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Many nonprofit executives and fundraisers want and plead with their board of directors to help them raise money. They might get a couple of people to assist, usually those with business backgrounds, but one of the perennial fundraising challenges is getting all board members to step up to the plate. Oftentimes, board members will explain that they don’t know anyone who could provide a gift, especially a major gift.

Why is it that so many people will serve on a board, and for the most part, do whatever the organization asks, except for raising money? 

Fear. Most people don’t like fundraising and are afraid, or certainly uncomfortable, asking others to support their favorite cause. Fundraising, for many board members, ranks up there with going to the dentist. They enjoy being involved in a good cause and are happy to provide their expertise and talents, but don’t ask them to raise money other than for the annual event. All of a sudden, you’ll have a list of reasons why it can’t be done, and one of the top reasons is that they don’t know anyone who could help financially.

How to get past the fear and help them do it anyway.

Most people are not going to tell you that they’re afraid to ask the people they know for money, especially anyone they suspect might have the means. So, if they have money, board members will try first to give you what they can, which is excellent and commendable. But, many times the needs of the organization far outweigh what leaders would like their boards to contribute by giving or getting additional financial support. This is when there’s a disconnect between the needs of the charity and the unstated fear of individual board members occurs.

Getting board members on your team.

Experienced fundraisers understand that they can get past the discomfort of getting board members to work in fundraising by teaming up with them. It is particularly true if you would like your board to work on major gifts. Many years ago, there was an old-time fundraiser who worked for one of the large nonprofit consulting firms, and he used to say that there’s a major gift prospect in every zip code. He did this to encourage everyone, no matter where to look at possibilities who could give at a significant level. When you help your board members understand that great prospects are found everywhere, and you’re on their team as a partner, you’re immediately dispelling with one of the objections that board members often say, which is that they don’t know anyone of means.

Look at your neighbors another way.

Many experienced fundraisers know the story of a widow with no children who gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars in her will, or how a couple who so believed in a particular mission tithed their way each week to become lead donors to a group. There are countless examples of people supporting an organization at a significant level by contributing $100 or $200 a month to a favored cause. All you have to do is to help your board members, especially those who say they don’t know anyone who could give at a high-level think about taking large gifts and breaking them down into small monthly ones.

Partnering with your board members to make an ask.

Once you’ve got your board members thinking differently about making asks in support of your organization, become their partner. Many people find it uncomfortable to ask their friends to support a cause at a significant level, so be the fundraiser. Get board members to introduce you to people whom they know who might be aligned and interested with work you do. Develop them and build relationships with prospects, together, and keep board members informed of what you’re doing. When the time comes to make an ask. Have your board member speak passionately to the prospect about why they’re involved with your organization and then, step in and make the ask. Coordinate an ask with a board member and even role play a little bit to minimize anxiety or apprehension.

Your board member will appreciate your assistance in helping them become fundraising successes, but it all begins by understanding that most people do not feel comfortable asking for money. Then, it is vital to support board members in ways that will make it very easy for them to fundraise for your group.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact”(Free Digital Download)

© 2018 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.