How do I get my Board more engaged with fundraising?
How do I get my Board more engaged with fundraising?
This is a question that most of us grapple with at every non-profit organization for which we work. And, we know, that it is absolutely critical to our organization’s success to have an engaged and active Board. In past years, we often looked for Board members to help us with finance, marketing, HR, legal – and we actively sought out Board members to help us manage operations with the skilled help that they could provide. Yet today, this isn’t the case. Our goal is simple…we want Board members who are committed to the mission and willing to be ambassadors.
According to Board Source, engagement efforts from the Board are crucial, especially since Boards have been shrinking in size over the last few years. While smaller Boards can be more agile, the risk is that they cover less ground and reach fewer donors.
The following are some suggestions on how to engage Board members with fundraising…
Make sure that Board expectation are clear. From screening new members to recruiting and on-boarding them, be crystal clear of what is asked of each Board member. It makes it difficult to increase engagement and improve Board fundraising when there is lack of clarity in the Board member’s role at the onset.
Board members need a clear understanding of what Fundraising is and what it isn’t. I’ve heard many Board members say, “I’m not a fundraiser. I can’t ask people for money.” It’s our job to explain that there is much more to fundraising than simply asking for money. Make sure your Board members understand that “the ask” is just one piece of the fundraising cycle. They can engage in introductions, stewardship and more. Ask your Board members to invite guests to tour your facility, attend an event, host a friend-raiser, etc.
Arm your Board with resources. Provide them with materials about your organization – sample emails, brochures, video, letters...whatever they need so that they feel comfortable as an ambassador. Help them develop their own elevator pitch. Meet with each Board member and get to know them. Help them determine their sphere of influence and assist them in developing a plan for each of their prospects. When Board members feel they have the tools they need to be successful, they feel more comfortable to help with fundraising.
Create a goal-oriented plan for each Board member. Meet at the start of every fiscal year with every Board member and thank them. Share with them all the ways they helped –both their personal gifts and their “gets.” Determine a roadmap for the new fiscal year with each member with clear set goals that they would like to meet. For example, they may share what they will commit to giving, that they will host a friend-raiser, help secure an event sponsor, write personal notes and provide 10 names for the year end appeal, etc. After the meeting, send the written plan to each Board member and work with them throughout the year to provide support so that they can achieve their goals.
Some Board members come to our organizations very seasoned and ready to go. Others, not so much. Meet your Board members where they are and show them the way from where they are. I wish you success – and have fun!
Can you share some best practices and ideas for ways in which to recognize major donors?
When recognizing our major donors it’s important to understand why they decided to give to our nonprofits in the first place. In the book The Seven Faces of Philanthropy: A New Approach to Cultivating Major Donors, the author, Russ Alan Prince, profiles seven types of major donors and then offer creative strategies on how to approach them for a gift.
For example, the motivation of a person who attends a fundraising event is likely different than the person who gives a stock gift at the end of the year. If you haven’t read this book, I would recommend it. But for me, the take away extends to how we recognize these donors too.
We are all familiar with a beautiful donor list in a hospital wing, and we have all made sure sponsor names and logos get the attention they are promised during our in-person and virtual events.
But there are some creative approaches that have more staying power and continue to remind our donors of why they gave to our organization, weeks or even years afterward. Here are some things I’ve seen recently that worked, and made a lasting impression on donors for my clients:
Do most Boards have a Give-Get policy? If so, what is it and how can I introduce it in my organization?
A give-get policy is designed to ensure that all Board members are donating (giving) from their own resources and seeking additional support (getting) from other resources on an annual basis.
From my experience, larger institutions, such as universities, hospital systems, and major cultural institutions, typically have a policy in place, which can range from $5,000 - $50,000+ annually. Smaller organizations often struggle with this concept – and the idea of asking Board members to help in the fundraising efforts – which ultimately does both the organization and the Board members as disservice. Let me share a few details about how a give-get policy can make a difference in your non-profit. A policy will help you:
Ensure 100% Board Participation
Every organization should be able to expect 100% financial participation from Board members. In fact, it is hard to look donors in the eye and ask for a gift if you can’t state that you have 100% Board participation. In fact, these days, prospective funders may even ask how much the Board collectively donates annually. Why would someone consider making an investment if the Board isn’t “all in”?
Set Clear Expectations
Every Board member and prospective Board member wants to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in their role as a Board member. By telling them before they join the Board – or annually reminding Board members – the expectation is clear. If someone declines a role on your Board because of the give-get policy, chances are, they probably aren’t that passionate about your mission. And that’s OK! That person may choose to get involved in a committee or attend an event, which are still great ways to support the organization. Also, by making it clear from the outset, it makes any subsequent conversation about their give-get more factual and less awkward.
Support Board Members as they Support the Organization
As with any non-profit, no two Board members are the same. Some may be very comfortable seeking support from family and friends, their company or other businesses or funders. Others may have never been in a position to “ask” for support. As the Development Officer or Executive Director, it is your job to make this as easy as possible for your Board members. Be sure to proactively reach out to each Board member to discuss what contacts they have and ask how you can help. Make it as easy as possible by providing them with the materials and resources they need. In addition, remind them that they can simply be the conduit – in other words, they can provide a “warm handoff” by making an email introduction to you – and you can take it from there.
How to introduce (or update) a Give-Get Policy
If your Board is considering a give-get policy, discuss this with your Board Chair and provide examples if necessary. A policy can be simple and straightforward – and it can evolve over time. Simply introducing the concept and ensuring 100% financial participation is a great place to start!
Should my organization participate in GivingTuesday? How can we do so on a limited budget?
GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity. Last year, 34.8 million people in 75 countries collectively contributed $2.47 billion. As #GivingTuesday continues to grow, don’t let your organization miss out. In other words: people will be giving, why not make sure they’re giving to you?
The countdown to this year’s biggest day of generosity, November 30, is on. Set aside time now to plan your campaign. Social media and human connection fuel this day— so think about how you can use your organization’s website, Instagram, Twitter, etc. to promote opportunities for support. Share donor and volunteer stories as part of your campaign. Ask your board members to commit to inviting 1-3 friends to support your cause either as a donor or volunteer (or both!) on GivingTuesday. Consider asking donors to set up recurring gifts rather than making a one-time contribution.
Above all, remember, people can show their generosity in a variety of ways on GivingTuesday—whether by helping a neighbor, advocating for an issue, sharing a skill, or making a financial contribution—everyone has something to offer. And every act of generosity counts.
Small budget? No need to worry. The GivingTuesday organization makes it easy for nonprofits of every size, with any size budget, to participate. With downloadable logos, graphics, Canva templates for social media use, and GivingTuesday key messages readily available, there’s no excuse to not join in this global movement of radical generosity. GivingTuesday resources are available here: https://www.givingtuesday.org/resources/.
What are some creative perks for virtual fundraising event sponsors?
When the pandemic became our new reality, many organizations had to think quickly about how to host a virtual event and recognize sponsors. While this was an unusual time that was often challenging to navigate, it also opened up new ways of thinking about how we recognize donors and event sponsors.
Below is a list of some fun and practical things to consider when recognizing and thanking event sponsors. Some of these ideas can work whether your event is in-person or virtually.
Today’s question came from a client who is hiring a new leader. They asked…should we include staff members in the interview process, and if so, what is the best way to do this?
After you’ve narrowed your search to the most qualified candidates, it is time to select the right person for the role.
Involving staff in the interview process can have benefits if it is done thoughtfully. This is especially beneficial for organizations that prioritize teamwork and comradery. Benefits include building consensus, seeking insight from different managers within the organization, and creating buy-in. It can also help identify red flags early on in the process and ensure you are making a good hiring decision.
Begin your search by creating a concise list of key characteristics you want the candidate to possess. For instance, the type of industry experience, leadership qualities, and personality type you want your ideal candidate to possess and write them down. Example: self-starter, effective multi tasker, effective working across all departmental teams, effective supervisory skills.
Then draft questions that will allow the candidate to describe their experiences and aptitude in these key areas. Their responses can be rated on a scale 1 to 5 (1 weakest to 5 strongest) after the interview process. Candidates with satisfactory ratings (say 3.5+ should proceed to the next level.)
Things to consider
Introducing our new column...Just Ask
After being in the professional fundraising business for over a quarter century, our HPS team has seen it all. Whether working with a prominent Church, large educational institution, multi-campus health care provider or a small social service organization, one thing remains true – If you want to raise more money, you must ASK!
Time again, a common theme surfaces when donors are asked why they made an investment in a non-profit organization. Donors most common answer? “I made a gift because I was asked”.
We decided to take this very simple concept and put it to use in our HPS Chicago blog, which will now be a Q&A posting titled – you guessed it – “Just Ask”!
This is your opportunity to ask us questions. Our HPS Team represents 100+ years of fundraising experience and have helped our clients raise nearly $1 BILLION. So, when a question comes up and you want to get our perspective, simply drop us a line at email@example.com and we will do our best to answer your question directly. We will also hare it with our readers via the “Just Ask” column, as, undoubtedly, others are probably asking themselves the same exact same question.
So, to begin this segment, we got a question from a long-time client about the current climate regarding events.
“How are most organizations handling public events and specific “masking” policies?”
We recognize the stress and challenges every non-profit is facing as we continue to struggle with COVID-19 and its' variants. People are growing weary of virtual events, yet many are not yet ready to attend a 500-person sit down dinner. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
First and foremost, our recommendation is to follow the most current CDC guidelines, which can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/considerations-for-events-gatherings.html
Next, if you are planning to host your event at a venue, you will want to follow their guidelines. These may include having guests provide proof of vaccination and requiring all those in attendance to wear masks and maintain social distancing protocols. We also recommend you communicate with your guests clearly and often in advance of the event, which will help alleviate last-minute challenges and stressors.
Finally, when in doubt, consider "sitting it out". One of our clients decided to cancel their Annual Dinner and Dance, as it is a client-focused event. Despite the fact that all of the clients are vaccinated, the organization does not want to take any chances by hosting this large, indoor event, as many of the clients are immunocompromised.
Are there ways in which you can reach your audience without hosting an in-person event? While we noted previously, many constituents are tired of virtual events; however, is there a "feel good" story you can capture and share via video link? Are there ways in which you can inspire and motivate donors and prospective donors through a compelling story? While not ideal, these alternatives may be enough to keep donors engaged - and keep everyone safe at the same time.
“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” – Peter Marshall
Celebrating America’s Independence for the Greater Good!
I hope you had a great holiday weekend! Much of the news has focused on celebrating being back together! Many of us spent the past weekend at BBQ’s, watching fireworks and enjoying parades. Thankfully, this year looks a lot different than it did last year. We can finally hug our family, friends and neighbors, gather safely, and enjoy each other’s company.
I recently read an opinion piece that shared that the best way to love our country is to fight to make it fairer, more equal and work for more opportunity for all. As I read this, I thought about the work that we all do as development professionals. Whether you work in education, the arts, animal welfare, human services, health care – you name it – we are all working in a space that strives for the greater good of our community, our city, our country, our world.
And while this is the fundamental basis and the mission for our work, I, for one, sometimes get busy and lost in the details and don’t stop to think too much about why we do this work. I’ve been busy thinking about and planning for the year ahead of us. What did I learn from the most unusual year we just left behind and what lies ahead? And yet, while we tweak our plans and map out our year ahead, today, let’s stop for just a moment and be in the present.
Let’s really think about why we do this work…why is it important to us? Yes, we aren’t the ones at the front lines…the counselors, the teachers, the artists, the doctors…but, what we do every day to connect with donors and friends to support our missions helps make this life-changing work possible. And, it makes our community, our city, our country, a better place.
Happy Birthday, America.
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels
No Means “Not Now, not Never”
As Development officers, we hear “NO”.
A lot actually.
Usually, the “NO” we hear has more to do with being denied the chance to have a conversation or meeting about an impending project or initiative. We call a prospect and hear nothing. We write a prospect, there is no response. A friendly email is sent, met with no return.
It can be deflating.
Remember though, the “NO” we have all experienced is really a way the donor says, either directly or indirectly, “I’m not ready for this discussion or request.” As Development officers, all we can do is continue to advance the mission of the organization we represent and that means respecting the position our donors represent.
So what do you do?
Continue to communicate. Eliminate (for the time being) any financial request and continue to advance information about how the mission is working. Continue to advocate for the clients, students, or audiences you represent through stories that show the mission working.
It’s a lesson we could all learn from Ms. Opal Lee.
Ms. Opal Lee was a driving force to getting the first National Holiday passed since 1983, Juneteenth. She heard NO far too many times to count. She was turned away at the door by legislators, donors, and countless others for well over five decades.
But she was persistent while being respectful. She knew her many audiences needed time. Time to digest what was being advocated for and time to see the impact of celebrating this newly voted upon National Holiday. She didn’t take the many NO’s personally, she just believed in what she was advocating for and never stopped.
As Development officers. Continue to advocate. Continue to communicate. Continue to be patient and yes, give your donors time but never give up on them. Over time, they won’t give up on your either.
- Mike Bruni, Managing Director, HPS Chicago
Are you thinking about DEI?
Is this a topic of conversation at your organization? Or have you shied away from this topic, because you are afraid of saying or doing the "wrong" thing?
Our team started the conversation some time ago, and it has recently become a more integral part of our team meetings. As is evident from our website, our team is comprised of middle-aged white consultants. Like many, we are trying to gain a better understanding of DEI and what it means to each of us, our team, our clients and our community.
We recently met with a DEI consultant, Khalilah Lyons, who is a dynamic and young - yet experienced - leader. We are seeking her guidance in several areas, which includes:
1. Gaining a better understanding of the DEI landscape
2. Finding ways in which we can learn and grow as individuals and as a team
3. Identifying opportunities to be more aware and thoughtful in our approach to the non-profit community and those we serve
Khalilah did not make us feel badly about who and where we are as a team. She simply noted that this is our starting point. This acknowledgement and our collective ability to speak honestly and without fear was a huge relief. With the ability to speak honestly and openly comes trust. And with trust comes progress.
We know this journey will not be easy and it will likely have no "end". But it will be thought-provoking and help us grow in new and interesting ways. I know I speak for each person on the team when I say that we are looking forward to challenging ourselves, expanding our thinking and perspective, and sharing our insights with you. We hope you will join us in this conversation!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.