getting board to fundraise
I was in Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend showing a nonprofit board of directors how to finance, not fundraise for, their organization. I love leading these sessions because there is always a point, about 45 minutes into the session, when I see the light bulb go on around the room. Board members become energized when they realize that instead of fearing money as they have always done, they can employ it to create more social change.
Like it or not, money is an incredible tool. If nonprofit leaders could better understand, stop fearing, and learn how to wield money effectively, the results could be transformative.
Here’s what it means for a nonprofit to wield the money tool:
- Add Money to Every Conversation
When you have a board meeting to discuss a new potential activity, make sure someone is asking the question “What are the financial implications of this decision?” And when you are developing a new strategic plan, make sure you spend as much time on program goals as you do on financial goals. Money should never be far from your thoughts because there is no mission without money.
- Create a Financing Strategy
To effectively use a tool you must have a strategy behind it. You cannot just hope that the right amount and kind of money will magically appear at your doorstep. Instead, you must develop a financing strategy that answers the question “How will we raise the money we need to achieve our goals?” A strong financial plan demonstrates how much money you need, over what time frame, how it will come in the door, and what activities are required to make it happen. A comprehensive financing plan creates long-term sustainability for your organization, which means you are more likely to create social change.
- Make Every Board Member Contribute Financially
You simply will not have every board member thinking about money if they don’t each have a role in the financial engine of the organization. I am a firm believer in a mandatory give/get requirement for every board member. But let me be clear, I am not suggesting that every board member must write a big check, or even have friends who can write a big check. Rather, there are countless ways for board members to contribute to the financial bottom line of their nonprofit. Make sure that every single one of them does.
- Ask For Investments, Not Donations
If you are begging for money you aren’t using money as a tool. Money is what makes your theory of change a reality. So don’t put out the tin cup, rather create a message of impact that describes how your organization takes community resources and transforms them into better lives and better communities. Your organization is about solving problems. Articulate that and find partners who want to invest in that social change work.
- Raise Capital, Not Just Revenue
A critical, but rarely employed, use of money is to build a nonprofit organization. Nonprofits can no longer scrape by with inadequate technology, staff, materials, systems. They must create strong, sustainable organizations around their mission. And they need capital (money for technology, revenue-generating staff, systems, etc.) to do that. Instead of piecing your infrastructure together day after day, launch a capacity capital campaign to raise the money you really need.
Money doesn’t have to be a feared, uncomfortable element in the nonprofit sector. It can be an incredibly powerful tool for creating social change. Indeed, the only way for a nonprofit to really succeed is to embrace all that money has to offer.
I was blown away by the popularity of my post earlier this year, 9 Ways Board Members Can Raise Money Without Fundraising. It seems so obvious to me that there are a million different ways for board members to contribute to the bottom-line of their nonprofits, that it didn’t occur to me that a list like that could be so valuable. But apparently it was.
So I want to add to the list, to give people even more ideas for how their board can contribute to the financial engine of their nonprofit without ever asking for money. And maybe with all of these options, more nonprofits will institute a requirement that EVERY board member contribute (either with a personal gift or by implementing some of these ideas) financially to the organization.
So here are 9 more ways that board members who are fundraising “shy” can raise money for their nonprofit:
- Invite 5 Friends to Tour the Program
If you feel truly passionate about the work of the nonprofit you serve, then you should want to show your friends that work. You show off your new car, your son’s graduation photos, or your best recipes, why wouldn’t you want to show off something that is near and dear to your heart–the organization you spend many hours a year supporting and building? And if one of your friends feels the spark and wants to become involved with the nonprofit themselves then that is a new supporter you’ve found for the organization.
- Talk About Your Nonprofit on Facebook
You talk about everything else on your Facebook page, why not dedicate a post or two to your favorite nonprofit? Share a recent blog post from the agency, or pictures of the children you work with, or an invitation to the next tour. And do the same on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, wherever you currently hang out. If even just a few of your friends noticed and started to become involved you could be bringing new supporters to the organization.
- Show Up to One of Your Nonprofit’s Events
Just the simple act of being present at a prospecting or donor event could have huge benefit for your nonprofit. A potential donor who sees and talks with board members from the organization is going to be much more likely to give. The board lends an enormous amount of credibility to an organization. People who witness a board member’s support in person and get to chat with them about why they serve and what they love about the organization could easily become new donors.
- Tell The Story Of Why You Serve
If you feel really passionate about your nonprofit, capture that story. Let your nonprofit do a video interview of you, or write your story down yourself. These stories are gold to a nonprofit. They can turn your story into a YouTube video, a blog post, an e-newsletter article, a section on their website, a Facebook post and on and on. It’s a domino effect. If they can demonstrate to others the passion and commitment that exists on their board, they can translate that into more support.
- Help Craft a Case for Support
It’s really hard for a nonprofit to raise money if they don’t have a compelling argument for why someone should give. Encourage your fellow board members and the organization staff to sit down together to craft a case for support. The exercise of articulating why someone outside the organization should care strengthens the organization’s ability to ask for money and energizes and re-engages board and staff in the process.
- Analyze Your Networks
Every single one of us is part of many networks. Our circle of friends, our co-workers, our neighbors, our fellow church-goers, other parents at our kids’ school. The list goes on and on. If you took 20-30 minutes to analyze all of the people you know and whether they might have an interest in your nonprofit and the capacity to give a gift, you could uncover some prospects for your organization. But don’t worry, just because you come up with those prospect names doesn’t mean you have to ask them for money. You can give those names to the executive director or development director and ask them to pursue them as a potential lead.
- Go on a Solicitation Call.
I know this list is for board members who DON’T want to make the ask. But simply going on a call doesn’t mean you ever have to actually ask for money. Leave that up to the executive director or development director who go with you. When a prospect is ready for the ask, you should go in pairs, and the staff member/board member pair is ideal. The staff member can do the actual asking, and the board member can be there to voice the community’s support for and investment in the organization. And that demonstration of support and investment goes a long way to turning a prospect into a donor.
- Educate a Funder About the Power of Capacity Capital
Capacity capital is the money your nonprofit so desperately needs to build a stronger, more effective organization. But because it is a new kind of money in the sector, funders need to understand why it is so important and why they should give it. If you could convince just one funder of the power of a capacity capital investment to transform the fundraising function of your nonprofit (to pay for a new donor database, or a Development Director for example) you could greatly increase your organization’s ability to raise money over the long-term.
- Give a Gift
You don’t have to ask anyone for money if you actually give a gift yourself. It amazes me how many board members serve on a board but never actually write the organization a check. If you truly believe in the organization enough to volunteer your time, expertise, connections and experience, then why wouldn’t you make a financial investment as well? And that financial investment should hurt a little bit, otherwise how can you expect anyone else to make the financial sacrifices necessary to keep the organization strong?
I really could go on and on. To me, there is an endless list of ways board members can contribute to the financial sustainability of the nonprofit they serve. The trick is helping them realize that. Maybe these lists will give you some ways to start that conversation with your board.
And if you want to find out other ways for getting your board involved in fundraising, download the How to Build a Fundraising Board webinar.
Photo Credit: Jon Sullivan
I hear the frustration ALL the time. “My board won’t fundraise.” “They’ve never made it part of their responsibilities.” “They are afraid of the ask.” “Fundraising is all up to the Executive Director.” A board of directors’ view of fundraising tends to range from a general aversion, to total fear. And the result is a very frustrated nonprofit staff.
But there is a better way. I have found that if boards can learn about how funding in the nonprofit sector works, how to communicate what their nonprofit is and does, how to find potential donors interested in what they have to say, and the simple processes for bringing money in the door, that discomfort, distaste, and aversion will go away. And the nonprofit will emerge stronger, more financially sustainable and better able to reach their goals.
If your board suffers from a similar fear of fundraising, check out our How to Build a Fundraising Board webinar.
How to Build a Fundraising Board Webinar
Nonprofits often struggle to get their board of directors to help with fundraising. This interactive webinar will give nonprofit staff and board the tools they need to get their boards of directors bringing money in the door. We’ll give very tactical steps for overcoming fear and inertia to get board members excited, engaged and committed to raising money for your nonprofit.
Photo Credit: tuppaware_001