Motivating your board members to fundraise is a tricky subject: They probably didn’t join because they love to asking for money (and if you have one of those, good for you), yet their passion for your mission and connections in the community—not to mention their solid networking skills—could be highly effective at helping your org raise money. Plus, you kind of need them to. That’s part of their role, right?

Well . . . it is in your mind. It might not be in theirs.

Therein lies one of the challenges of getting board members to fundraise—they may not consider it part of their “job description.” There are other obstacles as well.

4 reasons why motivating your board members to fundraise is a challenge.

  • Fear. People hate rejection—even your board members. Very few people actually enjoy making an ask for money and facing that dreaded “no,” so if your board members are hesitant, this might be at the heart of it.
  • Inexperience. If they haven’t done much fundraising, they may simply not know where to start or even how to effectively ask people for money. A quick and easy Fundraising 101 course as new members come on to the board may be your answer to this obstacle.
  • They don’t want to pressure friends and colleagues. If they feel like fundraising means tapping into their personal networks to ask friends, coworkers and family to write a check or go online to give, you can understand why they might shy away from it.
  • They can’t reciprocate. If you have a board member who believes they need to return favors shown to them, this particular person is going to be very reticent about tapping into their network. “What if someone in my network donates a large amount of money or helps us land a big gift, and then they ask me for a favor in return that I can’t deliver?” For some people, this is a bigger fear than hearing “no.”

7 ways to motivate your board members to fundraise.

So, now that we’ve addressed the challenges of getting your board to fundraise and considered some reasons they may be hesitant, let’s talk about how to overcome them. You can, in fact, enlist the help of your board, even if they appear unwilling to fundraise or uneducated about the fundraising process—if you approach it correctly.

1. Set the expectation.

Remember when I mentioned that you may expect board members to fundraise but they may not? This is a very real (and common) problem with one simple solution: Make your expectations clear from the get-go. Even before a member joins your board and attends their first meeting, be sure they understand that fundraising is a part of their responsibilities. If they don’t like that idea, no worries—wish them well and move on to someone who will. The best way to build a board that takes their fundraising responsibilities seriously is to recruit board members who will. When your board is composed of people who understand that raising money is part of their role, there will be fewer misunderstandings about it.

2. Redefine fundraising.

When we look at the fundraising process, there are a lot of players, right? Sure, there are those who actually make the ask, but there are also others who identify potential donors, those gifted at networking and making connections, others who are great at building relationships and moving donors through the funnel, and still others who have the gift of making donors feel appreciated and loved. Fundraising is not just about asking for money.

When you consider the whole fundraising process and the number of people and roles it takes to be successful, you can see how it would work to have several people on your board with different gifts and talents all leading to the same goal: to bring in more funds. So, be sure your board members know that. Yes, they’re all a part of your organization’s fundraising efforts—but they don’t all have to be the ones asking for the actual check to be written.

3. Train your board members to fundraise.

Do you have fundraising gurus on your board? Enlist them to mentor and teach the newbies how it’s done as soon as new members come on board. If you don’t, look at your staff: Who can be that person (or people) for your board? If you have a board that’s inexperienced and uneducated about fundraising, you can’t expect them to figure it out for themselves; it’s up to you and your staff to train them. Put together a basic course on fundraising and begin to teach your board about the fundraising process and how they can become an integral part of your fundraising strategy.

4. Explain why fundraising is so important to your nonprofit specifically.

This is like “step two” of the last point I just talked about. Once your board really gets what fundraising is, explain where they fit into your specific strategy and why they play such a crucial role in moving your mission forward. Sometimes it’s helpful to see the bigger picture—what your org needs money for, where it’s dispersed, what it accomplishes, the technology and equipment you need to update, the salaries you pay, the marketing dollars necessary to raise awareness, and so on. You might think just handing your annual report to your board is enough, but if you want to win them over and set them up for fundraising success, hearing from you and your staff about where and why you spend the funds raised will be more effective.

5. Set an individualized work plan for each member.

This will get your board members set up for success and on the same page with you. Their work plan could include SMART goals, a personal why (why are they fundraising?) and their signature as a sign of their commitment to achieving their goals.

  • SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. Maybe you ask them to set new ones quarterly, or twice a year, but each member should have their own. They could also set a goal for the board, overall.
  • Their personal why could be “because I benefited from this organization once myself” or “because I want my life to be about more than making a paycheck” or “because this org is making a difference for my children and your children and the next generation” or “because I simply want to make a life-changing difference for someone else.” Ask each member to define and embrace at least one personal why.
  • As for their signature, this is simply a way to ask each member for a commitment to do more than just take up a seat on your board; you want your organization to be more than something they add to a resume. It’s okay—in fact, wise—to ask for them to make a commitment to making an impact with a signature on the dotted line.

6. Share progress consistently.

Communicate! Lack of communication and transparency is one of the biggest reasons board members check out—they don’t know what’s going on, they lose focus and then they lose interest. Keep board members motivated and inspire that commitment I just talked about with regular communication. Some motivational metrics to include: new donors acquired, progress toward your overall financial goal (include total and board effort) and a countdown until the end of fundraising campaign’s celebration (keep the fun top of mind).

You can share information via a monthly e-newsletter, in person at board meetings, through a private section (portal) on your website, in a Facebook group you create just for your board members and staff—however you choose to share, be inspirational, transparent, motivational and consistent. If that sounds like a lot to ask, remember that you’re asking a lot from your board. You’re probably not going to get back more than what you’re willing to give.

7. Make it fun for your board members to fundraise.

Tap into each of your board member’s motivations: What makes them feel appreciated? What lights a fire? What gets them excited about spreading awareness and talking to people about your organization? Of course, this requires really getting to know your board. So, plan some events: Happy hour after work or a little holiday get-together (virtual is fine, we’re all getting used to that Zoom life). Feature a little fun Q&A with a member in each of your newsletters. Start a virtual book club with your board and meet bi-weekly or monthly to discuss a relevant book. There are so many things you can do to have some fun while motivating your board to get more involved and invested in your cause! Remember: This isn’t their day job. Keep them invested and interested by making their role on your board a fun one.

And if none of these things work?! There’s a webinar for that. Register for our free webinar on demand where you can get even more tips and ideas on how to motivate an unmotivated or bored board.