The Board Fundraising Diet

Fundraising can be akin to healthy eating: If you diet regularly, you likely dread Diet’s Eve, when you say to yourself, the diet starts tomorrow.” But if you modify your habits and eat well regularly, the diet becomes more palatable—a regular part of your behavior. A culture of philanthropy infuses fundraising into your daily board diet. It makes fundraising palatable.
Contrary to popular belief, new board members should not be running out to ask all their friends for thousand-dollar checks. Fundraising is the process of empowering those who take interest in the mission to support a cause they love. Most of them are looking for a worthy organization where they can invest their charitable dollars. That’s right, they are already planning to make philanthropic gifts this year and want to invest their money in the smartest way they know. They are shopping around for the right opportunity.
So, how can board members best inform those charitable shoppers?

  • Make a personal financial gift. There’s no better way to demonstrate your own faith in your organization.
  • Serve as an ambassador. Talk about what drew you to this organization—whenever you get the opportunity.
  • Find and cultivate new supporters. Engage and invite your circles to attend a program, tour the facility or attend an event.
  • Monitor the budget. Ensure that income streams are on target to make budget goals, the basis for a fundraising plan.

If you’re dying to ask people for money, work with the staff and board leadership. They will be thrilled to partner with you. But assuming that you are like most people and not exactly tickled about that process, rest assured that there is plenty that you can do to affect fundraising by simply being a good board member. A healthy fundraising diet consists of much more than asking directly for gifts.

What Does It Take to Be a Board Fundraising Superhero?

It can be easy to think of board members who raise funds as supernatural. After all, they can appear to swoop in and rescue a favored program, payroll, or even the organization itself. At a minimum, they can make a daunting task—fundraising—look easy. But under that cape and muscular build is a set of traits that any mere mortal can emulate:

Courage

The mere mention of the word fundraising is enough to scare many board members. If you can get beyond the label, you will quickly realize that there are so many steps in securing a gift that one of them is bound to appeal to you. Take the time to speak with staff. Learn about how you can help bolster the current fundraising program. Maybe you can make some phone calls to thank recent donors, or you might write a first-person online appeal. There are so many options, most of which do not involve asking for a gift face-to-face.

A Sense of Responsibility

Continue to give of yourself. If you talk about your organization—whenever it is appropriate—you plant seeds that blossom in budding donors. When others take interest in your mission, you can gradually engage them—through a facility tour, an event, or even a cup of coffee to learn more about their interests. These activities so often inspire charitable gifts. This cycle is central to the ongoing process of bringing donors closer and closer to the mission.

Extraordinary Power

Novice fundraisers rarely think about the power they have to connect people with their passions. You are not just raising funds—you are helping people invest in worthy causes they love. You are a connector. Few board member activities are more fulfilling than knowing that you initiated someone’s desire to contribute to the good work of your organization.

If you are up to asking donors for gifts, say so. If you are not there yet, you can still bask in all the glory of a board superhero. Just learn how to bring new and existing audiences closer to the work of your organization. Most nonprofits have tools in place to help secure the gift itself. There is no kryptonite in this story—just the potential for a pot of gold.
For more details about board fundraising, and everything else board-related, check out my new book, Nonprofit Board Service for the GENIUS.