As summer approaches and volunteers start to enter “vacation mode,” it’s easy for your organization’s board expectations to fall by the wayside. Beyond their fiscal and governance responsibility, the crux of nonprofit board members’ responsibilities rest in the ability to move the philanthropic needle. Sure, not every board member fancies himself or herself a fundraiser. But they are – and always have been – your closest champions and allies, and that means they have the ability to step up with at least one action that helps the development function’s goal get closer to the finish line.
Whether it’s donor outreach, cultivation, solicitation, or offering advocacy in some other way, here are 10 things any board member can do right now to help the development effort. To make it easier, we’ve ranked them from Board 101 “Sure, I can make that happen!” to a moderate push “Ok, you’ve twisted my arm” to all-star board actions “Sign me up for the development committee next year!”.
Present this as a menu to your board and ask them to make a commitment to do one (or more!) of these items before month’s end. Together with the development team, their collective efforts will pave the way to success.
Board 101: “Sure, I can make that happen!”
These are the actions for your board members who aren’t engaged, don’t quite know where their skills and talents fit in on the board yet, feel they’ve done enough and want other board members to step up, or who have told you time and time again they’re here for one reason only (and it’s not to fundraise). Any board member – in fact every board member – should make it a point to take at least one of these actions annually.
- Thank A Donor
Provide board members with a name of a donor who recently made a meaningful contribution, a short list of first-time donors, or a collection of loyal mid-level donors who will appreciate the personal touch. Hand over a script (keep it brief; encourage your board members to speak from the heart) and set them on their way. This one is perfect for the busy board member who has 5 minutes or the eager board member who has 5 hours but “doesn’t want to make the ask.”
- Post to Social Media
Point board members to a post that highlights your good work or promotes an upcoming event or fundraiser. Ask them to simply “share” on their pages. It may not lead to an influx of new gifts, but getting the word out there about your mission and success is a key part of the board member’s jobs.
- Sign Their Name
As organizational leadership, backing the appeals and messages that come from the development office is key. Sign their name, attribute their name to a testimonial, anywhere the board can lend their influence is a win for the organization. This relatively low-effort strategy is great for long-time or high-level board members who want to help but are stretched for time.
Board Champion: “Ok, you’ve twisted my arm. What do you want me to do?”
After board members have taken one or more of the above actions, the goal should be to get them to step up to this level before year-end. For those who agree off the bat, here’s an easy way for them to engage their networks and hand-off the work to their trusted development team.
- Invite a Friend
At your next virtual or in-person event, encourage board members to invite a friend, colleague, family, neighbor, or two. It’s a simple way to showcase the mission while remaining relatively low-effort for your board members. Just be sure to be aware of their guests so you can engage with them appropriately at events—and follow up accordingly.
- Review a List
Periodically reviewing prospect lists with board members—especially as board terms end and new members join – is a great way to tap into their networks and various circles of interaction. When a board member agrees to sit down with you for 30 minutes to review lists, come prepared. Narrow your prospect list down to a short list, informed by research so that you’re speaking about the most likely suspects within that particular board member’s network. Consider tools such as Relationship Mapping to really drill down on potential connections.
- Introduce a business or philanthropic leader to the CEO
Board introductions can go a long way. By referring their peers and colleagues to your organization, board members are effectively saying “join me” and introducing a cause that they care about—and leaving the rest in leadership’s capable hands. These relationships are key and should be personally cultivated by the organization’s top leadership.
Board Superstar: “Sign me up for the development committee!”
- Provide Prospect Names
Take the list review a step further and invite your board members to meet with a member of the development team one-on-one to review their personal and professional networks and identify those who might be a good fit with the organization. You can also utilize services such as RelSci to conduct relationship mapping on your board members to help them realize who they might be connected to, even with a few degrees of separation.
- Make Solicitation Phone Calls
Arm your board members with a script, a list of mid-level donors you’ve targeted for upgrades, or a LYBUNT list, and ask them to do what they do best: talk about the organization they love. Sharing their own reasons for giving is a proven way to inspire others to give too—and as a bonus, it often reinforces the board member’s affinity for the organization. Whether they have 20 minutes or 2 hours to give, a personal call from a board member goes a long way.
- Join You on Personal Solicitation Efforts
A golden rule in soliciting funds is to always ask in pairs. That’s where your board members come in – they bring to a solicitation that “join me” mentality that a staff member won’t have. We understand not all board members are natural fundraisers, but their presence can often be more powerful than their solicitation skills. With proper research and preparation, a well-informed development team can make the solicitation process easy and painless for the board member. Professional board coaching (link to TAG service) may also help uncover strengths among your volunteers.
- Host an Event
Board members who are willing to invite a small number of potential prospects, either to their home, club, or some other desirable venue, can have replicative effects for nonprofits. Not only does this reinforce their belief in and support of your mission, it inspires a “join the club” mentality more than any staff-led event ever could. Support them logistically – but let their passion and influence work its magic.