Monday, August 20, 2018 - 9:20am

posted by
Cindi Phallen
President, Create Possibility

Most nonprofit leaders have complained at some point that they need their board to be more engaged in fundraising.  And yet they keep doing the same things, expecting different results.  You know the definition of insanity, right?  

So consider making a shift.  If your board members aren't fully engaged in your fundraising efforts it's because they:

  • are afraid of rejection
  • are inexperienced and insecure
  • don't understand what you need or
  • don’t know why you need to raise more money in the first place

It’s time to focus on lowering the barriers that block their success.  Let’s start here:

1. Commit to a Culture of Philanthropy. If you want to raise more money and retain more donors, start by looking at your collective mindset toward philanthropy – that’s where a culture shift begins.  

According to the report “Beyond Fundraising,” a culture of philanthropy is when everyone in the organization can serve as ambassadors for your cause and there is a focus on strong donor relationships. 

How well prepared are your volunteers to tell your story?  Does everyone understand that philanthropy supports your mission work?  It’s not about asking for money. 

Step1: Educate them on what a culture of philanthropy is and their role in it.  (There are some great tools in the report above).

 

2. Make the Change to the New Language of Fundraising. 

It's time to change the conversation and stop asking for money.  This isn't a financial transaction.  This is an opportunity to create some serious impact and change lives! That’s right – we don’t “ask for money” anymore.  Are you willing to try something different and throw out the traditional fundraising speak?  Are you bold enough?

  • Imagine substituting the word “invite” for “ask.”
  • Imagine substituting the word “invest” for “give” or “donate.”
  • Imagine never saying the “F” word again - substitute the work “philanthropy” for “fundraising”. 

Suddenly you’ll be inviting people to invest in your cause!  Psychologically, that’s something completely different and it certainly beats asking for money.

Step 2:  Introduce this language to your board and have them role-play to get used to the change.

3. Plug each board member into the Cycle of Philanthropy. 

They are five steps in the cycle:  Identify potential donors, connect them to your cause, Invite them to invest, Thank and recognize them and Steward them.  Each are essential to the process of raising money.

You are sadly mistaken if you think all of your volunteers are ready to jump in and invite people to invest (formerly known as “the ask”).  They may just not be ready yet.  It’s your job to get a sense of where they are now and plug them into the place in the cycle where they can be helpful now.  Once they understand that philanthropy is about so much more than just “asking”, it becomes fun and interesting to engage in ways they feel comfortable while still advancing your goals.  Moreover, you’ll be creating a culture of philanthropy!

Step 3:  Do an activity at a board meeting where you place five sheets of chart paper around the room - one for each step in the cycle, and ask them to move around to each one in small groups and brainstorm a list of examples for each one.  This will engage them and increase buy-in to how they can each play a role.

Fundraising Philanthropy isn’t about money – it’s about relationships that support your mission. Once your board understands this, you’d be amazed how the barriers fall by the wayside! 

To dig deeper and get more tools and tips, download the eBook “Convert Your Board into a Fundraising Machine!”

Cindi spent many years as a nonprofit professional, 18 of those as a YMCA Executive Director.  She has successfully led boards and staff teams to navigate their toughest hurdles.  At Create Possibility, she is a fierce advocate for nonprofit leaders across the U.S. so they can build stronger boards and reach their goals faster.  Learn more about her work now at www.possibility-cp.com 

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