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Nonprofit board members are an important resource in your nonprofit fundraising strategy

Each of your volunteer board members promotes your organization with generous gifts of time and expertise. Will asking these same individuals to be your nonprofit donors turn off good potential board members in the recruitment process? Will volunteer board members feel that they cannot serve if they are expected to be part of your fundraising campaign? With the right approach, you will find that board members can become a strong source of donor dollars and your nonprofit’s financial sustainability planning.

Keep in mind that your volunteer board members should be the most eager to financially support your nonprofit’s mission, as they have keen insight into your work and impact. If you, as a nonprofit leader, have consistently communicated with your board members and thoroughly engaged them in your mission, they should understand how their donor dollars will have the most impact. You already know that their heart is with your mission, or they wouldn’t be giving their time. It is up to you to set donation expectations, provide clarity about your fundraising process and prove mission delivery with quantitative reports and stories of success.

Help board members set an example in your nonprofit fundraising process

Your reluctance to make the donation “ask” of your board members can actually hurt your organization and negatively impact cash flow. Most nonprofits need the revenue that influential board members can bring to the table and all nonprofits need new and sustaining donors. Think about it — if your board members, who know your nonprofit so well, don’t become donors, why should other volunteers or the public feel inspired to give?

Nonprofit board members who cannot donate can still play a key role in your fundraising efforts

Sometimes a great volunteer board member simply cannot afford to be a nonprofit donor. No need to lose that volunteer. A great way to address this is to simply ask all new board members to commit to either making a personal donation of a specific amount, help raise that same amount through their network of friends and colleagues, or through actively participating in fundraising activities.

How much should board members be asked to donate?

The answer to this question is one that varies depending on region and cause. Establish some recommendations for the board’s consideration and approval by researching what other nonprofits in your geographic or cause area are asking from their volunteer board members.

Provide your research to your board and ask that they consider making an annual donation, with a specified dollar amount. Again, always provide the option to members to raise that amount in other ways, if they cannot make the personal commitment.

Additional benefits when your board members donate

  • With their own money involved, volunteer board members tend to pay more attention to the progress and challenges of your nonprofit. So in addition to board donations impact on your fundraising, you can find your board more engaged in governance — always a good outcome.
  • By asking your board members to give, you do them a favor. Behavioral economic research shows that giving gifts to others is one of a few actions that makes us happy. People get more happiness from giving to others than buying bigger homes, new cars or more stuff. Know that providing people the opportunity to give is not asking too much. It's a gift. Giving changes lives — for the better — including the life of the giver.

Increased eligibility for more foundation grants

Foundations often inquire about board gifts in their applications. These foundations are seeking proof of “buy-in” and support from those that know your nonprofit best: you board of directors. A standard policy of board member giving, as part of your fundraising strategy, also points to your efforts to achieve financial sustainability, which is critical to foundations when awarding grants.

What if your nonprofit already has some board members that donate?

The path is straightforward. To increase the percentage of givers, you might design an activity that involves all your board members in a special fundraising campaign. For instance, ask an existing board member donor to make an additional donation of a specific amount, for a specific purpose that drives engagement (i.e., buy school packs for all children, or fund a series of support groups or parenting training, etc.), but only if all board members give a gift as well. People give because they are asked. One-to-one, specific requests make the best asks.

Also consider using an accountability chart. The chart lists board activities, including attending meetings, committee leadership and the like. Of course, it also lists cash gifts. Every board member receives a copy of the chart — with this very important caveat: instead of listing names, list members by code. Hand out the chart in sealed envelopes with the members' personal information highlighted only on their sheet. Your sheet gives everyone the information they need to truly belong.

Include board members at the start of your fundraising campaign

First, introduce the subject to your board members and allow them to discuss and approve of a fundraising policy that works for both them and your nonprofit. Set goals for donations. Applaud board member donors and the group’s success. Include your board donation policy when recruiting new members, so that expectations are set from the onset of the relationship.

What if your board is reluctant to set an annual donation policy?

Board giving is not a federated giving campaign decreed by someone else. Board members agree to serve and to donate, as an independent body. The boards create standards — in this case, yearly cash gifts. Holdouts who won't give "on principle" aren't board members who are committed to your mission or your nonprofits financial sustainability.

Future members on your nonprofit board

Recruiting board members solely based on their willingness to give a cash gift would be self-defeating. However, asking candidates about their attitudes about giving is informative and useful. In board interviews, include questions about their beliefs and experiences about giving. Inquire about personal giving and any previous experience participating on a board. Share your personal goal of 100 percent board participation in a yearly cash gift. Explain that this standard will support the success of the nonprofit and be meaningful to each board member.

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MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.

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