At AFP’s International Fundraising Conference in Boston, I attended a session led by fundraising expert Gail Perry on helping board members make those valuable introductions for major gifts. However, most of her ideas weren’t limited to major gift fundraising. They were relevant for any level of fundraising in which your board is engaged. The trick was refreshingly simple: Ease them into it.
For a lot of board members, “Fundraising” is the F-word. They don’t want to “hit up” their friends and family. And, if fundraising isn’t in your blood, it’s certainly easy to see how it would feel that way. So, instead of asking your board members to help you fundraise, what I took from Gail’s presentation was to ask your board members to share their passion.
THAT sounds way easier. It’s a more simple, “tell your friends why you are on our board” and “share our amazing stories with them.” To help them articulate that, she recommended an interactive activity at the next board meeting. Challenge board members to tell each other why they care about the organization. We did it in the session and – wow! It was a room buzzing with happy conversations, smiles, and enthusiasm. And, it was so easy. When you really love something, you’re more than happy to talk about it!
After a few conversations like that with each other, your board members will become better able to articulate their message. Like most of my peers in the room, when I told the first person why I love my cause, I stumbled. I tripped over my words. I knew why, but finding the right way to explain it wasn’t easy (even for a communications professional)! But, by the third time I told someone, I had my thoughts refined a bit. It literally took less than five minutes to start developing a better version of my story.
I love this as a first step to fundraising for board members. It makes them happy, it makes the person they’re speaking to feel their happiness, and it helps extend the reach of your organization’s value.