A recurring complaint most fundraisers have heard from other nonprofit professionals is that board members aren’t involved enough (or at all) in the fundraising process. Boards may help set fundraising goals for the department, but don’t necessarily help the organization reach those goals. Other fundraisers may have issues with opinionated or stubborn board members who make their department waste time, money, and effort on fundraising ideas that aren’t a good return on investment. How do you convince your board of directors to trust your fundraising team and even get involved in those efforts themselves? The following tips should help improve the relationship between staff and your nonprofit board.
1. Attend board meetings regularly
The first tip may seem like a no-brainer, but not all nonprofits include a member of their fundraising team in board meetings on a regular basis. Rather than just waiting your turn to attend, ask the CEO to make a fundraising update part of every board meeting. This will help you introduce yourself and the department to the board of directors. When the board members see you on a regular basis, they will gradually become comfortable with your attendance at the meetings. They may even begin to look forward to a member of your team being present at every meeting!
Being transparent with members of your board about your department’s performance as well as the goals you’re trying to reach may inspire them to get more involved. Humans love to beat goals! Presenting your goals to the board may be the push you need to get them actively engaged in fundraising.
2. Get to know your board members
You likely won’t get to know your board well during the board meetings. However, you can take notes on little bits of information that board members provide here and there during discussions at meetings. To get a more complete understanding of who your board members are, what their skills and interests are, and what motivates them, ask them for their phone numbers and emails. Then, reach out after a while to meet with members of your board one-on-one to get to know them on a more meaningful, individual level. They’ll likely be busy, so try to keep your scheduled meetings short but with enough time to ask questions about them and develop a better idea about who they are and why they support your organization. Set up additional meetings with each board member until you have enough information about each one to individually plan for how to best put their skills, connections, and motivations to work to benefit the organization.
Your board will benefit from these meetings as well. By taking an active step to create and deepen a social relationship with your board, you’re teaching them about yourself and how you work. They can use those insights to make working with the fundraising department easier.
3. Ask your board for help
One complaint many board members have with fundraising departments is that they’re expected to support the organization, but aren’t often asked for their help or told what they can do to help. If your philanthropy department is guilty of not asking, now’s the time to reach out to your board to get them more involved. You can ask them to make a donation to a specific fundraising campaign, sponsor a fundraising event through their businesses, and provide funds for a gift match campaign. If your board members’ connections, opinions, or help would better support your nonprofit, ask for that instead of monetary support.
Your board members will probably appreciate the opportunity to share their opinions or help with planning special fundraising events. These are ways they can get involved without donating if they already give to your nonprofit on a regular basis. Including your board members in fundraising event planning sessions or meeting individually to ask for opinions helps the board members connect with your fundraising plans. This may inspire them to give or reach out to their connections for donations so your fundraising campaign or event is a success.
After you’ve wrapped up a fundraising event or campaign, present the results to your board members at their next meeting and thank those who were involved in the process. You may even want to give board members a small gift or handwritten card as a thank you for all the help they provided. Board members who weren’t involved will take notice, and this may inspire any disengaged board members to engage in your future fundraising efforts.
4. Include your board in celebrating accomplishments
When your nonprofit achieves something great thanks to the funds your department helped raise, include your board members in the celebration. Your board members actively advocate for your organization and provide meaningful direction to ensure your organization’s success. Your organization’s accomplishments are their accomplishments too! Invite your board members to attend when your nonprofit is celebrating an achievement. Include them on company-wide emails announcing big accomplishments as well. The more involved you can keep your board members, the easier it will be to steward those relationships and make working with your board a pleasure instead of a chore.
It’s important to remember that your board members want your organization to be successful too. Your board is there to guide and protect your nonprofit. Don’t let a lack of involvement now discourage you from trying to engage your board members in the fundraising process. By regularly attending board meetings, getting to know board members, asking them for help, and celebrating what the nonprofit achieved because of their help, you’ll be able to create a better relationship between the philanthropy department and the board overseeing your organization.