How to make the most of your nonprofit board's end-of-year fundraising


Summer is almost over, the end-of-year fundraising madness is fast approaching, and odds are your nonprofit board is beginning to realize they are running out of time to help you reach your fundraising goal for the year. As typically happens around this time, a few board members start asking for meetings to reconfirm their commitments or to come up with a strategy for how they will finish the year out strong.

Invariably someone suggests that it would be a good idea to conduct fundraising training at an upcoming board meeting. Excited by the prospect of your board helping you reach your goals, you eagerly embrace the idea.

Whether you hire a professional trainer or plan to lead the training internally, be realistic about your board’s skills and needs, and focus on the basics first.

Focus On the Right Skills

When planning fundraising training for boards, many assume the best use of time is to focus on “ask training,” to develop and rehearse an “elevator pitch,” or to go over talking points.

In reality, fewer than 10 percent of any board are comfortable with, and frankly, qualified to be making asks. Don't invest the time in attempting to train ask skills with the whole board. Reserve ask training for those who are most qualified to be doing it.

As for a canned elevator pitch, don't bother! People are typically too uncomfortable to use them, so they come up with their own version, avoid saying anything at all, or sound completely unnatural.

Talking points are a great way to make sure everyone is staying on topic and saying more or less the same thing, as long as points aren’t repeated verbatim. Unfortunately, very few board members find themselves in the right position to use them effectively, so use this opportunity to focus your training where it will have the greatest impact.

Until the majority of your board has demonstrated comfort and at least some success at prospecting and cultivation, focus on those skills first.

Start With the Basics

As members of the fundraising process, most board members should be helping to feed and progress prospective donors into and through your donor qualification and cultivation process.

A couple of examples are, helping to convert prospective donors who have already shown an interest in your work and introducing new qualified people to the organization.

Helping convert someone who is already interested is a relatively simple activity that nearly anyone on any board should be able to do without much apprehension.

In this case, the board member’s role is to help advance the relationship with people who have already shown an interest in the organization. This can be done at a cultivation event (no asks, please!). The board member simply needs to be willing to meet new people and help you craft or send an appropriate follow-up with the guests they’ve met.

The training opportunity for your next board meeting is to focus on how to ask relevant questions about the donor’s interest in your cause and how to listen attentively.

As their skill and comfort level develops, board members can then begin working to advance relationships with prospective donors who have less interest in your cause.

Introducing new qualified people to the organization is often more difficult than it sounds. Many in development incorrectly assume that a board member’s friends, acquaintances, and family are good prospective donors. Some may be, but many probably aren’t.

Unless you are introduced to those who are most likely to become active and recurring donors because they have an affinity for your cause, you’ll spend a lot of time chasing individuals who are less likely to become personally invested in your organization and long-term supporters.

Another training opportunity for your next board meeting is to focus on how to identify individuals within personal networks who are qualified prospective donors. Then work on how best to introduce identified prospects to the organization in a way that is most likely to lead to a long-term and mutually rewarding relationship.


Image Credit: William Warby