Why Isn’t My Nonprofit’s Board Fundraising Effectively?
by Mike Montalto
October 10, 2019

There is one common goal among anyone who has ever engaged with your organization. Whether someone donates money, volunteers their time, joins your staff, or serves on your board of directors, it’s because they want to do their part in furthering your nonprofit’s goals.

After all, advancing your mission requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. Yet, many fundraisers find themselves wondering why their nonprofit’s board struggles to fundraise.

No, it’s not that your board doesn’t care. If they didn’t believe in your mission, they wouldn’t be here!

It’s time to look inwards. Instead of getting stuck wondering why your nonprofit’s board struggles to fundraise, ask if your leadership is equipping your board with the tools to be successful!

Here are some of the common reasons board members don’t fundraise and how you can help them be more effective:

They’re Not Fully in Touch with Your Mission

Hopefully, you have a process for training new board members to talk about your organization’s work. But is the training you provide up to date with the current state of your nonprofit’s mission?

Your organization’s vision may have shifted since a long-time board member first joined your nonprofit.

Or, maybe it has been a while since you revisited your mission statement? Your board could be using older talking points in their conversations if they don’t know how your organization’s mission has evolved.

In a prior blog post, we talked about an exercise where we asked you to state your organization’s mission, without using any of the words in your mission statement.

Ask your board to try it!

Their responses will help determine if your board is in tune with your nonprofit’s work. They will also provide insight into how you can clear up misunderstandings and train them to communicate more effectively.

After formal re-training, consider providing your board members with a “cheat sheet” index card. This way, they can remind themselves of the core parts of your mission and associated talking points before they engage in conversations.

They Need to See it in Action

As your organization’s governing body, it is your board of director’s duty to make sure your assets are working efficiently to achieve your goals.

But if you find that your once-passionate board is just going through the motions, it’s probably because too much of their time is being spent on spreadsheets and by-laws. These are important items, but can dull even the most passionate board member.

And board members need enthusiasm to be successful in fundraising!

So, make time for your nonprofit’s board to get out, experience your mission in action, and talk to the people you help. Like your donors, you need to remind your board of the real impact you are having.

Consider inviting someone who has benefited from your work to each of your board meetings. Set aside a few minutes at the beginning so they can tell their story and share the impact your organization has on their life.

Your board members can fundraise better when they are living your mission. They will have a better case for why your organization’s work is so important and can make a naturally stronger ask when the time comes.

So, when a board member asks a mid-level donor to upgrade, they can share a first-hand account of their recent experience. Or even invite the donor along next time so they can see for themselves before they commit!

Seeing is believing. And if you want your board to believe in themselves when it comes to fundraising, they need to see your mission in action.

They Don’t See the Opportunities

Your board members might be great at having conversations and building relationships with donors. But they are not professional fundraisers.

So, unless they have a sales background, they might not be comfortable “closing” or know when to make the ask.

So, if your nonprofit’s board struggles to fundraise, it’s your responsibility to show them how ask for donations more effectively.

This is a loaded topic. But helping your board members see opportunities to make an ask where they might not have before is a great first step.

For example, let’s say your nonprofit recently held an event and got a lot of new donors from an auction. You might ask some board members to give attendees a call and thank them again for coming.

Train them to ask a few questions to gauge if a donor is willing to make another donation. Focus on talking about how the event furthers the mission, rather than the event itself.

Your board members can then steer the conversation towards other ways the individual can help achieve the organization’s goals. If the donor seems excited, they might be willing to give again right away!

Board members can fundraise more effectively if they know how to pick up on these signs and follow up with an ask.

They Need the Tools to Be Successful

Think about all the things your development department needs to do their job. Would you expect your staff to fundraise effectively without a proper donor data base, or an automated email system?

So how can you wonder why your nonprofit’s board struggles to fundraise if you haven’t equipped them with the tools they need!

Ask yourself if there is more you can do to help your board. Their phone calls shouldn’t feel scripted, but do they have a template to work from? Have you offered to practice with them?

It’s also not a bad idea to help your board of directors write emails to donors. Again, a template method that allows your board to fill in the blanks with their own insights is a solid approach.

Walk your board through your regular communications strategy so they know what donors are already hearing. Make sure they have a copy of, or link to, your new donor welcome package. This helps them understand how your organization builds relationships and moves donors towards a second gift.

And of course, sit down and talk with your board. Ask them what scares them the most about fundraising. Find out if there are any areas they already know they can improve on. They might know why they are having trouble, but not know how to fix it!

There can be many reasons why your nonprofit’s board struggles to fundraise. Apathy is not one of them! Your board wants to do everything they can to help your organization. Afterall, serving on a board of directors is a huge commitment!

So, help your board, help you. Make sure you give them to the tools to be great fundraisers!

Like what you see? Stay in touch!