Your Board members are key to your fundraising efforts and an asset you should leverage for fundraising success. In most cases, non-profits do not involve their Board members in this essential activity, and yet they should be among the first to contribute at different levels.
At least one of your Board members should have enough experience to support or question your fundraising plans and provide introductions, influence, guidance and donations. The others can always contribute one way or another depending on their skills and willingness to do so.
This article, written by IFCo's Director in Switzerland, Emilie Compignie, will take you through a deep thinking on the role of your Board in fundraising.
1. How can your Board help you fundraise?
Board members can support fundraising efforts in many different ways, even if they have never fundraised before. Your role is to give them a clearer picture of how they can contribute, especially if they aren’t comfortable asking for money directly:
- Personal networks: support them to map out their connections to identify new prospects, or to introduce you to already-identified prospects. They can be of great help to open doors.
- Event hosting: ask them to co-host events, be part of a discussion panel, network with specific attendees, and invite their contacts to events.
- Access to opportunities: explore any other resources and opportunities that your Board members may have access to (i.e. inviting you to networking events they are attending, securing in-kind donations from corporates, etc.)
- Making donors feel special: they can help you in stewardship and cultivation. A simple thank you letter signed by a Board member can make your donors feel valued.
- Opinion and insights: ask for their opinion on your approach to get more buy-in and trust. Trustees see your organisation from a very different perspective, and may have unique insights into the world of donors.
2. How to collaborate with your Board?
To collaborate successfully with your Board, you have to carefully manage their involvement:
- Get their buy-in: Ensure they are consulted in the fundraising strategy design process, educated on the reality of what’s achievable and happy with the finalized plan.
- Brief them thoroughly: Board members will likely have a high-level understanding of your organisation’s work and focus, but if you want their support on fundraising, they may require a more in-depth briefing of your goals, targets, weaknesses and strengths, as well as your general direction of travel. Make sure they understand the whole picture, and why their support is critical for success.
- Give them clear actions and deadlines: Board members are usually busy people, so asking them to ‘help with fundraising’ or ‘make introductions to donors they know’ might not be the most efficient way to engage them. Donors need clear, tangible requests that prompt them to think specifically. Requests like ‘help us think through speakers for this fundraising event’ or ‘review this list of prospective donors and make introductions to anyone you know’ will be much more successful.
- Equip them with the right tools: ensure your donors have the right communications assets and tools to advocate for your organisation in their circles of influence. At a bare minimum, they should know your organisation’s pitch and have access to a high-level pitch deck they can use and share quickly.
- Prioritise what you ask from them: make sure you’re asking them to support the most critical elements and not overwhelming them with too many competing tasks.
3. What is the first step to engage your Board members?
If you are planning to engage your Board members in fundraising activities, you first need to understand their skills – what they know and don’t know about fundraising – and how comfortable they are with this activity.
Ask them key questions to have a better understanding of where they stand. You can either share with them a self-assessment quiz or collect the answers directly through an informal conversation, a Board meeting, or an ad hoc meeting.
Here are some ideas of tasks and skills you can present them:
- Identifying new donor prospects
- Making introductions
- Networking at events
- Having 1:1 meetings/coffees
- Building meaningful relationships with potential donors
- Directly asking for money
- Speaking in detail about the organisation’s impact, programmes or fundraising ambitions
- Speaking about why I’m passionate about the cause
- Being a speaker at an event
- Hosting an event at my home
With the knowledge you gather, you will be able to get a clearer picture of:
- Who on your Board feels most comfortable doing what, and their willingness to support.
- What training opportunities you could provide to support your Board’s fundraising efforts.
It is good practice to maintain a strong relationship with your Board, but for fundraising it is especially vital.
You can include your Board members in your fundraising activities by allocating tasks to each person, based on their individual preferences and skills. If they indicate a lack of knowledge to perform specific activities, you can organise internal training sessions to share your fundraising knowledge with them. This will only increase their commitment, sense of purpose, but also strengthen your relationship with them.
This blog was written by IFCo's Director in Switzerland, Emilie Compignie and was published on https://ec-consulting.ch/en/board-members/