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We guarantee you'll
raise more in your first
year or your money back.

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Boosting Board Buy-In: Your Questions About Board Engagement and More Answered

During our recent webinar, Boosting Board Buy-In: How to Get Your Board to Invest in Fundraising, led by Cherian Koshy, VP of Philanthropy at Merit America and Founder of the Nonprofit Operating System, participants shared several questions based on the presentation. Cherian has provided answers to set you up for success as you work with your board:  

1. Getting board to fundraise and host house parties:

Remember the 3B framework. What is the key behavior that you want the board member to do, what is the barrier, and what are the benefits? Engage board members why the fundraising activity benefits them and the organization, and explain the value of their individual participation. Remove barriers by making it easy. You can provide templates, scripts, and training to make them comfortable with this process. Encourage them to “be ambassadors” instead of simply “supporters” to appeal to a sense of identity and commitment. 

2. Addressing overextended board president:

First of all, term limits are good and healthy for organizational growth and development. But this is a governance issue that requires delicate handling. You might consider an open, respectful discussion during a board meeting about the importance of board rotation for fresh perspectives and shared leadership. External resources or consultants in nonprofit governance could provide advice or facilitate this conversation. Consider using a delayed implementation strategy so that board members aren’t immediately kicked off but have three to five years before they term off and have to wait before being re-invited to serve. 

3. Articulating the return on investment for fundraising tools:

The key is to communicate that investment in tools like a donor database is an investment in the long-term sustainability of the organization. While it might take time to see tangible results, it will improve efficiency, deepen relationships with donors, and ultimately increase fundraising success. The example from the webinar that we’re all comfortable with is our retirement funds. We set aside money today for future use that’s potentially decades away. 

4. Fundraising responsibility without a development committee:

Ideally, all board members should be engaged in fundraising efforts – in some way. The board chair, in collaboration with the executive director, could play a leading role in rallying board members around fundraising initiatives. A dedicated fundraising or development committee can be a future goal if it’s right for your organization. Remember that someone who will do the work is better than someone holding the title. More importantly, people shouldn’t be forced to solicit if they aren’t comfortable doing so. Find roles for each board member appropriate to them. 

5. Engaging a board not used to fundraising:

Training and education are key. Host a board training session specific to the 3B framework. Identify different key behaviors, address barriers, and assign benefits. It can be very helpful to share what would happen if fundraising doesn’t happen and also how easy it is for each person to have a significant impact with incremental effort. For example, tens of thousands of dollars can be raised by board members identifying just one monthly donor each month for their board term. 

6. Board members as CEOs of other nonprofits:

Frame their participation in fundraising not as competition but as synergy. Their fundraising skills and networks could benefit your organization without taking away from theirs. Ideally, there are systems in place to help these board members engage potential donors that are non-competitive. Similarly, there are opportunities to engage in the fundraising cycle without soliciting donors. 

7. Expecting every board member to participate in fundraising:

Every board member should be involved in some way in the process of fundraising. Not everyone has to be directly asking for money, but all can contribute time or talent or treasure, whether by leveraging networks, hosting events, writing thank-you notes, or making personal contributions. Some entities still require 100% board giving but don’t specify the amount so $1 meets that threshold. 

8. Validity of give and get commitments:

These commitments can still be valuable, but they need to be flexible and context-specific. For some boards, a give/get policy works well. For others, it may create barriers. The key is to create a culture of giving that works for your organization. Personally, I would be skeptical of their effectiveness in most organizations because the give/get only excludes to the downside. Meaning, if your threshold is $100,000. Anyone who can’t give that is excluded but someone who might otherwise give $1 million might just give $100.000. Many big organizations have trustees that just meet the threshold. 

9. Board members uncomfortable with asking for money:

Encourage them to see fundraising as mission-sharing. It’s about offering opportunities for others to contribute to a cause they care about. Offer training and support to make them more comfortable with fundraising conversations. I often ask board members in training sessions what buying decision was the most memorable e.g. a purchase they were super happy about. As they share those stories, they can palpably see and feel what it’s like to share a worthwhile experience with others. 

10. Board term limits:

Term limits can bring fresh ideas and prevent board stagnation. They need to be implemented thoughtfully to maintain organizational memory and continuity. Address concerns openly with your board and seek to create a balance between new energy and experienced guidance. Off ramps are also helpful to board members who don’t want to feel stuck serving in certain seasons of life. 

We hope you found this webinar helpful as you work with your board to secure fundraising support. Have another topic you’d like us to cover in an upcoming webinar? Click here to submit your feedback.

Plus, download our brief, A Case for Change: How to Pitch Fundraising Software to Your Board, which includes a board memo template and a board presentation template to help you prepare a top-notch pitch!  

Published: June 13, 2023

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