How Your Board Can Help When Raising Major Gifts

Active board.

If your board is like most, they don’t like asking donors for gifts. They fear rejection. They fear the negative connotations associated with fundraising. They don’t see it as their role.

If this describes your board, then I am here to share some good news with you. There are other powerful things your board can do to help your major donor fundraising.

What Your Board CAN Do

Here’s just a short list of things we’ve had real, measurable success having board members do:

  1. Write thank you notes. Most board members have the time to write thank you notes. Give each board member the names of the donors that need to be thanked, provide thank you notes and mailing addresses, and tell them what to say. The trick is to make it as easy as possible for them to just do it. Make it as easy as filling out a form!
    • Pro Tip: have them write two notes at the beginning of your next board meeting.
  2. Call donors to thank them for their recent gift. Most board members have a phone and can find the time to call and thank donors. Same process as above: make it as easy as possible for them to do it by providing the donor’s name, last gift amount and phone number, and telling the board member what to say.
    • Pro tip: like writing notes, these calls can be great right at the start of a board meeting.
    • Invite their friends to attend an open house or a “non-ask” event. This is a relatively simple request since there isn’t an expectation for their friends to give a gift. The board member is just asking their friends for time and an opportunity to learn more about the organization they serve.
  1. Invite friends to sit with them at your next gala fundraising event. This is the easiest way for a board member to encourage their friends to give a gift without actually asking them directly for a gift.
  2. Write a check! It is very important that each member of your board make a significant donation to your cause every year. Hopefully they can give at a major donor level, but if not, my advice is to require each board member to give a “significant” gift – and they get to determine what “significant” means for them.

How to Help a Board Member Who is Willing to Ask

If you have a board member who is actually willing to ask donors for major gifts, congratulations! You have a rare species of board member – cherish them and thank them like crazy!

Also – help them succeed! Here are a few things you should equip them with:

  1. A clear fundraising goal and offer. They need to know how much you are trying to raise, why the gift is needed now, and what the donor’s gift will accomplish.
  2. An emotional story (or two) of Need. The best resource you can provide to your board members involved in fundraising are short stories that present a problem for the donor to solve. Tell your board member that if they only share stories about people who have already been helped, they will raise less money!
  3. A deadline. We all work better, faster, and with more urgency when we know we have a deadline. This is true in fundraising too. Your board member will work with urgency if she knows she has a deadline to meet. And the same can be said for the donors she is talking to – the donors will be more likely to respond if they know there is a deadline to the request.
  4. Response forms and reply envelopes. If your board member has fundraising success and can secure major gifts, then it is your job to make it easy for the donor to send in their gift or pledge.

Your board members should be actively involved in supporting your major donor fundraising efforts. But you and I both know that not all of them are willing to ask for gifts.

To encourage board members to help you, be sure to tell them that what you’re going to ask them to do does not always need to be asking their friends or your current major donors for a donation. But be clear that if they aren’t willing to do that, they can still help in valuable ways. And they need to!

So get them actively involved in the Thanking and Reporting portion of our ‘Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat’ fundraising system for major donors!

Jim Shapiro

Jim Shapiro is the fundraising coach you always wanted, the proven Sherpa who can help you get to the top of the mountain. He has 20 years experience raising money, including serving as the VP of Development for a $300m nonprofit. He then co-founded The Better Fundraising Co. to help small-to-medium nonprofits raise more money. Jim is married, serves his community by coaching high school football, and has three children.

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