Boards and Fundraising: How to Ask for Money
Many boards accept the notion that they are responsible for ensuring the organization has adequate financial resources to deliver programs and further the mission. Acting on this responsibility is challenging for many, even when the need for more funds is so apparent. During this guided conversation participants will refresh their understanding of the board’s role in fundraising, hear how some of the pros talk about successful fund development and good practices, and share ideas about what has already worked and what might improve their board’s performance in bringing essential support to their organization.
Led by Nancy Lee, independent consultant, affiliated with LarsonAllen.
No one likes asking for money. Remember you’re not asking for yourself but on behalf of an organization you feel passionately about. Your position is unassailable: you are a volunteer working on behalf of a cause that’s in the public interest and serves the general good. The Board retains ultimate responsibility to ensure there are sufficient resources. They must know exactly what it means in the organization’s context.
Roles and Responsibilities
Board / Staff Roles
1)It is 100% the staff’s responsibility to make sure the board is successful in its fundraising.
- Define accountabilities
- Set goals and monitor them using good metrics
- Determine the structure of fundraising program
- Provide board members with training, clear assignments, reminders, ongoing reports and updates, inspiration
2) It is 100% the board’s responsibility to do what it says it will do.
- And wise organizations will set their fundraising goals accordingly.
3) Working together will result in greater progress toward meeting this responsibility and raising more money
- Staff must be well-suited to this work and willing to support the board
- The board must include members who acknowledge their role and will follow through on assignments
Clear Communication Is Critical to Success
1) Internally: “money conversation” grounds board members in this duty and prepares them to develop and solicit donors
- Board members need to know what the “gap” is, how big it is, and what won’t happen if the gap isn’t closed
- Board members need to see the mission in action and learn success stories first-hand
- Most board members need help describing the mission and services and learning how to tell at least one success story succinctly
- Aspects of your money conversations should be part of every board meeting (and not just the ED’s report)
- How does your board conduct money conversation?
- Who participates?
- Do all board members know how much your organization needs to raise?
2) Externally: stories inspire others to give
- Supporters and potential supporters are moved by stories shared with authenticity and clarity
- Potential donors want to know what the “gap” is, how big it is, and what won’t happen if the gap isn’t closed
- Tell your stories continually to broad target audiences: board, current donors, audiences, neighbors… Use all sorts of venues and formats
Fund Development… then Fundraising
Goal: develop as many potential donors as possible by engaging people in your mission, programs, success stories, events. Donors typically first engage with the organization through programming and other types of participation. They agree to become donors because they understand and are moved by and value the organization’s work. Maximize these relationships. Put board members who are nervous about soliciting to work developing donors.
1. Make phone calls to donors to thank them for their recent contribution.
2. Host donors and/or prospects at a reception in board member’s home.
3. Invite donors, volunteers, community members, family, friends, colleagues, and others to your events, including the “get to know us” type of events that are free.
4. Take a current or former donor to coffee to thank them for their recent gift. Obviously it’s not practical to take every donor out; set a minimum donation goal for this type of activity.
5. Make an introduction to the community affairs person at their workplace.
6. Give a heartfelt—but short—speech at their church or civic group to invite interest in your organization.
7. Others you use?
Lessen Board Members Anxiety and Get to Action
Staff – plan and structure the work
- Break board members’ work into manageable pieces that fit their skills and aptitudes as closely as possible
- Develop a timeline for the fundraising campaign with firm deadlines, tight schedules, reporting sessions, with reminders and follow up phone calls.
Cultivate board members’ skills; provide training in developing and soliciting donors
- Facilitated workshops, half-day briefings
- Accompanying an experienced solicitor on a call
E.D. Vision and Leadership is Essential
Most “asks” are made by the E.D., not the board.
The contribution of this nation’s Third Sector to meeting…twenty-first-century challenges is constrained by a lack of resources. Acquiring them with a greater sense of urgency, of competency and of creativity is a critical task. It can be accomplished, but only if the chief executive becomes personally engaged and catalyzes volunteers and professional staff with vision and by example.
Executive Directors – Fund Development Every Day
What amount of time have you spent today to connect with a donor?
Who did you thank for their gift?
Who did you invite to make a gift?
Who did you contact to provide some feedback about how a recent gift was put to good use?
Where did you deepen a connection and cause someone to feel special for supporting your organization?
Do you know the faces & names of your top 25 or 30 or even 100 supporters?
Do those supporters know that they are special to your organization for more than just their annual check?
In what specific way(s) can you lead a board member toward participating with you in one or more of these tasks?
Nine Steps to Successful Individual Donor Campaigns
From Lori Jacobwith, www.lorijacobwith.com
Successful campaigns share nine fundamental characteristics:
1) Campaign is led and supported by key volunteer and/or staff leadership (board chair, CEO, executive director, pastor, rabbi)
2) Campaign is supported and managed by at least one staff. (Development Director, Development Associate)
3) ALL board members participate in some capacity.
Staff needs to invite board members to fill specific roles and carry out specific duties in the campaign. Don’t leave them to figure it out on their own, and don’t assume they’ll remember after one telling!
- Is there one board member who would take charge of the project and create a small committee to work with them? (Choose committee members who will be focused, committed, ready/willing to do this.)
- Are there experienced fundraisers and/or advocates on the board you can lean on in other ways?
4) The goal is well defined, there is a clear message of need and a specific timeline that creates a sense of urgency.
- Set goals and tell people about them.
- Include a clear statement about the need – in a manner that allows people to visualize real people and how lives/the community will change as a result of their gift
- Develop an “elevator speech” that staff and board can easily remember
5) Campaign creates an emotional connection –making it personal for people to participate.
- What causes you to give?
- Think about the most recent gift you gave to a nonprofit organization. What caused you to write the check or click on ‘donate now?’
- What form did the appeal take? Were you asked in person?
- Did you know the person who made the ask?
- What about the ask “hooked” you? Did they convey a story? Emotion? Result/impact?
- • Were you asked to fulfill a specific need, support a specific project?
6) Keep donors and interested parties informed and engaged with follow-up emails, calls, meetings or letters.
- Create the ability for all board members to see your mission in action and to learn a story of a client by actually meeting someone your organization serves.
- Take GREAT meeting notes. Highlight goals and actions. Always list the person accountable and agreed- upon date for accomplishing the action.
- Make specific phone call assignments to each committee member. Have each board member report back weekly on the results of their calls.
- Volunteer Leadership
- Routinely have one board member tell a story of a real person at each board meeting.
- Hold board meetings in different locations where you can be connected to the people served by your organization.
- READ the meeting notes. Do what you said you’d do, by when you said you’d do it. If the timing doesn’t work…contact the appropriate staff person and “re-promise” with a date that works for you.
7) Keep the goal visible in print all year, on website & via multiple forms of communication to encourage widespread participation.
- Use multiple forms of communication and keep all eyes on the goal
- Show the goal in dollars and number of donors
- Continually update the amount remaining to reach goal; donors feel great when they see the gap shrink
- If falling short, let people know what steps you’ve taken to reach it
8) Communicate & invite participants to do very specific things with a deadline for doing them.
Make the ask using specifics
- Tell a story that conveys what you need: specific goal for this campaign / project, including a timeline if it will help to add a sense of urgency
- Remind the potential donor about what the impact of a successful campaign will be
- Honor the individual’s participation and engagement to date
- Ask the individual to join others and participate in this campaign, and suggest a specific amount, range or specific options
9) Utilize a web-based donor data management system to allow others to assist with tracking donor contacts and gifts.
If you don’t have robust information about donors and prospects and a system for managing it, develop it now. It will make asking easier and more productive.
Benevon model is a script for fundraising.
Feeder system- Donors typically engage w/ organization through programming and other types of participation
Q:We’re a small organization on a small budget but we put out beautiful print and announcements so people think we have more money than we do. How do we stop selling our own failure?
A:Mention staffing level. “the reality is that we operate on a very lean budget, and look at what we are able to do, imagine if we had more.” Emphasize that they are giving to an organization that has staying power.
Give recognition to Donors.
Example: 2nd street gallery- had a catered dinner after 2nd event with the Women for Art Group, afterwards had the ability to ask for funding from this group for a specific exhibition. Create opportunities for lasting relationships so they feel they are a group, plan trips together
Sneak Peaks- device to introduce new donors- during installations have a brown bag lunch. It’s an opportunity to interact with the artist and makes them feel special while impressing a sense of obligation
Invite donors, volunteers, community members, family, friends, colleagues and others to your event including “get to know us” events that are free.
Annual Drive- Online Fundraisers, some people don’t like some events but will give to the organization. Last minute fundraising seems especially good around December 30.
Look at donor history. Throw a specific number out there. You need a good database. Salesforce, filemaker, razors edge.
Should we target individuals or corporate?
A:Corporate can be harder to manage and you have to “brand” to fit. Sometimes individuals within a corporation have discretionary funds. Pfizer has matched donations.
Don’t neglect overhead, factor in admin cost, book keeper etc.
Funding mechanisms: host joint programs, international collaboration opens up different kind of funding
Say thank you with a phone call, events, food but don’t ask for more at that time. People appreciate not being solicited after they’ve just donated.
Full PowerPoint Presentation:
Boards and Fundraising-LA