Rhea Wong Consulting



My Board Isn’t Raising Enough Money

Sound familiar to you? Show me a nonprofit board that is raising “enough” and I’ll show you an Executive Director who blissfully sleeps eight hours a night.But, seriously, folks...how do you get board members to understand and embrace their fiduciary responsibilities to the organization? Here are 7 tips to change the culture of philanthropy on your board.1) Do they know they’re supposed to raise money?It’s amazing to me how many board members are brought onto the board without a clear understanding that part of their role is to personally give and to ask their network to give too. When you are recruiting board members, it’s important to be crystal clear with them about this.I’ve heard some EDs demure and while it is true that some board members are recruited for other reasons such as their expertise or standing in the community, I firmly believe that everybody on the board should give something. Nobody should be recruited or asked to join the board without this clear understanding in place. Also, make sure you have a clear board prospectus laying out duties and responsibilities of a board member!2) Do you have a clear give/get?The subject of a give/get is debated, but I firmly believe that Clarity is King (in diamonds and relationships, amirite?) At the outset, it is important to establish a minimum give/get and then to work with individual board members on an amount that is appropriate to them. For example, maybe your give/get is $30,000, but you have a board member who is a teacher and can’t give that amount. You can then work with them to determine a give/get that is personally meaningful for them. Or you have a very wealthy board member who regularly gives $100,000. Again, you can tailor give/gets for the appropriate level.3) Put it in writing!I’ve created template that should guide your conversation with your board members and establishes what they will take responsibility for. Note that language: not what they HAVE to do, not what they are OBLIGATED to do, but what they will take responsibility for. Change your language, change your frame. I also think it’s key for you and your board chair to have yearly meetings with your board members to not only discuss their commitment, but to also ensure that their participation continues to be a joyful, meaningful experience for them.4) Share the love.As a nonprofit executive, you have the great honor of being close to the work every day. You see the successes of your clients, you know the stories. Many board members only get to experience it a couple of times a year. At the top of every meeting, create a Mission Moment so that board members remember what it’s all for. Make a program visit or a volunteer opportunity mandatory so that they keep the importance of the work at the center. There’s nothing quite like falling in love all over again that makes the hard work a little less hard.5) Understand the fear.Many people dread fundraising because of the emotional baggage that they have regarding money. Perhaps in their family, money was not a topic to be discussed. In my family, money was considered security and therefore when I asked people for money, I thought that I was asking them to give up their security. But, the internal work of realizing that you are inviting people to be part of something greater than themselves and that their gift is an expression of their love changes everything. Do your own personal work to unpack your money baggage and work with your board about the fear. Do they fear rejection? Do they fear vulnerability? Do they fear being seen as “less than” for asking? What is the hard work of shifting from fear and associating fundraising with joy and pleasure?6) Make your board members the heroes.Too often in nonprofit, I think we get confused about the story we’re telling. We make our clients our heroes or we make our organization the heroes. In fundraising, we need to make our donors our heroes. While we exist in service to the mission and our clients, we do not do a good enough job of making our donors feel significant, important and seen. Without them, there is no mission. Celebrate their wins at board meetings. Send out congratulatory emails. Write personal handwritten letters. Remember: reward the behavior you wish to reinforce.7) Make it easy.How many nonprofit websites have I been to and had to hunt around for the donate button? Too many. Board members should be armed with business cards of your nonprofit. Make sure that they are able to direct people where to give and, more importantly, WHY to give. Are they ready with their own personal story of why they care about your cause? What are the most important things that they want others to know about your organization? At the end of the day, people give to people and your board should wear their hearts on their sleeves for your organization.Don’t forget to download your template for your annual meeting with your board members. The more love and care you give to them, the more love and care they will show in return. It’s not rocket science, people.[convertkit form=833651][convertkit form=833651]Have any ideas to share? Feel free to comment below!