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Celebrating Small Wins: Get Your Board Engaged with Fundraising

board member meeting hands raised

The charge from the Executive Director to the board members is daunting: Raise $80,000 from new donors.

Although the intent was to be inspiring, instead of rising to the challenge, board members are cowering in their seats.

The scene is reminiscent of a high school classroom where the students aren’t prepared – people sink lower and lower in their chairs, hoping not to be called upon.

How can we turn this around?

How can we transform a board goal into a guiding light, not a looming threat?

There are three elements to this scenario that need fixing – and one magic “add-on” element.

1. The messenger is wrong. Board members need to inspire, cajole, and motivate each other rather than receiving assignments from the Executive Director. While the ED can orchestrate the process, the board needs to own and define the responsibility for itself.

2. The board can’t simply be handed a monetary goal to deliver upon. Board members need to be able to debate, cogently, the ins and outs of achieving that goal, and accept their assignment with eyes wide open. This means, by the way, that board members can say no. If they don’t have that option, it’s not really their choice, is it? They have the right to push back on the goal, and to settle on one that feels attainable to them.

3. Sometimes a total goal of $80,000 just seems too overwhelming. This is when a smart development team will suggest interim goals or “small wins” – like making 10 new donor prospect introductions or even 25 thank you calls (made by board members). Getting people to put their toes in the water – and celebrating their interim successes – is the most important first step to a fundraising-willing board (as opposed to a fundraising-averse board).

And finally, the “magic” element: don’t forget about the power of example. Recruit a few board members, off-line, to embrace the goal in advance, to demonstrate by their actions that fundraising and friendraising are possible, doable, and achievable. This peer example will go a long way to convincing fellow board members that fundraising is, indeed, a board activity.


Cause Effective will be exploring these strategies for board fundraising engagement and more, in a December 14, 2017 Foundation Center webinar “Activating High Potential Board Members.” Register here!

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