Keeping Your Board Enthused

If your organization is overly involved in special events, board members can easily get burned out. Your board members will not be happy if they are expected to sell tickets to their friends and family members for too many special events. Many of them will not be interested in golf, running, dancing, or whatever these events involve. You need to focus on one or two successful events and stress the board’s attendance to show the community that the board supports your organization. You will be more successful in enlisting their participation if you involve board members in planning these events.

Make sure your board members understand the importance of having a development plan that covers all areas of fundraising, from events to major gifts and planned gifts. Your development committee should be deeply involved in formulating this plan and presenting it to your board. It is better to have your board members ask other board members to get involved in fundraising than for staff to be the ones who insist on board involvement.

You can get your board members excited about fundraising by selecting the one individual on your board who most “gets it” about fundraising and have this individual chair your development committee. This board member’s enthusiasm will be contagious and may even spur fundraising competition among board members. You can also try bringing in a consultant to help motivate the board. If your organization cannot afford a consultant, try inviting a board member from a nonprofit whose board has been successful at fundraising to talk to your board about its role in fundraising. Be sure to select this person carefully. You don’t want someone who will just brag about the fundraising success of the other nonprofit's board, try to shame your board members into fundraising, or get dragged into the morass of a stagnant board. You want someone who will inspire and motivate your board.

Board education is essential. Timing of this education, however, is a critical element. You should plan some type of board education at every board meeting—even if it’s a ten-minute presentation on the role of boards in nonprofits, ethical issues for boards, making the case for your organization. You get the idea. For more intense sessions, schedule a time convenient for most board members. Often a Saturday morning or a two-hour session in place of—or before or after—a regular board meeting works well. Once a year, take your board away from the organization for a daylong retreat that includes some educational opportunities as well as time to plan.

Board educational sessions can be led by staff, but they’re usually more effective when brought from an outside perspective. Education needs to be ongoing but should be done in “chunks” of time and information given. Board members who have never raised funds can’t grasp it all in one sitting. A consultant, a board member from another organization, a video from BoardSource, or some other resource can often tell your board the things they need to hear in a new light.

You might want to send your board members to Board Bound Leadership training.

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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