How To Engage Your Board in Fundraising

The YANA Roundtable on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 focused on engaging our boards in fundraising.

Once again, we were guests of Daniel Shaughnessy at BNY Mellon Wealth Management, in their 54th floor offices in the MetLife Building. With stunning night views of the city elevating our thinking, Vivien Hoexter facilitated interactions and reflections designed to inform our perceptions of fundraising. Each person left with actions they could take the day and the week after the workshop.

For information for the meeting click below:

Some highlights of Vivien’s “lecturette” and of the discussion:

  • The data indicate that organizations that involve their boards in fundraising meet their goals more often.
  • Board members contribute value by reaching more donors, using their status in the community to signal value, and by working closely with the staff in multiple ways.
  • Best practices for board members involve requiring mandatory gifts, creating a board development committee, assigning members specific tasks, and scaling methods to organizational size.

Vivien structured the workshop to take full advantage of the talent in the room.  We met in pairs, small groups and larger groups.  We asked questions using Appreciative Inquiry and shared the answers with the entire group; everyone made a contribution.

Themes emerged:

  • How to fundraise when your board members have limited incomes because of age and life situation and have friends with limited financial resources as well. The creative answer was to think about other resources that people could contribute, and how to use those.
  • Exploring synergistic relationships with other nonprofits in “hot” fields, in order to generate more interest and energy.
  • How a small, new nonprofit without deep pockets could approach fundraising by avoiding expensive standard approaches like galas and concentrating on individual donors instead.
  • Letting donors see the effects of their money. One participant, an E.D. of a small nonprofit in the arts, is inviting scholarship recipients to a reception held at the Center for Fiction.
  • Unique settings and unusual places, like a garden, could be used for an event; unusual places can highlight the purpose of the nonprofit and can give guests an experience of it.

In larger nonprofits board members often have many interests competing for their time and money.

  • Let board members know how much their involvement matters.
  • Write thank you notes.  Your board members can thank donors, and donors, staff and the board should know their contributions are important and appreciated.
  • We also addressed how to view “the ask”, making it more about the offering an opportunity to make a difference, than about simply asking for money.
  • The theme of gratitude permeated the evening.

At the end of the evening, every participant stated what they would do next. These ranged from: “tell my ED about this meeting” to “get a development coaching session about ‘the ask’” to “ask each board member what he or she wants to do”.

We are thankful to Vivien Hoexter, our facilitator, and to Lory Skwerer, who prepared this summary and Lisa Chau, who covered the meeting for US News and World Report.  US News published an article prepared by Lisa and Vivien from the content of the meeting, “In Fundraising, Don’t Sit On The Sidelines”.