Nonprofit Board Fundraising Best Practices

Nonprofit Board Fundraising Best Practices

Enable Board Members to Become Better Stewards of the Cause


    I would venture to say that most nonprofit organizations’ development staff are sometimes or always frustrated by their board’s reluctance to engage in raising the funds that are critical to accomplishing the organization’s mission. Giving and getting financial resources for an organization is a fundamental role of the board of directors. Sadly many board members either do not understand this or are reluctant to take it on. 


    Here are some ideas about how to get your board on board with fundraising.

    Set expectations up front.

    Does your organization have a written job description for board members? If not, you should consider writing one. This is often the job of the nominating committee to be used when recruiting new members. It presents the opportunity to raise the issue with the current board, who should be asked to approve the job description.


    Often these job descriptions are quite simple: attend meetings, act in the best interests of the organization, avoid conflicts of interest, and so forth. It should also spell out the expectations in giving and getting. Some organizations are up front: you are expected to give or get a certain minimum amount. This is unusual, and will probably not sit well with your current board if the expectation has not been set before. Other organizations are quite soft: you are expected to make an annual gift, for example. The best descriptions are in between: you are expected to make an annual gift, and consider this organization as your highest priority in your philanthropy.  You should consider adding something about expectations for working to engage others in supporting the organization. 


    Make an individual plan for each board member.

    To engage individual board members in fund raising beyond their own gift, you need to understand each person’s comfort level. Some (a few) are willing to jump right in, connect to their networks, and ask for money. Others might host an event in their home, or make phone calls, or sign letters, or fill a table at an event.  Have a discussion with each person to see what they are willing to do and then make a plan. Make sure you give them lots of support, providing background information, making a staff person available for events or meetings with prospects, helping with wording for emails or letters, and following up to see how things are going.


    Give lots of recognition.

    Keep track of who is asking whom, so when a gift comes in, you can thank not just the donor but also the board member solicitor. At board meetings make a point of mentioning if an important gift was the result of a board member connection or activity. Consider sharing statistics showing how much was raised overall because of the board’s help.


    Consider a little competition.

    One easy way to get your board excited about fundraising is to propose an online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Each board member can create her own page that speaks to her passion for the mission, and then send the link to friends and family. Remind them that the number one reason people make a charitable gift is because someone asked them. Set an overall goal and celebrate when it is reached. Make it fun!


    Once your board members understand what is expected, have lots of guidance in how to do it, and see the results of their efforts, they should become better stewards of the cause they have chosen to support through serving on your board.



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