Nonprofit Board Fundraising Ideas: Is Your Board Disengaged or Bored? Ramp Up Opportunities for Engagement

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

It goes without saying that an active nonprofit board of directors is essential for most organizations. But these committed people, who sincerely care about your cause (or else they wouldn’t have signed on to help), don’t just manage the strategic vision and executive leadership.

There’s more for them to do!

First, A Question: Nonprofit Board Fundraising?

Let’s assume your nonprofit has a team of board members 14-18 people-deep (16 directors is the average in the US) and that your organization has operated for a few years. You have a stable workforce, bring in consistent fundraising dollars, and are fulfilling the mission established at the start. In this ideal world, your nonprofit’s board may very well be, for lack of a better term, bored. Attending quarterly meetings for updates is great, but it doesn’t lead to a very engaging experience.

Now, let’s flip the coin. What if you work in a newly established nonprofit with a 10-person board? You’re still working to secure grants and a few major gifts. You need strategic guidance, of course, but you also need help keeping the doors open. Board members meet monthly, serve on sub-committees, and are assisting with fundraising, marketing, hiring employees, and more.

Which of those two scenarios is more engaging for the board member? The latter, of course.

It’s because those board members are playing an active role in the organization. They’re promoting change. They’re a part of the fabric. They’re engaged. The success of your organization is dependent on their effort– which is the energy you need.

I love this quote from the National Council of Nonprofits because it hits the nail right on the head regarding board engagement: “When truly engaged, board members will become your nonprofit’s best ambassadors, advocates, strategists, and all around supporters.”

You want your board to become all these things, right? So it’s up to you to help shape their experience. Through engagement opportunities, like the 6 outlined below, your board will become your biggest advocates.

Engage Your Nonprofit Board to Inspire Others

1. To Act as a Sounding Board For Your Story

When you’re engaging new donors and prospects, what do you do first? You inspire them! Your board deserves the same treatment. Inspiration connects your board to your cause. It’s what can help transition each person from a passive board member to your next Chair.

You hold the keys to inspiration, which can take many forms, such as a powerful image or moving client story. While you’re sharing the latest news of ROI and impact, add a human element by bringing a client to your board meeting to present their experience.

But the buck doesn’t stop there.

Don’t just share this information. Ask the board to spread the word and inspire others just as they were inspired themselves.

There are numerous ways they can do this, such as:

  • Sharing your online posts with their networks
  • Acting as spokespeople at community events, such as Chamber of Commerce meetings or nonprofit gatherings
  • Commenting and being active on blog posts and other communications to help expand your organic online reach

2. Sharing Their Perspective

Whether the relationship with your board member is months old or from a decade of working together, encourage each individual to become an evangelist for your cause.

Give your board the freedom to talk about their experiences with your organization, as a board member, donor, volunteer, fundraiser, etc. This influence may be helpful in recruiting future board members, prospective major donors, and other key stakeholders.

Take a role in helping to share your board member’s perspective by:

  • Adding board interviews to your eNewsletter, emails, or marketing materials
  • Including a letter from the board chair in important documents such as the annual report
  • Using board quotes about their experience throughout your website
  • Asking board members to speak at events such as fundraisers and donor appreciation gatherings

Engage Your Nonprofit Board to Activate Others

3. Kickstart Fundraising Campaigns

As you establish your annual fundraising plan, don’t just think about the “how?” but also the “who?” Namely, who are you reaching out to in order to bring in all those essential donations?

If you’re going straight to your donors, without first getting buy-in from your board, then you’re missing an essential step. Why fundraise with your board first? Naturally, board members *should* understand your cause as well as staff. Therefore, they know that successful campaigns = a successful organization.

For example, the Carlisle Family YMCA mobilized their board of directors before anyone else in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. In doing so, they raised 50% of their goal BEFORE they kicked off their public appeal. The board assisted in boosting the campaign and building momentum, which resulted in the Y meeting their financial goal!

Go to your board first, every time. They don’t have to give to each campaign, but they should be given the option to do so.

4. Reach out to Supporters, Prospects, and Lapsed Donors

Donating isn’t the only active thing a board member can do to stay engaged with your cause. Another way they can help is by reaching out to current, prospective, and lapsed supporters.

Give your board a call (or email) list with donor names and a rough script. Ask them to reach out to key people to chat about your organization. No, they shouldn’t have to ask for a gift. Instead, make this conversation simply about outreach and education. It’s an active step for your board with the intention of inspiring others.

Engage Your Nonprofit Board to Rally Others

5. Serve as Personal Fundraisers

Peer-to-peer fundraising is impossible without personal fundraisers leading the charge. You’re probably recruiting your donor and volunteer bases to step up and fundraise, but have you talked to your board about taking on this direct fundraising role?

Your board is well-versed in all things related to your nonprofit. They’ve also witnessed the direct impact and helped spread the word to others. By becoming personal fundraisers, your board is further leveraging their influence in a positive way that engages them while helping your bottom line AND rallying others to give in the process.

For example, NTEN rallied their board to serve as peer-to-peer fundraisers, and they blew past their fundraising goal in the process!

board engagement

6. Capitalize on those Connections

Board members are leaders. They’re business owners, parents, government officials, public servants, and employees powering your community forward. They’re often well-connected with other movers and shakers in the community.

As you’re looking to expand your major donor base, secure a corporate sponsorship, or partner with a local business, talk first with your board. Chances are, they have the connections and can facilitate and cultivate these potential relationships.

Inspire. Activate. Rally.

These are the three ways to keep your board engaged in their role with your organization.

These actions are also the three elements of community-driven fundraising. Every time your board member participates in this engagement activities, they’re growing their relationship with you, while also cultivating new relationships with others.

As your tight-knit board community grows through engagement experiences, your extended community naturally follows suit. Engage your board community to engage their community, and everyone winds up winning in the long term.

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