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How to Engage Your Nonprofit’s Board In Fundraising

By: Tricia Love Thomas

Nonprofit fundraising isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Most organizations struggle to bring in fundraising dollars. This can be especially difficult when your nonprofit’s board isn’t on board with fundraising. The board helps your nonprofit thrive. That can mean donating money, contributing their time or helping your organization make connections.

In a webinar hosted by our Nonprofit Group, nonprofit fundraising expert Vince Connelly answered the audience’s questions on nonprofit fundraising. In this article, we’ll focus on Vince’s advice for engaging the board of directors in fundraising efforts.

Q: How do you fully engage the board in fundraising efforts and help them to understand their vital role in the process?

Vince: The board is the bedrock on which your nonprofit and your fundraising efforts are built. A wise friend once told me that the way things start is often how they end up. That’s especially true when it comes to building a strong nonprofit board.

It all starts with recruitment. Nonprofits must pay attention to who they are recruiting to their board. Instead of focusing on the size of candidate’s wallet, focus on their experience, character traits and passions. The best board members aren’t always the ones who have the potential to donate the most.

The second part of a strong board is training. Nonprofits need to train board members. The expectation you set for the board at the beginning is how things will continue. If you expect board members to be at every fundraising event you host, set that expectation from the get go. Better yet, provide board members with a job description that outlines your expectations for them throughout their tenure.

Recruiting the right people and training them is the key to ensuring your board stays engaged and understands their vital role in fundraising. If the expectation to help with fundraising isn’t there from the beginning, you’ll struggle to get the board involved as time goes on.

Q: Do you have tips on how to talk to your board about fundraising when they are convinced that is only a staff job (a staff of one at that!)? Also, since the word “fundraising” tends to scare people off, any ideas on other terms I can use?

Vince: If the board doesn’t see fundraising as part of their job, you’re in rocky waters. Most board fundraising issues stem from expectations. Be sure your nonprofit is setting the right expectations from early on and training board members to meet those expectations.

It’s important for senior board members to step up and remind others on the board that fundraising is important. You’ll have trouble convincing anyone on the board to help with fundraising if their peers aren’t dedicated to the same cause.

As for terminology, honesty is the best policy. Using words like “development” or “philanthropy” doesn’t change the work that is needed. Don’t shy away from using the word “fundraising.” It’s a vital component of your nonprofit’s growth.

Q: How do you encourage larger donations from your nonprofit’s board?

Vince: It’s important to ask for large donations the right way, especially if you’re asking for donations from your board. When recruiting board donations, schedule a meeting with each board member with your board chair and director of development. Asking for a large gift should be face-to-face, not via email or a donation sheet at a board meeting.

Honor rolls can also be useful tools to solicit more fundraising dollars. List out your board members (and other contributors) who’ve donated and a range of their donor amounts. Of course make it clear that contributors will be listed in the appropriate honor roll category when you ask for their gift, exclude the names of any contributors who wish to remain anonymous and make certain that you have supporters listed correctly. Pass out a draft of the honor roll at a board meeting to help board members understand the amounts that other members have donated.

20XX Fall Donation Honor Roll

(as of May 1, 20XX)


Gold Level ($1,000 - $2,500)

Jane Smith
John Doe
Bob Brown

 Silver Level ($500 - $1,000)

Sarah James
Mark Abbey
Frank Jones

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Published June 4, 2019

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