By Sarah B Lange under Uncategorized on April 5, 2024

Why Your Boards Hates Fundraising and What To Do About It!

Hey, everyone. I'm Sarah Lange, and I'm here to spark the philanthropy revolution. The word philanthropy means love of man. My show is all about the ways we can revolutionize our fundraising so we get more money and do more good.

Hey everybody, it's Sarah Lange. Thanks for joining me for another episode of the philanthropy revolution. For those of you who haven't met me yet, I'm a professional fundraiser. I have been in the nonprofit sector for gosh, 35 years now. I know I don't look that old, right? But I've been raising money since 1989 and have brought in over $100 million. And if you count all the people I've taught how to do fundraising, it's probably over a billion. So I love what I do, I believe in the value of the nonprofit sector. I honestly believe that nonprofits are the vehicles through which we transform people's lives in our communities so it’s part of the reason I have this show is to help you guys boost and revolutionize your fundraising.

Today I wanna talk about why your board hates fundraising and more importantly, what you can do about it. So why do most board members loathe fundraising. Oh, let us count the ways. The first thing is that board members are not professional fundraisers. You might get somebody like me to sit on your board once in a while, but for the most part, nonprofit board members have not necessarily raised money before, and they're certainly not professionals. So, you know, our board members are volunteers. They may or may not work in the nonprofit sector and often do not have the experience, skills, or expertise in fundraising. So they don't know what they don't know, right. 

The other thing to remember is that fundraising is a very specific set of skills that has to be learned in practice. So have you taught your board how to do fundraising? A lot of times we inadvertently throw them in the deep end and say, “swim”, but we haven't given them any swim lessons. So. We need to take a step back and help them learn how to swim in the fundraising waters. Another reason your board hates fundraising is because they're freaked out about money. So what are the top three taboo subjects in the United States? Religion, politics, and money, so from a young age, we're trained not to talk about money or ask about money so most of us are not as knowledgeable about the subject as we could be. I know that even though I've been doing fundraising for a really, really long time, I'm still learning about investments and finance and stuff so I'm always trying to keep my finance saw sharp by learning about it.

Most people, however, are terrified by the prospect of asking other people for money. Your board is no different. Also, we ask them to trespass, so we expect them to whip out their Rolodex or whatever it is they've got their contacts stored in these days, and then solicit donations or sell things to their friends, families, and coworkers. We're asking them to trespass on their personal relationships. And I think most of us probably are not comfortable doing this so don't ever ask somebody to do something that you're not willing to do yourself, including asking for money. A lot of times we don't tell board members that fundraising is part of their job so when we are recruiting our board members, we need to be clear about the expectations and the roles and responsibilities they need to fulfill, especially as it relates to fundraising.

We would never hire a staff person without explaining the job and the performance expectations in advance, and the same is true for our board members. That is a quote from my mentor who is sadly no longer with us, Simone Shuaia, brilliant mind. Also just a feisty, peppery person, and I loved that about her.

Another reason they don't like fundraising is because we've forgotten that they're volunteers and underestimate the amount of time they have available or the work it takes to provide adequate support. So we figure they're just going to fly out of the fundraising nest and soar, but without ongoing training and support, they're more likely to crash to the ground. Ouch. They think soliciting gifts is the only way to participate in fundraising and while some board members may enjoy that activity, asking potential and current donors to reinvest in the work, there are other avenues to raise funds and other people need those other avenues. Every single board member has a role to play in fundraising. I actually don't believe in fundraising committees because I believe that every single board member should be contributing to fundraising and that fundraising should be brought up at every meeting. So I'm a big fan of disbanding fundraising committees, but there's lots and lots of different ways that board members can participate in fundraising. So you can help them do cultivation, stewardship, Thank you calls. All of those things don't require an ask of any kind. We'll go over that more later because there's 10 other ways they can participate.

They don't know how to talk about your organization and why it deserves donor support. A lot of times I will hear executive directors express frustration that their board members need talking points or an elevator pitch, you know, the reality is these guys don't work inside our organization 24/7/365 so they've only drunk half the cup of Kool-Aid, not all the cup of Kool-Aid, so we really need to help them with the languaging, with the messaging, because they may or may not get it, and we want them to get it because otherwise they're not going to talk about us in the way that we really want them to. It behooves us to provide them with those messaging templates.

They fear rejection. We all do. At first, fundraisers often feel like they're begging for money and board members are no exception to that. You want to encourage them to share their passion for their mission when they're speaking with other people, because they've made a commitment to your organization for a reason, and their passion is going to be inspiring to others. So the more times board member hears that magic, “yes”, the more comfortable they'll become, so we want to give them opportunities to succeed right out of the starting gate, which is why I often recommend doing a board think-a-thon, which I'll talk about in a minute.

Other reasons they fail is because they have busy lives, we all do these days. Maybe they don't get it because they don't have the full picture, they're missing part of the context. They may lack a connection to the mission and that's gonna definitely dampen their enthusiasm. They don't understand nonprofits or fundraising, because let's face it, nonprofits and fundraising are weird, it's not something you encounter every day. You know, I have people who have been in my orbit for a long time and they're still asking me questions that I feel like, “no, you should get that by now”, but they don't and I just have to explain it again. The nonprofit sector is quirky and fundraising is no exception for that, so sometimes we just have to explain the same thing many times.

How do we fix the problem? Well, I'm going to tell you that building your best board is the number one solution to the fact that your boards hate fundraising. So bear with me. It starts with recruitment. So this should be a planned ongoing strategic. process, not just something that happens a month before your annual meeting. And you want to base your recruitment on strategic diversity instead of personal connections. And I have developed two tools, which I'm happy to share with you. One is the board recruitment matrix and the VIP exercise, so if you want either one of those, drop me an email at [email protected], or you could drop it in the chat, but it'd be better if you sent me an email and we'll get those documents out to you. Again, the recruitment matrix and the VIP exercise.

Then passion for your mission really should be the driving criteria for board service because pretty much everything else is teachable, but passion is not. Either somebody is really digging your mission and they're willing to roll up their sleeves and go the extra mile for you, where they're not. So you really wanna find people who care deeply about your cause.  I was talking to a woman yesterday who wants to develop a trauma-informed shelter for women who are escaping domestic violence and we ended up having a great conversation because I've had experience in that area of the nonprofit sector. I worked for an organization for a couple of years that focused on sheltering domestic violence survivors and so I was able to share a lot of the lessons that I learned by working with them, with her, and it just, I was feeling, you know, really passionate about her success and was willing to kind of pour into her for more than an hour, because I really want to see her succeed. So like either the passion is there or it's not.

The other thing to think about is onboarding and orientation for our board members. There's four agreements that I love to make sure that my clients include from the outset. So the first is individual gifts the board member is expected to make. So you want to give them a detail of the annual fundraising events, indicating if or where participation is mandatory, as well as areas of where giving is encouraged. So, for example, you know, encouraging them to make a stretch gift to your organization. So you want to give them a job description, a description of the committees and the details on that expectation. Does the committee meet every month? Do they meet in person? Do they meet virtually? This is all information they're going to need to have it informed “Yes”, and you want them to have it informed “Yes”, because otherwise they're probably not going to show up the way you want them to so let's give them all the information that they need. Your bylaws, your operating budget, a brief overview of your programs and services. Again, you want them to be your champion in the community so you want them to understand what's going on and who you serve and how you serve them and what the transformation is in their lives, current financial statements. Now remember, a lot of board members have no idea how to read a financial statements so you're going to want them to get maybe a little training and maybe they don't want to even admit that they don't know how to read financial statements so maybe you do that a couple of times a year, go over, this is how we read financial statements.

Again, you want them to have a board member directory and little profiles of each board member. I'm working with an organization now who has a significant number of new board members and the old board members and the new board members don't know each other, so this is one of the things I suggested is, why don't you guys put together a board directory with photos, and connections like on LinkedIn and little bios so that people can at least put faces and names together. That's often a really helpful tool for people who are new to the organization, new to the board, it helps ease their transition in.

You also want to make sure that you're super clear, this is the second “item” I always have them include. What fundraising activities are, you know, the board members supposed to perform on behalf of the organization? List all the ways they can be involved in supporting fundraising, and detail here is key. Then allow board members to sign up for specific roles that make sense for their life, right? So maybe the best use of their time is making phone calls, maybe you have other people who have the time and bandwidth and the desire to go out and meet with people over coffee or lunch, maybe they want to bring guests to one of your events or bring them in for a tour, maybe they love the building and want to show it around to people who are interested in the organization. They could spearhead events, they can make regular or planned gifts, they can volunteer for specific events or campaigns. This is a great place to include your annual fundraising budget broken down by revenue areas and goals. What I do is I sit down with our clients and if they don't have an annual fundraising plan, that's the first place we start. But then we start breaking it down into bite-sized pieces and where board members can fit in. So for example, having a spring appeal, but then maybe a month later, two months later, having a board think-a-thon, right? Or giving Tuesday, following up with a think-a-thon, that might be something that people are interested in going to an event, posting on social media. Breaking it down into bite-sized pieces where it makes it easy for your board members to say “ye”s to multiple activities. I use the menu approach, and again, if you wanna see a sample menu, shoot me an email, ask for the board fundraising menu, and I'll get that to you. Because again, you guys shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel, I've done all the heavy lifting for you, so just shoot me an email and I'll get you those things.

The other thing is you want to be really clear with them about having them at events or programs and whether they need to be there or not. Now, I'm going to tell you, yes, they should be there because not only are they there to then work the room with you, right? So they can speak to other people that maybe you just can't get to, but it also gives them this front row seat to your mission and action which then empowers them to be informed, enthusiastic spokespeople for your cause. The more they come to programs and events, the more they're going to get it, right? And the deeper they're going to feel connected to the organization, the other people in the room, maybe your clients are there. So I really feel spelling out their expectations around those kinds of things are important.

Then committee participation. So you want to list and describe your committees. with an option for them to select and rank their choices. Make sure your committees are based on your strategic plan and that you don't have just committees for the sake of having committees. So for example, I believe in Massachusetts now, I'm not a nonprofit lawyer, so don't quote me here. I believe you only have to have three board members and you have to have a governance committee and a finance committee and everything beyond that is optional. So you can have ad hoc committees, you can have standing committees. Committees really should be based on your strategic plan and the areas that you need your board to help you move forward in. So be really clear. As you might imagine, when I get recruited for boards, everyone wants me on the fundraising committee, and no, that's like asking the cobbler to make shoes when he or she gets home. Don't ask me to be on the fundraising committee, I'm much more interested in strategic positioning, marketing, communications, not to say that I don't love fundraising, but I need to do something with my downtime aside from like being grossed in fundraising. Even though I will admit that I am very passionate, borderline obsessed with fundraising, but don't ask me to head up your fundraising committee because you're just gonna get a big fat no out of me. But again, give people choices, let them decide what works for them because again, you want your best board members possible so you need to have them engaged in the process of how they participate in your board, so yeah, there's the bare minimum, but then give them some options to choose from.

The other thing was when it comes to onboarding, we wanna set up our new board members for success. So you wanna provide them with a thorough organization orientation, including its mission, the programs, the staff. So for example, when I joined the Boston University Alumni Council, which is like the trustees are here and the BUAC is right here. And it's made up of representatives from all 16 colleges within the university system. I actually had to go in for a full day orientation. I was rolling my eyes like. are you kidding me? You're going to make me come to Boston for a whole day for orientation? I will tell you, I am so glad they did that because I didn't know at the time, but they were in the quiet phase of a billion dollar campaign. And so I needed to be super informed about that and what was going to be expected of me over the next three years of my service. And so they did a lot of really good presentations, but it was also super interactive. And we had a lot of opportunities to get to meet the staff from the development department, which is ginormous, and talk about the upcoming campaign and what they would expect from us. So I don't know that you guys need to do a full day orientation unless, of course, you're about to launch your billion dollar campaign, but you want them to get a thorough orientation. You want to provide them with a board buddy, this is a great way. To break down new gold, old guard dynamic is you provide them with a board buddy. Because let's face it, serving on a nonprofit board, again, weird. And unless you've done it before, you may just feel like you were just plopped on Mars. The other thing is just because you've served on one nonprofit board doesn't mean that serving on another nonprofit board is even remotely similar. So the one thing is when you see a board, you’ve seen “a board”, right? Boards are very, pretty significantly from one another. Again, give them a board buddy, make it easy for them to jump in with both feet and get activated. You want to have your board president or the chair of your board development committee do a check-in at three, six and nine months. Again, we don't want to leave people hanging, we want them to be engaged, we want them to be active, we don't want them to be confused or feel like they're not, that their service doesn't matter, so do those check-ins and then check in with all of your board members at the end of the year to make sure they wanna continue because they may not be the best board members. Maybe something's going on in their life. There have been times during my life when board service was just not gonna happen. I've been a single mom since my son was three years old, and during soccer season when I was coaching his team and was probably not a good idea to ask me to be on your board.

The other thing to talk about is making sure that every board member understands that it's a give and take relationship. You want to be very clear with them about what you expect from them and what they can expect from you, right? This is not a one-way street, this is a relationship. They are a leader in your organization, they are a champion for your organization so you want to make sure there's a lot of give and take and that they can get what they need when they need it. So tools, I'm going to list some tools you can use to engage, support and manage your board. Term limits, do you have them? Do you enforce them? Attendance policies, you have and enforce them, right? A living breathing strategic plan, you have one, right? Hopefully, it's not five years old sitting in a file cabinet never to be seen again. So that's why I call it a living, breathing strategic plan. Pre-meeting materials, now we're all supposed to get stuff to our board members 10 days in advance with key points highlighted. You could just put together a board website where they can just log in and get everything, you don't have to necessarily mail stuff out, they can just log in and get what they need. Then you want to create a well-crafted timed agenda with clear goals and outcomes. I really am a huge fan of the consent agenda, which is when you take all of those reports that we usually read and discuss, and of course, no one's read them before the meeting because either we didn't get them on time or they know they're going to get discussed at the meeting. So you take all the reports, the financial statements, everything, and you sweep it off the table in one vote. Now, if somebody has a question, then you pull that item out of the consent vote, but everything can get voted off the table in one vote. Then you have the rest of the meeting to talk about special projects, discussing fundraising, planning fundraising, having committee meetings, discussing current events, like whatever it is, now you've got pretty much an hour and a half to do a board business that is not B-O-R-E-D business, right? So a lot of times we end up boring our boards by just reading reports at them. I don't know about you guys, but I just had dinner and I'm already putting in a full day work and now I come to my board meeting and you're boring me? Well, guess what? I'm going to slip into, my eyes might be open, but I'm kind of my brain went to sleep. So again, Consent Agenda can keep your board members engaged and stuff. If you want a copy of the Consent Agenda, I can send it to you. It takes a little practice and requires trust, but it makes your board meetings so much more interesting and engaging, and vibrant. It unleashes the talent of your board in ways you can't even imagine. So again, the consent agenda, send me an email if you want that one and I'll get it to you.

Other tools you can use are annual board retreats. You can send them to trainings or conferences, you can share client success stories. I had a client who at the beginning of every single board meeting, would share a client success story and it was like so awesome. It just made the board feel so good, like, oh, this is why we're here, look at what we're achieving. It just like everybody had like, their heart had been warmed, they had smiles on their faces and it was just such a nice way to start a meeting. And again, it reminded them of why they were there and what the purpose was. You can share impact data, so any data that's relevant to the work you're doing, you could do icebreakers, just little exercises for them to get to know each other, you could do paired and small group exercises, you could create social opportunities. One of the boards I served on, we would start meeting at seven o'clock, but from 6.30 to seven was social hour and they would have snacks, you know, so like hummus and carrots or cut veggies and hummus and cheese and crackers, grapes, like all the standard fare. But it was just nice to kind of hang out and get to know people and talk outside of the board meeting and I liked that it was before the board meeting and I didn't always make it, but it was just nice opportunity to get to know people on a less formal basis.

One of the best tools you can use to spark change at the board level is to have the board conduct an annual self-assessment. Now, a lot of times I feel like calling it a survey feels a little less threatening, but you'll have to test the waters with the board and see how they do. But even though it's on the list of top 10 duties that boards are supposed to perform, only 30% of boards conduct one, but it's a great opportunity for the group to step back and say, oh, how are we doing? Where are we strong? Where do we have some growing edges we need to tend to? So I believe the best time to do this is at the outset of your fiscal year, because that allows them to take the outcomes of the survey or self-assessment to identify training needs that they have, education needs they may have, projects that need to get done that they want to be a part of. It's really good to do that at the outset of the year. It's board driven and therefore it's a great way to hold them accountable and it shows the gaps and helps the board chart a course and create a shared set of goals and responsibilities. I know Joan Gary has a board assessment tool that I've used only once. I have my own board assessment tool so if you want to see that, that's fine and I think there's a woman named Rachel Muir who has a board assessment, but you could probably google board assessment and come up with a bunch of tools. It doesn't mean they're any good, but they're out there.

The other thing is you want to introduce your board to fundraising and I know that might sound ridiculous, but how does fundraising work in your organization? Because I guarantee it might be slightly different than the way it works at another organization. You wanna share your tactics that you use, the mix of funding sources and what your goals are. You wanna allow your board to set its own goal for each area of fundraising where you're expecting a contribution. So for example, if you have a capital campaign that you're looking to launch, you wanna be super clear with your board. how much you expect them to contribute, so you wanna let them set their own goals. I was working with a very small board up in North Central Mass, and they decided that they were really under tapping the local business community and so we came up with this idea to do a local business campaign, and so we were able to get a chamber of commerce list and some other lists that help us put together kind of like a master list and we had an intern who put it all in an English cell spreadsheet, and then we created a letter and a donation form and then we mailed these out to everybody on the spreadsheet, it was like 300 something, I think it was like 308 businesses in the area. Then we decided we were going to do follow-up phone calls. And then, so we had to come up with a script and a time where everybody, they really wanted to do their phone calls together and not necessarily in the same room but in the same building, so that was kind of a group effort. The executive director and I walked around the building all night to these different folks, checking in with them, did they need anything? Do they have any questions? How were they doing? Did they need another round of appetizers? So we kept them fed and watered, but these guys decided that they wanted to stay to their goal for this business campaign was $5,000. Now, to be honest, I wasn't sure they were gonna get there, they raised $8,000. We were so proud of them. We were like, oh my God. They were beaming with pride, they busted through their goal, some of them had done in-person visits as well. You might be surprised by the way your board members can go to work with you when you let them set their own goals.

The other thing is you want to be super clear about their roles and responsibilities, that goes back to having a job description, and if they're on a committee, having a job description for the committee member, talk about how and where they can add value, ask them as well, so it's a conversation. Then ask them what kind of training and support they need, so you want to make sure that if somebody is really uncomfortable about fundraising, okay, well, how do you help them engage in fundraising in a way that feels comfortable to them, and a lot of times it's helping people take those baby steps and setting them up for success, giving them the slow underhand pitch with a bow tied around the ball. We want to make it so easy for them.

To go back to the list of problems I named at the top of today's episode, so the first problem is that your board is not comprised of professional fundraisers. What is the solution? Well, we need to provide them with information, education, training, coaching, and support so they can succeed. Send them to conferences, send them links to webinars, and make sure that fundraising is on every single board agend, and ditch the fundraising committee, because if I'm on your board and there's a fundraising committee over there, oh no, fundraising is their job. Right? And now, all of a sudden, you want me to do fundraising, I'm like, well, I'm not on the fundraising committee, why would I do fundraising if I'm not on the fundraising committee? Right? So you see how this works. If you ditch the fundraising committee, but you put together committees for fundraising activities, that's completely different.

The second problem I discussed is that your board is freaked out about asking for money. So things that your board should know is that there is actually a joy to giving. Anytime we do anything nice for somebody else, whether that's helping somebody cross the street or holding a door open for somebody or helping somebody up after they've fallen or given to a nonprofit, right? It releases dopamine in our brain, which is a neurological high and I don't know if you know this, but if you're a donor, you are 43% more likely to report that you are very happy than non-donors, right? There's literally a joy to giving and if your board knows this, that they're actually contributing to somebody else's joy and pleasure, that might take some of the heat off and it also helps kind of undermine this idea that, oh, we're begging for money. No, we're helping people feel good about the contribution that they already want to make. 80% of people out there are already donating to charity, so we're not asking people who don't already give to charity to give to charity, right? Remind them of the joy of giving.

The other thing to tell them is agencies do not have needs. Yeah, I just said that. Your donors have philanthropic needs, and your clients certainly have needs, and your nonprofit is the bridge. You know, having been in the sector for 35 years, I know how important your work is, I know how important you are. But from your donor's perspective, they're trying to help the folks that are coming to you for help, right? Or support, or to be uplifted, right? So remind your board that really all of this activity is aimed at helping build that bridge because people wanna support your mission and they wanna support the people that your mission supports or animals or the environment, fill in the blank, right? So again, they're just bridge builders, which is easier than thinking like that, we have to talk about the organization, no, you just can talk about clients and success and tell stories and talk about your own involvement. The other thing to help them understand is that 63% of folks donate to a charity they've heard of through a friend, a relative or social connection, and that donors feel happiest when they've contributed in this way. So 63%, right? More incentive for your board members to run around playing up the aspects of your agency that are transformative and magical because I know you guys are doing magic every single day. I know it. You guys don't always talk about it, but I know it. So help your board members know it so they can then transmit the joy and the magic to other people. Most people wanna help, but they often don't know what that looks like or what kind of help is needed, so it's our job to direct their philanthropic instincts. Again, remember 80% of people who are in the United States already contribute to charities and so we want to direct these philanthropic impulses and your board can help you do that. We're not asking people for money, we're inviting them to make the world a better place, which is an innate human desire so I don't think of fundraising as asking, I think of fundraising as inviting, because again, I know that we live in a world where people want to contribute, they want to make the world a better place, and that's not what gets the media attention, but they're out there. I meet people every single day who are actively making the world a better place. And so it's an invitation to join the cause, you're not begging, you're not asking, you're inviting and then let them decide how they want to step in.

The other thing to remind your board is that there is actually a ton of money out there. So in 2023, over $499 billion was contributed to United States nonprofits, and 80% of that came from folks, not government, not foundations, not corporations, people, so there's a ton of money out there, there's a ton of people out there, they have generous hearts, they're just waiting for you to ask. So that will help your board stop being so freaked out about money, or at least it will reduce the freak out, right?

The third problem I wanna go back to is that we ask our board members to trespass on their relationships. So one of the things I do is I use the VIP(very important prospect) exercise, and the fundraising menu to allow the board members to select the ways that they want to contribute that fit with their temperament, you know, introvert versus extrovert, their schedule, their skills, their comfort level, and I love to develop this fundraising menu every single year because in theory, board members will become more comfortable, more confident, more engaged, more deeply engaged, and be willing to take on more tasks. Again, if you want the VIP exercise, if you want the board recruitment matrix, if you want the fundraising menu, let me know, send me an email.

Problem number four is that board members don't know what we expect of them or what to expect from us. So we need to up level our recruitment, orientation and board onboarding processes because Being on a nonprofit board is weird. I remember the first nonprofit board I was on, it was like, and I worked in the nonprofit sector, right? And I was like, I couldn't quite get the culture of the board. Every time I turned around, they were asking me for money and I'm like, ah, single mom with a four-year-old child, like who by the way is sitting here on my lap, because you know, like I told them that was the only way I could be on their board is if my kid could come to the meetings, and trust me, I went loaded with bear. I had a big tote bag of toys and books and stuff for him to occupy, oh, and snacks, never forget the snacks. But that was the only way I could serve on their board and they wanted me bad enough that was a condition they weren't willing to accept. We really, really want to make sure that our board members are super informed of all the quirky things that are unique to nonprofit boards, unique to our organization, so again, we really want to spend time and energy on doing solid recruitment, orientation and onboarding.

The other thing is we want to check in with our board members on a regular basis just to make sure they're clear about expectations, that we're clear about theirs, and that they feel like it's a two-way street. Again, we don't want to just dump them in the deep end of the pool, we want to give them swimming lessons.

Problem number five is that board members don't receive the level of support they need to succeed. Ain't nobody to blame but us, right? We need to provide them with information, education, training, coaching and support so they can succeed. Now, obviously we wanna work in partnership with the board president on this to make sure that they also are checking in on a regular basis but we want to make sure that board members are feeling like they're succeeding. You could send them again to conferences, you could give them webinar links. You want to make sure that every single board meeting fundraising is being discussed. And then you want to survey your board annually to see what their knowledge, comfort, and confidence levels are and hopefully, year over year, these are going up.

Problem number six is that they think the only way to engage in fundraising is by asking for money. But I'm gonna give you 10 ways your board can engage in fundraising without having to ask for money. First of all, they could give a gift from their own pocketbook, right? Most boards have 100% giving, but you don't just want people to give, you want them to give a gift that reflects their capacity and their commitment. You should be in their top three recipients of gifts, so youou want to make sure that you are at the top of their list when it comes to philanthropy so they can get personally. They can call donors. Board members love thank-a-thons and I've actually worked with clients to turn Giving Tuesday into a Thank-a-thon which resulted a donation, that's so funny. People were so excited to get a call from the board members that they actually had online and gave a gift, so that was sweet. You can use the first 10 minutes of your board meeting to make calls, that way you know they get done, right? ‘Wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ so everybody can split off into different rooms so they can have quiet and privacy. You want to make sure that you give them the information who is the donor? What is their relationship to the organization? When was their last gift? How much have they given over their lifetime? Things like that so that they do get a live one, they can have a conversation, or you can just leave a beautiful message, so get your board members to do thank you calls. I don't know if you know this, but when donors receive a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours of making their gift, donors increase their giving by 39%. Who doesn't want a gift that's 39% percent bigger than the previous one. 14 months later, provided you stay in touch with them, the donors giving has increased by 42% and there's a 70% retention rate. I'm a big fan of Penelope Burke, she's a researcher in Canada who does studies about donors in North America, which is where I got all these lovely statistics, thank you Penelope. Again, your board members are gonna need a script, information, giving history, relevant notes, and also a story about a win that the board members made possible. Well, sorry, the donors made possible. They can name you in their will, and the best place to start in a state planning program is with your board. I mean, they're there for a reason and they're coming every month for a reason, right? So you can start your bequest giving with them. They can invite people they knew to take an a tour of the organization. Now, if you're bound by HIPAA or you're bound, you know, if you have minors, you have to be careful about that, but you can always invite somebody to come take a tour of the organization. One organization that I worked with, we used to have lunch with the ladies once a month, where people could come in and have lunch, and it was only donors so it wasn't just random people off the street, and there was one table set aside in the dining room where donors could sit, and if some of the clients wanted to go and have lunch with them, that was fine, they were never forced, and the most beautiful relationships came out of that. There was a knitting group that evolved out of that, there was some mentoring and coaching around small business development that, there's like a women's business group that started meeting, and it was just so wonderful to see the byproduct of that happening, and it also really deepened the donor's relationship with the organization. They can host a cultivation event in their home. It's likely that staff are going to play a major role in this, but again, it could be a great way to deepen your relationships. You could give them three donors to cultivate. Obviously, you're going to be really careful and clear about what does cultivation look like? What does that even mean? So you wanna put together a little plan. They can take on a project designed to raise awareness, so they could do a 30 day social media challenge, they could do an email campaign, they could write an op-ed piece to the newspaper, anything they want to design awareness, sorry, raise awareness about the organization. They can share how donations create for transformation. So for example, If you provide them with success stories, they could put them up on their social media, or they could share their own experience. So for example, we got one of the donors who was doing the lunch with the ladies who organized the knitting group to talk about her experience and why that was so beneficial to her  even though it was a non-monetary donation, it was still quite a contribution, and it was just really beautiful. They can share client testimonials, impact stories, data, success stories. They could do things like write an article, a blog, an op ed piece, talk about why the organization is important to them, and others to support their cause. So there's 10 ways they can contribute that have nothing to do with asking for money and are still of incredible value.

Problem number seven, they don't know how to talk about the organization, and again, that is so solvable. We want to provide them with a case for support, impact data, success stories. At a bare minimum, they should be following you on social media, it'd be great if they would like your stories, maybe even comment and share your stories. You want to help them develop their elevator pitch. I don't necessarily want board members to talk about, oh, I have to memorize my one minute elevator pitch. But what I do is I ask them, Why do you give up your precious time to serve on the board? Why this organization and not that one, right? So pick a random organization, why are you on this board and not other boards? And what do you get out of contributing to this organization? So what are the benefits to you? So when we meet new people, we wanna hear their story, we wanna connect from heart to heart and stories is how they do that, and the most direct route to a contribution of some sort is from heart to heart. Philanthropy is a heart centered activity and by getting people to really think about as board members, why am I here? What do I get out of this? And then sharing that with other people, again, it's a genuine authentic story that they're sharing from their heart, which help opens up the hearts of others. I focus much less on memorizing elevator pitches, and then you figure out what your elevator pitch is using this question.

Problem number eight, your board members fear rejection. Well, the reality is I've raised over $100 million, and I've heard plenty of ‘no’, at some point, someone's going to say no, but I think sometimes when you're new to fundraising, you might take it as a personal failing, like, oh, I let down the organization, I didn't do it right, right? So people blame themselves when they get a no. But it's almost always about the donor, not the person who asked. So for example, I was running the 85th anniversary campaign for my grad school, which happens to be BU School of Social Work. And as you might imagine, the School of Social Work does not have a lot of big donors, we exist. I was cultivating them, story them, connecting with them, getting to know them, deepening their relationship, and it got to the point in the relationship where I was going to ask for a big amount from this one donor and they weren't dumb, they knew what I was doing, and they said, you know, we just want to say that at this time we're not able to contribute more than we're already giving, and then it turned out one of their twin daughters had leukemia. That was why they said no. Had nothing to do with me, had nothing to do with the school social work, had to do with the fact that they were trying to get their kid through what is often a fatal diagnosis. So the daughter did end up dying and they actually ended up a couple of years later establishing a scholarship fund in her name, which is so beautiful, but it's not about you, you didn't do it wrong, maybe you asked for the wrong amount, but if it's a hard no, it has to do with them. And most nos are not now, so don't give up, and you can even ask them, can I ask about why you said no because I need to learn if it is something I'm doing, like, did I not ask the right way? Like, did I offend you? And they'll usually tell you why they said no and it's usually a not right now, so let them know that rejection is part of fundraising and that it really has nothing to do with them.

The other thing is that overcoming fear of rejection takes time and comes with practice along with an increased level of comfort and confidence in one's skills. So again, this is why I'd like to set up board members in baby steps, right? So take little baby steps, give them the easy win. That's going to increase their comfort and their confidence. Also, give them opportunities to develop and practice their pitch, provide ongoing coaching, guidance, scripts, stories, data, right? The more we can prop up our board members, the better they're going to do in executing their fundraising skills. You also want to make sure you talk about sticking points and roadblocks they run into and this is where using pairs or small groups in the structure of your board meeting can work really well, because during the discussion on fundraising, which is going to be on every agenda, right? You can have them pair off and say, how's your experience in going? Where are you running into roadblocks? And then when they come back to the big group, you might realize there's some themes or a gap in everyone's knowledge, which makes it easier for you to address.

Problem number nine is they have busy lives, well, maybe it's not the best time for them to be on your board. If they're really valuable... Okay, I'll answer your question in a second, Eloco. Use them strategically, maybe their best place for you is on a committee for now or on an ad hoc committee. Think about if they're chronically busy and not being able to make things, figure out how to use them strategically. If your board members don't get it, that is our job, we can provide updates, stories, data at every meeting, encourage them to read your newsletter and follow you on social media. Then one of the things that I started to do early in my career, and I really think it works really well, have your staff members attend board meetings on a rotating basis to provide updates, right? So it's really hard for board members who are not on the inside of your organization to understand the workings of your organization, but if your staff come in and talk about their programs and what they're doing in the programs, it gives board members, first of all, an opportunity to get it, but also to ask questions, and again, engage more deeply with the organization, which is what you want. You wanna make sure that they're connected to the mission, again, through information, and they understand your nonprofit and fundraising, which again, solvable problems because you are the expert on both. Rremember that building your best board starts with recruitment is followed by good orientation, proper onboarding, and ongoing training and education information, and when you do all of this, your board won't hate fundraising anymore. They might still not love it, but at least they're not like sitting there with their arms crossed or looking at their phone when the word fundraising is mentione, right.

Okay, so I have a question here. What is your advice for someone who doesn't do fundraising for the first time? So, if you're a first-time fundraiser, I would really just get on as many webinars and look as many resources as possible to really learn fundraising. There are so many good nonprofit materials out there that are free. They vary in quality widely. You can sign up for some of the tools that I use. If you're a first time fundraiser, I would say just set a realistic goal and then come up with a very detailed plan on how you're going to raise that money because the number one tool in my arsenal is planning. Planning, planning, right? So I would put together a fundraising plan with details about what is the strategy, what are the steps involved in that strategy, who is doing what. So I'll just use this business campaign as an example. You know, I had the board do the plan with me, they said, well, the first thing we need to know is who are the businesses in the area? I said, okay, great. How are we going to do that? They're like, well, the chamber of commerce, you know, the areas chamber of commerce will, will have lists. I said, great, who's going to go get those membership lists? So we quickly Googled like chambers of commerce in the area and there happened to be three that they wanted to go for, and I said, great, who's going to go to this chamber? And we put down somebody volunteered and I said, great, when are you committed to doing that by? And they gave us a date, I was like, great, then somebody else volunteered for the second chamber and the third, and again, we said, when do you think you can realistically like reach out to them about a membership list? Great, we took care of step one.

The step two was, well, now we have to write a letter talking to them about why they should donate to this organization. And so we just brainstormed right there. Well, why would they, why would a business owner give two hoots about what it is you're doing? And so they came up with some pretty good arguments about why businesses would want to support what they were doing, and I said, great, who wants to work on this letter? And so three people volunteered, so I gave them like a couple of sample letters and then we moved on to the donation form, I said, great, what needs to be on this donation form? And so we brainstormed that, and I said, who wants to create this document? And so again, I provided them with sample materials just to make their job easier, but I really wanted them, first of all, to take responsibility, also, for them to get practice and feel more confident and comfortable like, oh, I can do this, I'm like, yeah, you can do this. I knew that before you did. Anyway, so just break it down into these bite-sized pieces and get people to take them on, because if you're a first time fundraiser, yes, it's your job to orchestrate the work, but you don't necessarily have to do all the work, so I hope that helped.

We're coming up on the hour and I know I just threw a lot at you. We'll send out the transcript, if you're on our email list, you'll get it. It'll be posted to Spotify and YouTube. Sorry, I think I would know this. You can follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and that'll get posted there as well. The recording will be available soon, as well as the transcript and feel free to reach out if you want any of those documents that I mentioned, the VIP exercise, the board recruitment matrix, the board member fundraising plan, I think those were the three I mentioned. Shoot us an email, we'll get those to you right away, and gain, thanks for joining me for another episode of the philanthropy revolution. I'm here if you've got questions or comments and happy to answer any questions. I will be back in two weeks with another episode and it's going to be on marketing with our guest, Michelle Knox, who's going to talk about branding and marketing for your nonprofit. Again, thanks for coming today, I appreciate you and the work you're doing in the world, and I'm very grateful for you and your nonprofit. Have a great week and I will see you in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for tuning in. I'll be back in two weeks with another episode. Got topics you want me to cover? Organizations you want me to showcase? Let me know. Also, I'm here to help you revolutionize philanthropy at your nonprofit. If you wanna talk about what that looks like, drop me an email.



YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

QUESTIONS? SEND ME A MESSAGE!

Have a specific question for me or my team? Send us a message and we'll get back to you as quickly as possible - usually within 24 to 48 hours (not including weekends).