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By Sean Kosofsky, MPA

One of the most pervasive problems in the nonprofit sector is getting your board to be more engaged, and more specifically, to increase board fundraising. The objections shared usually involve board members not wanting to ask people they know for money. 

The irony is that the people your board members know are the MOST likely to donate. This means that getting board members to ask their personal network for money is the fastest way to hit your board fundraising goals. Yet it can still be tempting to allow board members to skip fundraising because it makes them uncomfortable, they’re unfamiliar with it, or you don’t feel prepared to successfully guide them. 

Yes, holding our boards to high standards can be challenging and stressful, but our stakeholders are counting on us. That’s why many nonprofits are looking for options to engage board members in fundraising without requiring them to directly solicit people for money.

To help nonprofit board and staff leaders address this challenge, I created a list of more than 100 fundraising tasks for nonprofit board members. The list offers a wide range of activities to choose from to support the financial growth of the organization. Because board members can be hesitant with personal solicitation, only a few options involve directly asking for money.  

Here are the top 10 easy-to-implement tips to increase board fundraising

Let’s dig in.

1. Use the power of a story to highlight the organization’s accomplishments

I am a huge believer that board members don’t need to be subject matter experts to be good fundraisers. They don’t need to memorize all the programs or statistics. They simply need to be good storytellers. 

Board members can practice telling the story of one person helped by the organization, or the story of how they came to be on the board. This simple act will put board members in a strong position to explain the value of the nonprofit to others, making fundraising easier later on. Storytelling opens doors and creates interest and can be coupled with an invitation to “take action” on the organization’s website which hopefully helps them acquire email addresses.

Board members who want to go further are well-served to stay on top of the organization’s latest accomplishments and share these as stories or anecdotes. Stories are powerful at opening doors and hooking people’s interest.

2. Keep membership data clean

Board members can help you keep your donor data clean. It hurts your organization to have bouncing emails or supporters who didn’t “double opt-in.” In some cases, your mailings may not reach people because their mailing address has changed or has a typo. Maintaining membership hygiene is a very important task that board members can help with. They can make sure member records are spelled correctly.

 

They can also reach out to donors and ask for their cell phone number or birthday month to be appended to their record. Later, your organization can encourage the donor to run a birthday fundraiser. Ask your development staff or executive director about additional fundraising tasks, especially those that always get pushed to the bottom of staff members’ to-do lists. 

3. Get the organization approved on Facebook and other platforms

501(c)(3) nonprofits are raising billions on Facebook using birthday fundraisers or personal fundraisers or simply adding a donate button to posts. Board members can get your organization approved for fundraising on Facebook and Instagram. They can also apply to Google for Nonprofits for a suite of free resources. Board members can monitor the organization’s Facebook account to see when people start birthday or personal fundraisers and then reach out, thank the volunteer, and give them pre-written tips about how to raise the most money.

4. Curate a list for others to solicit

A hugely powerful way to grow your nonprofit’s audience and supporter base is for board members to generate a list of 20-50 individuals who may be interested in the organization’s work. A board member can invite their list to learn more about your organization without making a solicitation. They can also encourage their list to take action on a campaign from the organization’s website. This is a low-lift activity that gets prospects in the “funnel” for a later solicitation by someone else. 

The board member can also share their list of potential supporters and let someone else in the organization invite these individuals to a cultivation event or information session. 

5. Offer tours of the office, website or other resources

Board members can serve as tour guides or “do good docents.” This is fun and easy and could become an ongoing activity. Using the list generated in the activity above, a board member can invite these new prospects to an in-person or virtual tour of your offices, program sites or even part of your website. Be sure that the event highlights your organization’s mission and accomplishments. The tour doesn’t have to involve solicitation. Simply showing people around could be just the nudge they need to get involved. You should include some call to action at the end of the tour, like signing a pledge to get involved or scan a barcode to take people to a specific accomplishments page on the website. 

6. Follow up with lapsed monthly donors

Monthly donors may stop giving because a credit card expired or was shut down. If you have a lot of lapsed commitments, ask a board member to locate the donors on social media or get new contact info from people in your organization. The board members can simply email these lapsed donors with a link to re-start their giving. Don’t think of this as a solicitation, but rather helping a donor who already decided to give an opportunity to reconnect. 

7. Pitch newsrooms

Nonprofits can benefit from free or “earned” media. Getting covered by the media immediately expands your audience and interest in your issues. Not only are you building a relationship with the newsroom, but you are helping the media cover feel-good stories. If you don’t have a media list of broadcast reporters and editors and print and blogging sites in your area, have a board member find that list from coalition partners or build it themselves. Then, this board member can occasionally pitch newsrooms about your events or other developments. 

8. Make programs more fundable

One powerful tactic in nonprofit fundraising is to break down your program budgets into clear categories and then translate them into “fundraising language.” For example, if you can explain that $500 will cover the cost of feeding one person for six months at your homeless shelter, you are more likely to get donors at that level. Many nonprofits have not yet broken down their expenses into these bite-sized donation amounts. This is a perfect task for a board member. 

9. Build and research prospect lists

Board members can help create the conditions for fundraising success by prospecting. Prospecting is the act of compiling lists and contact information for potential funders, including individuals, foundations, businesses, and other grantmakers. Board members can gather and organize information on foundations in your area or state, as well as government grants that may be available and corporate grantmaking opportunities.

10. Demystify fundraising

Nonprofit fundraising can feel daunting and overwhelming, especially to board members. But a little bit of education about fundraising basics can demystify the process and even get board members excited about pitching in. 

Board members can start by joining online communities where people discuss fundraising best practices and share successes. These exist everywhere, including Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Twitter where a simple search of “fundraising” yields a plethora of groups and resources. Board members should join, observe, engage, ask questions, and then report back to the board and staff. Not only does this fact-finding help the organization stay on top of current trends, but it also “seasons up” the board members to understand the practice, and art, of fundraising.

Board members can also be put in charge of investigating additional and innovative ways for your nonprofit to receive money. For example, board members can spend time researching how to receive and use Google ad grants, how to receive gifts of stock or cryptocurrencies, or how to implement “donate now, pay later” applications. There are many platforms opening up that are very specialized in the areas of grant writing, corporate sponsorship, crowdfunding, and more. When a board member is put in charge of investigating, they may just want to try it out!

Take these ten tasks and turn your board members from “fundraising-hesitant” to active revenue generating supporters. If you need additional ideas, check out the full list of 100 board fundraising activities. I’d love to hear which ones work best to increase board fundraising for your organization in the comments below!

Author: Sean Kosofsky is the Nonprofit Fixer! He is a coach, consultant, trainer, and strategic advisor. For the past 30+ years, he has helped causes, campaigns and candidates raise millions of dollars and transformed nonprofit organizations and leaders.

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