Building a Fundraising Board Part 4

Basic Principles for Board Giving 

Continuing with our blog series on Building a Fundraising Board, here is part IV. Some basic principles to start with:

  • Board members are (or should be) selected because they believe in the mission of your organization, so they should also have the desire to support the agency financially.

  • It will be difficult to ask the public to support your special events if your board members do not attend these events.

  • Members of your community will contribute more to your organization when they are asked by a volunteer they know than if they are asked by a paid staff member.

  • Ultimately, board members have assumed the responsibility for implementing the mission of your agency, and raising funds is a critical component of this responsibility.

  • Many foundations and other donors will not contribute if they do not see 100 percent board participation.

If your board members are reluctant to assume their fundraising role, you might start by getting them involved in some “painless” ways of fundraising:

  • Serve on the development committee to help plan fundraising activities.

  • Develop and review mailing lists.

  • Sell tickets for an event (without the pressure of “every board member needs to sell fifty tickets).

  • Serve on an event committee.

  • Ask friends and family to contribute to your organization in lieu of birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion gifts.

  • Ask companies they do business with to sponsor an event or take out an ad in a program book for an event.

  • Sign appeal letters to individuals they personally know.

  • Participate in a “thankathon” in which they call current donors just to thank them for their gifts, not to ask for money.

Getting Your Board Enthused about Fundraising

  • Help board members understand their role in fundraising by including it in their job description and by holding an educational session led by an outside “expert.”

  • Assess your organization’s fundraising activities, and make sure board members aren’t “nickeled and dimed” throughout the year.

  • Stress the importance of having a development plan that clearly spells out the fundraising roles of the board, staff, and volunteers.

  • Establish a development committee that includes both board and non-board members.

  • Select a board member who “gets it” about fundraising, and have this individual chair your development committee.

  • Provide fundraising training for board members in specific areas they feel they need help understanding, i.e., planned giving, capital campaigns, or telephone fundraising.

  • Ask the board chair and CEO to allow your input to the board recruitment process so that the board will include more people who are willing to be involved in your fundraising program.

Once you’ve built the board you want, how do you keep the board members? A few hints:

  • Have a sufficient amount of committee members to share the workload.

  • Make sure board and committee meetings are productive.

  • Ensure that meetings start and end on time.

  • Send agendas and committee reports in advance of meetings.

  • Have term limits and enforce them to avoid “perpetual” board members and avoid “founder’s syndrome.”

  • Provide education and training for the board in areas where they need to be knowledgeable.

The Dreaded Board “Training”

Building an effective and enthusiastic board is one of the most critical elements in fundraising. But, of course, your board members don’t think they need training, they don’t have time for it, and they won’t listen to what you to say anyway.

Try calling board training by a more meaningful title, perhaps Executive Leadership Symposium!

I now have a Facebook Page on Board Bound Leadership Very soon you will be able to purchase Board Bound Leadership book there and find out more about our training for board members.


And, check out YOU and Your Nonprofit Board at

Building a Fundraising Board Part 3

The Importance of Board Giving

There are several reasons board giving is critical to your organization:

  • It increases the level of “ownership” the board members feel toward your organization.

  • It shows donors and prospective donors that your board members are good stewards.

  • It enables your organization to raise funds from foundations and other entities that ask, “How much has the board given?”

  • It makes board members feel good about their involvement with your organization and enables them to ask others for money!

How Much Should Board Members Give?

Requiring your board members to give a set dollar amount each year is discouraged for several reasons: It limits you in recruiting board members who may have a lot of talent and skills but are not able to give at the required level. On the other hand, board members who could easily give more tend to give at the stated minimum level. Therefore, it is better to stress in the board’s position description that all board members are required to give at a meaningful level. The two key words are all (100 percent of the board should be giving annually) and meaningful. Board members should be rated individually for an appropriate “ask” amount.

Reword your board position description, under the area of board giving, to state that board members are expected to make your organization one of their top-three priorities for charitable giving. This makes it clear that you expect them to give at what they would consider to be a meaningful level.

When Should You Ask Board Members for Their Gifts?

You should ask board members to make their contributions before asking others to give. For the annual appeal, the best time to do your board appeal is at the very beginning of your fiscal year. If your organization is on a July-through-June fiscal year, summer is a good time to “gear up” for your fall campaign, and having the board appeal out of the way during July and August puts you in a good position for your annual appeal. If you are on a calendar year, you should approach your board in January. If you are engaged in a capital campaign, you will want to make sure 100 percent of your board members have made campaign pledges before you begin soliciting any major donors or the public. Likewise, with your planned giving program, the first people you should approach to make a bequest or other type of planned gift are your board members.

The Wrong Way to Do It

Make Your Pledge Now!

A colleague called me shortly after accepting a new development position. He sought advice about how to handle his organization’s approach to board giving. He had just come from his first board meeting in his new position, and he said the board chair started the meeting by saying that board members were expected to contribute to the organization, handed out pledge cards, and said, “Fill out your pledge card and hand it to me before you leave the meeting tonight.” Not exactly a well-planned, thoughtful approach to board giving!

So, How Do You Approach Board Members for Their Contributions?

Begin by appointing a board appeal committee. Members of this committee should include the chair of your board, the chair of the development committee, and as many other board members as are needed to personally solicit the board, keeping in mind that one solicitor should be responsible for no more than five calls. You should select committee members from those board members who are themselves regular generous givers. Your chief development officer should be on the committee but should not solicit board members. Although you will need to solicit the board chair before the board chair can ask others to join in giving.

This committee then does a screening and rating session of the entire board. (This concept will be explained in the chapter on soliciting individual donors.) Treat the board appeal just as you would any major fundraising appeal. Make it personal, challenging, and exciting. You won’t need glitzy campaign material for your board. After all, they should know the “case.” But you might want to put together a one-page summary of the case and a graphic showing the importance of the board appeal. (A pie chart with the annual fund broken down by category is helpful in doing this, i.e., how much comes from grants, events, mail, board appeal, corporate appeal, etc.)

A Helpful Tool for the Board Appeal

A tool that can help with your board appeal is a list showing board members various ways you need their support throughout the year. Most board members get annoyed at being “nickeled and dimed” to death for every special event that comes along. A menu of options as to how they can direct their support will be helpful, but it should always include unrestricted board giving.

Your board appeal committee may need training in how to schedule the appointment and how to make an ask, but remember that the board appeal should be a serious effort that involves personal visits to your board members, not just having the board chair hand out pledge cards at a meeting and saying, “Okay, everyone, make your commitment now.” This method usually offends board members and results in much lower gifts. The board members should be made to feel special enough for a personal visit and a face-to-face opportunity to be thanked for their past support, to ask questions, and to share their interests.

I now have a Facebook Page on Board Bound Leadership Very soon you will be able to purchase Board Bound Leadership book there and find out more about our training for board members.

And, check out YOU and Your Nonprofit Board at


Six Ways Nonprofits Can Improve Their Websites in 2017

Having (and maintaining) a compelling online presence can be a struggle for charities and nonprofits. How to convey all that passion, expertise, and drive in code and pixels? How to keep digital costs down and maximize returns? Here are seven things that you can do to upgrade your nonprofit’s digital brand in 2017.

Content Strategy Aligned with Real Stories
A good website relies on good content – whether that be in the form of blog posts, landing pages, or copy.

Make sure that your charity’s content strategy is all about the people you support and the people seek to engage. Review your blog’s editorial calendar, your email campaigns, on-page copy, and donor page messaging. Are you hitting the right notes with the words you’ve chosen to use?

1. Dial down impersonal company press releases and milestones on your blog – focus on sharing real people stories and successes instead. These stories will make your content more engaging; and much more likely to be shared. It might take you longer to gather real stories and get them approved – but the effort will be well worth the wait.
2. Gritty nonprofit user-generated content like survivor stories are empowering and uplifting. Share insider stories and personal challenges to give your charity a friendly and relatable face.
3. Adding genuine personality to your blog is about enthusing talented copywriters and marketers with a true passion for your cause. Make sure that web content production is something that your team take seriously.

Interactive Fundraising Technology
Bring digital into the heart of your organization to help you reach your fundraising resolutions.

Manage donor data, online donations, and campaign particulars with the help of bespoke technological solutions specifically made for charities.

● Don’t rely on dusty old spreadsheets to manage your all-important donor relationships – use smart technology (like the ones offered by Fronstream) to make your efforts more valuable to your organization. Cultivate long term relationships with frequent personalized emails and updates.
● Online donations are practical, easy to manage, and easy to track. Make sure you have plenty of digital avenues for collecting money, and always give donors the option to contribute different amounts. Use the advanced reporting functions and list management offered by donation software in order to easily share fundraising goals with donors and stakeholders.
Give your digital brand a facelift
Graphic design and digital design are super important for nonprofits – not just because they make you look ‘smart’, but because they help people build a relationship with the work that you do. An outdated brand will put supporters off, and will make it harder for you to produce meaningful merchandise and marketing literature.

● Websites are interactive environments that need constant updates to stay fresh. Revisit your site’s design on a regular basis. Looking outdated? Speak to your web team and see what can be done to turn back the clocks – the longer you leave it, the harder it will be to fix. Take inspiration from these awesome nonprofit websites.
● Approach your charity website more like a commercial one – are the benefits of what you do obvious? Would people want to be associated with your brand? If you’re dealing with somethingthat’s controversial or hard for people to be open about – how can you break those barriers with branding?
● The images you choose are hugely important – stock imagery is a lot less interesting that real pictures of real people. Try to be as inclusive in your images as you are in your language; be careful when selecting images for emotive trigger subjects.

Monetize Your Site
Websites aren’t designed to be informational brochures – they should work hard in order to attract donors, supporters, and advocates. Make sure your nonprofit website has a clear sales funnel or user journey.

1. Make sure your donor funnel ends with an easy-to-use online donation platform. Build consideration and trust, and don’t ask people for money until you’ve given them enough of a reason to do so. Once they are there – encourage flexible giving and make the action of donating as frictionless as possible.
2. Loads of successful nonprofits use ecommerce to further their cause – Amnesty UK sells books, organic chocolate, and social enterprise products on it’s highly profitable shop. Not a web techy? No fear – you can open up an online store in moments and start selling your own charity Christmas cards, branded tees, soft toys, chocolates – the sky’s the limit.
3. Ads can be a legitimate way to monetize your website – but you have to tread carefully and make sure that they are in keeping with your nonprofit.

Make it Social
Social media is a huge deal for nonprofits.

We’re always hoping for that one online video challenge that goes viral, or that ad that gets everyone talking. Whether you are big or small, make sure that your website successfully drives people to your social media channels (and vice versa).

● Social media can be integrated into your site with clever plugins – but no one will share your content unless you make it compelling. Make raising awareness on social media a core part of what you ask advocates to do. Have shareable quotes, pledges, and factoids to take the pressure off people having to think too much about it.
● Social media means that people can put their own voices and stamps on what you do, so it’s an unpredictable environment. Make sure you have clear social media policies in place, especially if you’re dealing with vulnerable people.
● Engage with your supporters publicly online and make them feel involved with the work that you do. Show support and compassion – treat your fundraisers like VIPs.
● Be clear on what channels work best for you. Instagram is great for nonprofits with visual content, whereas LinkedIn as a B2B networking site is great for charities who rely heavily on corporate fundraising.

Review Your SEO Strategy
People are engaging with organizations they find through search engines – make sure that your site comes up for your core keywords. (And that when people do find your site – they like what they see).

1. Good websites are much more than what you see on the surface – there is a whole technological engine room behind them that needs managing. A technical SEO audit is a good place to start. This will help you decide whether your title tags, meta descriptions, URL structure, user-experience, or backend code need a bit of a facelift.
2. Review your current rankings with a tool like SEMrush and see if you can improve your on-page relevancy. This might mean revising the language you use on a landing page, or creating new content around a topic that means a lot to you.
3. All websites need links as votes of confidence – but be careful where you get yours from. Don’t fall into cheap and easy ways of link building – focus on editorial content links or genuine digital PR. There are loads of people out there with big online followings who may be able to share your cause. Cultivate good relationships with online influencers and publications.
4. SEO is a long-term digital strategy that needs good content, solid development, and other core web elements. Take it slow – don’t change everything all at once.

To recap: make sure that your content, web design, technical elements and promotional strategies are all geared towards engaging more people. Don’t let your website get left behind – it’s an important digital calling card for all the hard work that you do. Invest in new digital technologies that will make your life easier, and your fundraising smarter. What do you think is the number one key ingredient for a good nonprofit online presence?

Content Marketer & Startup Specialist

Kayleigh Alexandra

Passionate about writing for the startup and entrepreneurial audience, I have recently been part of setting up an exciting project at We donate all our website profits to charities that help people reach their full potential. Find out more on Twitter.