How to Engage and Equip Your Fundraising Board

A nonprofit’s fundraising board is tasked with securing enough resources for the organization to fulfill its mission. For many nonprofits, reaching their expected fundraising target is a huge undertaking, requiring months of planning, training and execution.

One of the biggest mistakes we see is when organizations do not take the right steps to properly train and equip their fundraising board for success. Establishing clear values, expectations and goals from the very beginning is essential, and going through each step as a board will lead to a more inspired, engaged and confident team. 

Determine your long-term goals and objectives

Before you launch a fundraising campaign, you need to know where you want to end. Define long-term goals that specify exactly how much the organization is seeking to raise and the objectives that will get you there. Clear goals and objectives make it easier to onboard new members and unite the team around a shared vision. 

It’s never too late to create and/or revisit long-term goals, even if your board is already established. If you’re in this situation, turn your next board meeting into a strategy session to set specific long-term goals and objectives.

Provide effective tools and training

Build your board’s confidence by providing ongoing fundraising training and helpful resources to guide them through each step of the campaign. These resources might include your organization’s updated strategic plan, history of financial support, and promotional materials such as brochures and case statements. These materials will equip your team with the right information and vocabulary as they lead conversations with potential donors.

Beyond providing the right resources, it’s important that you follow up with the necessary training in order for your board to take ownership of their role. One aspect of this training is providing coaching on how to develop personal connections with donors and earn their support.

This is where effective organizations bring in either their internal board of directors or an outside consultant to conduct a board training session. During the session, start by asking each board member why they are passionate about your organization’s mission and how they became involved. Build on this with exercises that progressively challenge each member until they are prepared to ask for financial contributions in a genuine, informed and personal way. As with any skill, it takes practice and coaching to be comfortable moving forward independently. 

Set expectations early

When establishing your board, make sure each member is on the same page as far as roles and responsibilities. Create a document that will serve as an onboarding packet describing your standards for engagement, involvement and measures of success. 

Don’t forget to hold each member accountable by creating a “Give or Get” policy. This means that your board members will have to either donate (give) a certain amount of money or agree to raise the amount from others (get).  If members fail to complete either of those tasks, you will have to make the decision to remove them from the board as long as the policy is in place.

Emphasize relationship building

Even for seasoned fundraisers, asking for financial support can be daunting. That’s why we prefer to shift the focus away from fundraising and onto building relationships.

Cultivating the right relationships makes all the difference in a successful fundraising campaign. This means seeing every meeting with potential donors as an opportunity to build meaningful relationships. If the board puts relationships first and fundraising second, the organization and cause will achieve far greater financial sustainability. 

Jay Love, co-founder and chief relationship officer at Bloomerang, writes about the many benefits of relationship-building, including increased stewardship of others, word-of-mouth marketing about your cause, longer periods of consecutive giving, and greater interest in volunteering and annual giving. Leading with relationship building rather than purely seeking donations will set your organization apart.

Create a welcome environment

Your board meetings should encourage an open environment where members feel comfortable learning, collaborating and contributing ideas. One way to manage your board’s culture is to evaluate how each member’s strengths can be used to their highest potential. Knowing each person’s strengths and comfort level with various tasks will help you put the right people on the right tasks, which leads to greater ownership and engagement.

You can manage experience levels by pairing up board members who have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Each person has something unique to bring to the table and can learn from others in the process.

Bringing these practices to your organization will engage your board and ensure that each member is set up for success in their role.

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