In a blog post from last year, I encouraged fundraisers to break the “rule” that all board members be required to fundraise (you can find that post here). The basic premise being that we should strategically recruit certain board members to actively ask donors for contributions and lean into the fact that other volunteers are on our boards for other skill sets. One of the many follow up questions I received was naturally, “So how do I keep board members engaged in philanthropy if they don’t ask others for money?”

Board members who are uncomfortable or unskilled at making direct donation solicitations  can still be highly valuable to your philanthropic goals. The key is having a predetermined menu of options for those board members to engage in. This approach allows “non-fundraising” board members to opt-in to their philanthropic activity while giving them guard rails within which to operate. While not an exhaustive list, let’s talk about several ways these board members can be part of the philanthropic culture of your organization.


The Soft Side of the Ask

Two ways that board members can still engage in fundraising without the anxiety or necessary skills of the one-on-one ask are through passive solicitations and hosting small donor gatherings.


Social media is a daily activity for most of us. The Pew Research Center revealed that 91% of Americans engage in one or more social media platforms. Crafting a well-messaged case for support for your “non-fundraising” board member to share on their platforms is an easy way for them to passively ask their networks to support the organization. The same type of passive solicitation can be accomplished through email or even snail mail, for those so inclined.


Alternatively, many board members love socializing the old-fashioned way: in-person with friends! A great option for these volunteers is to host a small group of donor prospects at their home (think dinner party, backyard BBQ, etc) with the invite including the heads up that attendees will learn about how to support the host's favorite charity. The CEO, Development Officer or fellow board member can then do the heavy lifting of laying out the case for support and making a donation request of attendees.


Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

Another popular item on the menu of philanthropic engagement is taking a formal and active role in thanking donors. Most fundraising experts agree that thanking donors multiple times, in multiple ways is key to donor retention. Here are three ways board members can support philanthropy by effectively thanking donors:

  1. Handwritten thank you notes: daily or weekly a board member is provided a list of donors and sends a meaningful note of thanks. Even with the huge shift toward digital messaging, nothing beats a handwritten thank you note.

  2. Thank you call-a-thon: a board member organizes a group of volunteers to call every donor that made a gift in the past year to “just to say thanks”. It takes less time than you think and donors are always pleasantly surprised.

  3. Impact calls: a board member selects 8-10 major donors to call 4-6 months after their gift to inform them of specific ways that their donation has been used to positively affect the organization’s beneficiaries.


Captains of Cultivation

Too often, the first contact an organization has with a donor prospect is an ask for a gift. What if the donor prospect was given time to learn about the nonprofit’s impact well before being asked to support it philanthropically? This is yet another place where board members can be actively involved in philanthropy.

Engaging volunteers in cultivation activities is a helpful step in getting the prospect to a "yes." The cultivating board member could organize a “Did You Know?” initiative targeted at specific prospects. Perhaps more ambitious, yet even more beneficial, is facilitating a tour of a program or site for a donor prospect.

Whatever activity you chose in putting cultivation ahead of solicitation, it is a great menu item for “non-fundraising” board members to take ownership in.


Remember, just because a board member isn't a fundraiser doesn't mean they can't play an active role in your philanthropic plan. Create a menu with activities like these will engage more board members in the important work of fundraising to support your mission.

What other activities do you recommend? Add them in the comments below.


THIS MONTH'S FOCUSthink differently

Things are changing in the world of nonprofit leadership and nonprofit fundraising. New generations, new technology, new ways of communicating... these trends are challenging all of us to think differently. This month, join us as we explore the opportunities we have to try new things, explore new ways of engaging, and meet the challenges of the future.



Posted by Johnathan Teal
Johnathan Teal

Written by Johnathan Teal

Johnathan Teal, CFRE, brings more than 20 years of working with nonprofits building impactful programs, establishing dynamic community partnerships, and creating capacity for greater impact. Before working with DBD Group, Johnathan served in diverse leadership roles from lifeguard to program director to VP of Development, working primarily with the YMCA, and launched a start-up nonprofit as well.

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