:

  1. This is an opportunity to develop leadership and instill a sense of pride in your volunteers. I watched board giving at my Y increase by 27% in one year when we started using a different approach. And beyond that, the money they raised increased by 19% in the same year!!  They were excited and proud to be a part of that success.
  2. An intentional approach to board giving will model the behavior you want from your board members.  Sending out an email reminding them of the commitment isn’t enough. Expecting them to enthusiastically reply with a generous pledge isn’t realistic.

Consider These 5 Steps to Maximize Your Board Giving:

1. Put it in writing. Do you have written board expectations that clearly state what type of personal financial contribution is required? ( Yes, required or they can serve on a committee, but not on the board).  Some nonprofits still list a minimum amount but then you aren’t maximizing their capacity to invest.  More on that later…

You share this written list of expectations when you first interview them for the board and allow for questions so it’s crystal clear. You reiterate it again at the new member orientation. Then there will be no surprises or awkward moments.

2. Enroll your Champions. Put together a small team of board members with the executive director who serve as strong Champions of board giving and will commit to 2-3 meetings with their peers. Host a meeting to bring this team together to reach consensus on strategy. The goal is to assign each board member to a Champion who will meet with them personally within a specific period of time.  This is a peer-to-peer initiative – the executive director does not meet with board members about giving but they can provide important context.

Your board members, who are at the innermost circle of your organization, deserve the respect of a personal invitation to invest, yet so few nonprofits do this.

3. Customize each conversation.  You must remember that every one of your volunteers is different – varying degrees of capacity, varying experiences with fundraising and giving, different goals and motivations, different personality types. Try to match the best Champion with each board member. When you’re coaching your team of Champions, have thoughtful discussions about what each board member cares about and what talent they bring to the board, in addition to understanding how each member is already contributing.   The goal is to honor their board service and facilitate a commitment that is meaningful to them.

Question for you – Do you treat your board members as well as you treat your major donors?

4. Make it easy. Think about what you need to accept various types of donations and be sure you have the tools in place to do so. Most people can give more over time. Encourage your board members to think about monthly or quarterly giving. If they want to pay immediately, prepare your Champions to direct them to your site and be sure it is ready to handle a variety of giving choices. If they want to pledge now and pay later, have your systems determined in advanced so the mechanics don’t trip you up.

Beyond the transactional details, if there are more ways to invest beyond the annual board member giving season, consider having a comprehensive discussion about it. Many volunteers prefer to talk about how they will support the Gala or 5K or social media campaign all at once, rather than feel like they are being “nickel and dimed” numerous times throughout the year.

5. Build in Accountability. You’ve lined up your team of Champions, you’ve coached them and are ready to let them loose! Establish a reporting procedure and a timeline to support the effort. If you have a smaller board, 30 days may be enough to complete the meetings. Follow up regularly and then email a weekly progress report to celebrate and keep them motivated (be careful not to list individual pledges, just totals – donation amounts are confidential). It may sound like a hassle, but trust me – most people will appreciate the structure and rise to the occasion.

If a systematic approach to board giving sounds complicated or burdensome to you, I will argue the opposite.

It’s made a sustainable and significant difference for many organizations. Strong board giving programs also send a positive message to the community. This is the kind of organization people want to be involved with.

Here’s the bottom line:  Do you want to maximize your board’s potential? Then reach out personally and create a meaningful board giving process to optimize their support. This isn’t about you  – it’s about the people who are counting on you to change lives.

Still confused? Talk to me and let’s figure out how your unique organization can get started.