One of the most common refrains I hear from my friends and colleagues in the nonprofit arena is “I’m just not sure how to make my Board understand fundraising!” One executive director friend dreads his quarterly report to his Board — not because his organization isn’t meeting its fundraising goals, but because he feels like his Board holds him to impossibly high standards and is always disappointed.
I think every nonprofit should endeavor to recruit at least one fundraising professional onto their Board. Having that insider who can bridge the gap between the staff and the Board is so beneficial to both groups that I’ve always been surprised it isn’t standard practice.
But until that happens, there are several key ways you can engage your Board in fundraising and help them understand how to strengthen your organization and its fundraising efforts.
First, you need to understand where your Board Members are coming from. Who are they? What is their background? Why are they involved with your organization? What activities spark their interests and passion? What stories do they tell about their involvement with your nonprofit? Understanding your audience is key to persuading people to give to your organization, and it’s key to persuading your Board members to engage, as well.
Once you understand broadly and deeply who your Board is, then you can start to use their language, tap into their concerns and hopes, and create a culture of fundraising throughout your organization.
Cultivate that culture is by communicating openly and often with your Board members.
- Use Storytelling to tell them about the impact they’re having in your community.
- Set clear expectations — in other words, tell them what needs to be done and give them the tools to do that work.
- Set aside time for one-on-one meetings with Board Members, and use that time to listen to their stories. Ask them what first excited them about your organization, and what their goals are for the next year.
- Thank them often — and personally — for their commitment and participation. And ask them to personally thank your donors. This circle of gratitude makes everyone feel valued, needed and appreciated — and makes your mission possible.
I also love this handy info-graphic on increasing Board engagement, which outlines practical, achievable steps for both smaller and larger nonprofit organizations.
Above all, it’s critical to remember that you’re all on the same side. You may come at the problem you’re trying to solve from different perspectives — and that’s great because it means you’ll cover all the bases — but you are all working for a common goal: the mission of your organization.