Exactly What to Say to Get 100% Participation from Your Board

Question MarkMaybe you don’t yet need to hire a fundraising consultant or coach — what you need instead is just the answer to a burning question about fundraising (possibly even one you’ve been embarrassed to ask).

If that’s the case, you’ll be excited to learn about my new video blog series: Ask the Fundraising Expert.

Ask the Fundraising Expert: A New Video Series

Frequently, I receive emails or requests via Facebook about specific fundraising topics that are easy for me to answer right then and there — and, in fact, I get a lot of duplicate questions! So it makes sense to me to present fundraising questions and answers in a format where they’re easily available to everyone who might be facing the same challenge.

And remember, there are no “stupid” questions. It’s likely that many other people share your same questions.

Asking Me Your Questions

If you have a question about a specific fundraising topic, you can ask me any number of ways:

  • Contact me through my site
  • Post it in the comments of a blog post (i.e., below)
  • Post it in the YouTube comments of an upcoming “Ask the Fundraising Expert” post

Now, let’s get started. A written review of my advice appears below the video.

How to Get 100% Board Participation

Our first fundraising question comes from Mary, who asks:

“I know from reading your books that it’s important for us to achieve 100% from our board members in terms of fundraising, both by making gifts themselves and by asking for gifts from others. That said, I’m having trouble coming up with a way to explain this concept to our board, many of whom feel they’re giving enough because, after all, they’re volunteering their time. What should I say to them?”

This is an excellent question!

It’s frequently the case that even experienced fundraising staff members feel a bit intimidated when it comes to talking to their board about “giving and getting.”

For one thing, it can feel as though you’re asking them to pay your salary — after all, your income does depend on contributions. And for another, in a sense your board is collectively your employer. I have yet to meet someone who’s comfortable telling their boss what to do.

What to Say to Your Board:

Here is the best way to explain the importance of 100% participation to your board members:

As members of our board of directors, your unique role as high-level volunteers makes each of you perfect for the role of raising money. You care so much about our mission that you’re giving this organization your very valuable time.

When we solicit funds as staff members of the organization, prospects might see us as acting in our own financial interest. When you ask, however, it’s obvious from the start that you’re asking because you have a real passion for our work.

When it comes to giving as well as getting funds, all of the experts say that donors are much more receptive to being asked by their peers who have already given — people who have put their money where their mouths are, so to speak.

When you make a financial gift in addition to giving your time, you’re setting a strong example for others to follow. And, as you know, your gift will make a huge difference to the people (animals, environment, etc.) that we serve.

Another Approach:

And, if those reasons aren’t enough, you can say something like:

Many savvy donors (including institutional donors) want to know if the entire board gives before they make a gift. After all, why should they (donors) make a donation if our own board members won’t?

To help board members with accountability, try using this sample Board Member Expectation Form.

That’s all for this week’s Ask the Fundraising Expert. Keep watching this blog or subscribe to my YouTube channel for more questions and answers.

Fundraising is hard. But it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Be sure to ask me your burning question about any aspect of fundraising. Ask in the comments below or contact me. Your question could even be the focus of an upcoming video post, so don’t be shy!

Comments

  1. Angie says

    This is great advice. Thanks Amy and congrats on getting the ACFRE!

    What about board members who already feel they have 100% participation since they are covering their own travel costs (some of our members live in other states and spend up to $2,000 annually to attend meetings); participate in an occasional “pass the hat” or make “required” contributions to their individual fraternal organization who in turn supports our organization? I appreciate your thoughts.

    • says

      Hi Angie,

      Good question. My question to you is: Were you clear when you recruited these board members that the expectation was that they travel to meetings AND make a personal contribution (when they joined the board)? If not, please establish that as a requirement moving forward for new board members.

      My other question is: How many in-person meetings do you have per year? Maybe reduce it to one or two and invest in video conferencing for other meetings, so you can have board members spending less on travel.

      Finally, you may notice that I didn’t say “how much” board members need to give. If necessary, they can contribute a minimal amount ($100). However, I suspect that if they spend $2,000 per year traveling to your meetings, they can afford to give much more. You simply need to make that the “norm”.

      Hope that helps.

      Amy

  2. says

    Hi Amy,

    I have read A LOT of articles about how to retain donors, how to make the ask, and how to keep them interested in your cause. But what if we are a very new nonprofit and we literally don’t have any individual donors? Where and how do you find them? How do you approach someone for the first time about giving to your cause? All of our funding comes from foundation grants and we have been fine so far, but we know that in order to be sustainable we need individual sponsors/donors who financially invest themselves in our nonprofit.

    Thanks for the help!

    • says

      Thanks for the great question, Marianne! I will definitely do a Vlog post about this in the near future, so stay tuned. However, the short answer is – you’ve got to start somewhere, and that place is with the people who already care about your organization. Ask board and staff members to come up with a list of people they would like to introduce to your organization (not ask for a donation). At this stage, you’re friend-raising, not fund-raising. You need to spend time telling everyone you and your board members know about the organization to find out who might be interested in getting involved and supporting. Hope that helps!

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