How to Convince Your Board to Fundraise

I do! I have a plan. Read on and download.

I do! I have a plan. Read on and download.

“My board member is so frustrating. She doesn’t get fundraising.”

“She doesn’t see it as her job.”

“She tells me she has no rolodex.”

“She wants volumes of information from me before she’ll even consider making an ask.”

“She has a dear friend who gave a six figure gift to another organization in our sector! Why won’t she provide access?”

You get the idea. It drives you crazy right?

But you can NOT give up on her. Or anyone on your board. YOU NEED THEM.

So what can you do to make this work?

I’ve created a tool that really could help. You’ll be able to download it and use it with each of your board members.

It will require some work but it presents an opportunity to drive the relationship between board members and development staff into the category of ‘partnership.’


When you originally interviewed the board prospect, you were clear that there WAS a fundraising obligation. You didn’t really undersell it when you heard some anxiety in the prospect’s voice. You ignored the advice of the head of recruitment who said, “Play down the fundraising thing; this guy knows EVERYONE – we need him!”

Then you had a board orientation for your new members. Your development director and chair of your development committee are in attendance and talk with clarity about the fundraising obligation. The presentation is invigorating enough to motivate the new board member to want to fundraiser.

So what’s the common problem? NONE OF THESE THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPEN.


I’ll save the huge recruitment problem for another day although I encourage you to read a piece I wrote called How To Select First Rate Board Members.

But for today, we’ve got the board we’ve got. So how can we change the conversation? How can you help your board understand there are plenty of ways to meet a fundraising obligation and that you can actually help if given the chance?


Several of my readers have requested that I create a template that can be used or customized based on the organization, its size, and its sources of revenue. I solicited some input from a few of my subscribers as well. And so here it is.

Download Joan’s Nonprofit Fundraising Plan For Your Board

To make this plan a success, I do have a few instructions…


1. Don’t bury the top story. Board members are fundraisers. So at that new board member orientation there should be a book of key materials. One of these important documents is your fundraising plan. Ideally it should make an obvious connection between programs and budget.

2. The right messenger makes all the difference. This can’t be seen as an idle activity imposed on a board member by a development director to make her life easier. It needs to come from the top – the ED and Board Chair. And the folks who should push to get 100% completion? The Board Development committee — the board members’ peers. This of course assumes you have such a committee and it understands its charge. Here’s what makes a great fundraising committee.

3. Strike while the iron is hot. While they are new and anxious to do a great job, give them a homework assignment. Tell your new board members you’d like them to take a crack at the plan right after the board meeting and that you (the you could be the ED or a member or the Development Director or possibly a senior staffer in Development) will set a time to go through what they have.  Together.

4. Tell them they are now part of a team. Together, your board works together to meet the goals. Even if this is not entirely 100% true, (a) it should be and (b) it will ease their anxiety to know they are rowing in the same boat with kindred spirits.

5. Create a habit with brand new board members. The goal would be that it would stick in future years.

6. It’s a discussion guide and not a report card. Be sure to ask the board member how the staff can help. If there is a substantive prospect on the list, offer to attend. Offer to ask.

7. Leave their own personal commitment out of the equation. A strategy should be set by the E.D., Board Chair and the Development Director with regard to the “ask” of each board member.  You do not want a new board member to put a number down without being specifically asked. Primary reason? A $2,500 unsolicited gift is a $5,000 gift if you ask, especially over a coffee or a meal.

8. A board member always has someone to ask. “I’m sorry, I just don’t know rich people.” Don’t be sorry. But how about 10 people who can give $100? How about making year-end renewal calls from the office? Plenty of ways.

9. Let the board member draft and talk and you ask the questions. This plan could include A LOT more detail. Is this person a renewal? Or a prospect? Would you consider asking him for an upgrade? When will you set this meeting (how about tomorrow?) Who might you feel comfortable asking on your own? Would you consider having a cocktail party at your home this summer and inviting 20 friends to learn more about the organization? See? I told you. Discussion, not report card.

10. Follow up with a nice memo. Start with ‘thank you.’ Then recap what you discussed.

11. Do not assume it will not work. One of my subscribers told me that she uses a standard fundraising plan with his board. Only about half her board fills it out and of those, few revisit it later. When I asked her why, his number one reason? “The ED doesn’t push for it.”

For the skeptics among you who feel I have just written a post about a futile exercise, just remember… If what you’ve done previously isn’t working, it’s time to try something new. And if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Download Joan’s Nonprofit Fundraising Plan For Your Board

Joan Garry
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Joan Garry

Widely known as the "Dear Abby" of nonprofit leadership, Joan works with board and staff as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner. Joan also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on nonprofit communications and leadership.
Joan Garry
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