Does this sound familiar?

You ask your board to help with fundraising, and you can hear a pin drop. Your board members start shifting in their seats. Some get that deer-in-the-headlights look. Others avoid making eye contact altogether.

Why does this happen? Most likely, it's because when you say "fundraising," they hear "asking."

It doesn't have to be this way. There's more to fundraising than asking. A lot more.

The key to effective fundraising is building strong relationships. And every board member can help you do that.

Start thinking of fundraising as a cycle. In technical terms, there are four phases: Prospecting, Cultivation, Solicitation and Stewardship. I prefer using kinder, gentler words when I talk about fundraising, and your board members will, too.

When you start talking about fundraising differently, your board will start thinking about it differently. And when you all start doing things differently, you'll begin to raise more money for your nonprofit.


Fundraising starts by thinking about who you know. No, fundraising isn't about monetizing your board members' friends and family. However, when people know someone who is personally involved with a cause, they are more likely to give to that cause.

In the Burk Donor Survey, first-time donors reported that, by itself, "a compelling appeal sent by the nonprofit" was not a strong motivator for giving. However, "knowing someone involved with the organization" or "the cause was recognized by a friend or family member" both influenced first-time giver's decision to support a particular nonprofit.

The top motivator for giving? The nonprofit's work aligns with the donor's interests.

So, start here. Ask your board members to answer this two-part question: "Who do you know...that might be interested in the work that our nonprofit is doing?"


Prospective donors need to know what your organization does. One of the most effective ways for board members to help here is by telling their story.

What story? Their own personal story - "Why" they are involved with your nonprofit?

This is different from memorizing the mission statement or reciting a prepared elevator pitch. Every person's story will be different. These stories are heartfelt and emotional. And because they are your board members' personal stories, told in their own words, they are easy for your board members to tell.

It's great when your board members talk to people about "what" your nonprofit does. Encourage them to start telling people "why" they're involved, too. It's a subtle change, and it will make a big difference.

ASK (Solicitation)

At some point, there is an "ask," an appeal, a call for donations. Many nonprofits use direct mail to ask people for financial support, although face-to-face asks are far more effective and typically yield much greater returns.

Let's assume your nonprofit uses an annual letter campaign to ask for donations. Have your board members given you names of people who might be interested? (Let's assume yes.) Have your board members talked to people and told them about your organization as well as their personal story about why they care? (Again, let's assume yes.)

Now, will your board members write a personal note or P.S. on the letters to people they know?

This is an easy next step for board members, and one that can move a prospective donor to becoming an actual donor.

THANK AND ACKNOWLEDGE (Stewardship, part 1)

After you receive a gift, the donor should receive a prompt thank you letter and receipt. Failure to properly thank a donor is the #1 reason why donors stop giving. That's easy to fix, folks.

Now, once you've sent your official thank you from the organization, go above and beyond. Ask your board members to write or email people they know who made gifts and say thanks again. Or ask your board members to participate in a thank-a-thon, calling other donors just to say thanks.

There's nothing easier than saying thank you, and every single one of your board members can do this. Plus, when you say thank you for your last gift, you're taking the first step towards getting the next one.


Don't just say thank you. Continue to tell your donors how you're using their money. Tell them about the impact of their investment.

Make sure your board members know your organization's success stories. Encourage board members to share these impact stories when they are talking to people about what your organization does.

By keeping your donors informed and involved in your work, you're building stronger relationships. Your board members can help build those relationships. Each and every board member can do that.

The bottom line: the more connected a donor is to your cause, the more likely he or she will be to give...and give again.

Send me a message and tell me how your board members help with fundraising (or what you wish your board members would do). I love hearing from you.


Remember, there's more to grant writing than just "writing." There's more to fundraising than grant writing, and there's more to fundraising than asking!

Here are three resources to help your board members become an active - and effective - part of your nonprofit's fundraising efforts.

How Your Board Members Can Become Door Openers

9 Ways Board Members Can Raise Money Without Asking

9 MORE Ways Board Members Can Raise Money Without Asking

Third Sector Consulting helps nonprofits find more funders, win more grants and raise more money.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Third Sector Consulting can help you and your organization.