While most associations conduct resource development activity, many of their board members avoid the fundraising component of their leadership position and are unsure how to support the organization.

Here are simple suggestions to help your board members get involved in fundraising in helpful and meaningful ways — all without their ever having to ask for a donation.  I recommend that you work directly with your board or committee chair before their meeting to ensure their willingness to introduce this topic and to stress the importance of philanthropy for your association.

I have found success beginning this conversation with three straightforward messages for your board:

  1. We need your leadership and business skills surrounding philanthropy to make our organization more successful.”
  2. “We will not ask you to do any fundraising that you are uncomfortable with.”
  3. “The Development staff is here to do the heavy lifting around fundraising; we will be more effective with your help and leadership.”

Once the board hears that you are not going to put them in uncomfortable situations and won’t involve them directly in asking for a gift, you should find them more receptive to assisting your development efforts.

You can then introduce them to the following list of ways they can — with very little effort or discomfort on their part — transform your organization’s fundraising culture. Whether you choose to frame these as “ideas,” “opportunities” or “expectations,” the point is that they provide every board member an easy path to impact:

  1. Make your personal gift and allow your donation to be listed in the honor roll.
  2. Share your intellectual and business expertise with us regarding members/ individuals/ foundations and corporations you know that have the propensity to donate and an interest in our mission.
  3. Be an ambassador for our association and mention our organizational and philanthropic goals whenever you present to any size group. 
  4. Help us develop strategies for cultivating or soliciting targeted individuals, foundations, or industries.
  5. Open doors — provide an introduction for staff to begin conversations with prospects you know.
  6. Host a small group at your home, office, or club where staff can lead a discussion about the philanthropic objectives and mission of our association.
  7. Volunteer to join staff in attending a cultivation event or solicitation call with a potential donor – your mere presence speaks volumes about the importance of our cause.
  8. Invite Development staff to attend meetings and conferences with you.
  9. Actively participate in stewarding donors:
    • Write the potential donor a handwritten note after a cultivation or solicitation visit.
    • Send a handwritten thank-you after a gift is made.
    • Participate in a post-gift stewardship call.
  10. Review a list of our targeted foundations and provide your insight and connections.
  11. Attend and network at our association’s donor events.
  12. Share your activity with our board to help keep each other motivated and accountable.

The bottom line:  Always stay true to your organization’s culture — and ensure that that culture involves your board’s active support of philanthropy.

If you have any questions, send us an email.  You can reach Brad directly at brad@associationphilanthropy.com or at 630.965.7708.

Brad Hutchins, a Principal in Consultants in Association Philanthropy, formerly served as Senior Vice President of Development for Easterseals.

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