Getting Your Board on Board for Development!

Vol. 11 No. 3


Consultant Susan Howlett, author of the book Boards on Fire!, was charged with training a trails-based nonprofit’s Board to ask for major gifts. When she broached the issue, she said they were highly resistant.

Why? They said when they were invited to join the Board, they were not informed that this would be part of their job. And they were reticent to call anyone who they did not know personally. So Howlett proposed small, less threatening things they could do to make Board members more comfortable with stewarding relationships. Over the course of the year, each Board member made contacts with a couple of donors each—and the donors’ contributions doubled. You can hear what she did in her video “Getting Board Members to Raise Money Joyfully.”

Howlett gave the Trustees tasks that were nonthreatening to get the ball rolling—like calling a supporter when he/she were least likely to be at home and leaving a voice mail, sending an e-mail, and inviting the supporter to a non-fund-raising event. Once the Trustees found that the contact was welcome, they were able to get into a cultivation rhythm.

Board members need to know up front that part of their job is to support the school financially themselves—and get the people they know to support your school. In fact, the Board President and the Development Committee Chair make up half of the core leadership team—joining the Head of School and the Development Director—responsible for relationship management in your overall advancement efforts.

Consultant Carol Weisman tells a story about one of her clients in her Fundraising Wisdom blog. “Ninety percent of the Board members say, ‘I don’t have any money and neither do my friends.’ When asked if their friends could give even $25 a year to anyone, they say, ‘Well of course.’ But they don’t turn over the names.”

Board members should expect to financially support their school. If the individuals who are making the strategic decisions for your school’s viability, how can you expect others to make donations? As Trustees, they set the example for other supporters. Plus, they need to be involved in donor cultivation. Trustees are school leaders charged with advancing the school’s mission, so they should not be afraid of asking for support from the people they know. If you have an issue at your school, consider baby steps—like Howlett did —that will help your Trustees ease into donor cultivation.

Additional ISM resources of interest
Movie Mondays for Fundraising Professionals
ISM Webinar The Board’s Role in a Successful Capital Campaign, Dec. 12 at 3 pm ET
ISM Monthly Update for Development Directors Vol. 7 No. 10 Cultivation Now Reaps Rewards Later

Additional ISM resources for Consortium Gold Members
Ideas & Perspectives Vol. 31. No. 16 The Development Quartet: The Core Leadership Team of the Comprehensive Development Model
To The Point Vol. 15 No. 5 Profiling Your Board for Wealth
To The Point Vol. 14 No. 5 The Circle of Influence as a Fund-Raising Tool

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