But your board still isn’t fundraising.
This is where staff come in. For your board to effectively fundraise, there have to be systems in place that make it easy for them to participate in the organization’s fundraising priorities.
Because your board has enormous potential to add fundraising capacity to your organization, and you likely need them trained with the tools they need to do it. Your board members are volunteers, and they are likely coming to you without any real fundraising experience.
Of course you want your board out in your community, talking up your organization and engaging new potential donors. You want them tapping into their networks to bring new donors to the table.
But many of your board members aren’t going to have the network to bring major donors to your organization. And board members are going to tap out their networks pretty fast if all you ever do is ask them over and over and over again to bring new people to the table.
There are other options for effectively using board members to build fundraising capacity for your organization, and many pathways to engage your board members with donors. Are you using your board to build your donor pipeline and thank donors?
Building the pipeline
If you have not yet built personal relationships with all of your existing major donors, however you define that, then your board members can help you do that. They can be the ones meeting with, updating, and building relationships with major donors if the Executive Director doesn’t have capacity.
And if you’ve already got those major donors covered, there are likely plenty of existing mid-level donors you’ve never talked to who have the potential to become major donors down the road.
How many of mid-level donors have you identified for your major donor pipeline?
Probably not as many as you could if you’re only using staff capacity to do it.
Who is giving to you just under the major donor level? Has anyone ever met with them to build a relationship so the donors can grow into major donors? Your board members can.
Which mid-level donors have been giving to you for years and years, who clearly have affinity to your cause, but you’ve never had a chance to get to know? Might those donors be good prospects for your major donor pool down the road? Your board members can find out.
Your board members can start building relationships with donors who haven’t received the level of personal touch your major donors have. They can begin to determine who has the potential to be major donors down the road with consistent cultivation.
Think of how many more donors might give more each year because they were engaged by a board member.
All they need is for your organization to create a system designed for them to do it.
I will never forget my first board experience, where I raised my hand to help fundraise from major donors. Every few months I would reach out to the Development Director, who would tell me that soon she would have an opportunity for me. But the opportunity never came.
Staff had no system for engaging board members in this way. They hadn’t developed a program of determining which donors would be good to begin to cultivate as major donors. They didn't take the time to train me to have those conversations. They had no way to use my offer to meet with donors, and no way to hold me accountable.
It was a tremendous opportunity lost. But it didn’t stop staff from asking me every time we held an event to invite my network (which had no capacity to speak of in it).
Don’t let that be your organization, without frameworks or structures to support board fundraising. Don’t be the staff who continually bang the drum of “reach out to your people” with no pipeline to show for it.
For your board members who are least enthusiastic about fundraising, there are many ways to engage them in your fundraising program that doesn’t feel like fundraising. One example is to ask board members to do thank you calls and notes after gifts come in.
After all, donors who are thanked well and quickly are much more likely to keep giving to an organization, making it a critical component of any good fundraising program. And those elusive new donors are more likely to give again if they are touched three times in the first three months after their gift has come in.
Board members, as leaders for the organization, carry weight when they say thank you.
Given the abysmal donor retention rates of the average US nonprofit, helping to simply keep your current donors is a worthwhile use of your board’s time.
And thanking people is much less stressful than asking people for money. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the conversations board members have when thanking someone for a gift turn out to be one of the more gratifying board experiences they have.
Using board members well in your fundraising program can be a fundraising game changer for your organization.
Once you have board members who understand their responsibilities and board leadership who are able to create a strong culture of accountability, investing in the systems that allow board members to effectively fundraise will put all of those good intentions into effective motion.
Megan Amundson is a nonprofit consultant who trains and coaches leaders of small and medium-sized nonprofits to raise more money from individuals.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.