A relatively common concern among nonprofit executives and development directors is that their board members are reluctant to ask for money.
It isn’t due to a lack of effort by the staff members. They provide prospect lists, campaign materials and fundraising training. They set up fundraising competitions, send inspiring emails, make reminder calls and conduct regular report meetings.
If, after all their efforts to motivate and mobilize board members to raise funds, they still don’t see the results they want, they may even resort to asking their board to adopt a “give and get” policy. But even those policies aren’t generally enough to change board culture and get results.
While there are usually a few board members who are comfortable asking for contributions, it is important to acknowledge that the vast majority of board members would do almost anything to avoid it.
Instead of trying to come up with new ways to convince reluctant board members to go out and ask for money, perhaps we should consider a new strategy. Why not try a different kind of request that engages them without intimidating them? Requests such as:
- Introduce you (or another staff/board member) to people they know who are interested in the issues your organization addresses.
- Forward blogs written by your staff members to people who may be interested in topics related to your organization’s mission and impact.
- Invite their friends and co-workers to visit one of your organization’s programs, special events or to take a tour of the facilities.
- Recruit friends to volunteer for events and programs sponsored by your organization.
- Accompany you to meetings with foundations to help with cultivation, making grant requests and/or reporting results.
- Assist you in stewardship activities with major donors.
- Serve on a “thank you” committee commissioned to enhance the way your organization shows appreciation to supporters.
- Make an on-site visit to one of your programs or meet with a member/client who has benefited from their involvement and share their experience at the next board meeting.
Providing alternate ways for board members to help with friend-raising before asking them to fundraise will help them build their confidence to ask for a contribution since they will have a better knowledge of the organization’s impact and can share first-hand stories about transformational experiences. Besides, it is much less frightening to ask for a gift from someone who has become a friend to the organization than in making a cold call.
Change the request. Change the outcome.