Supercharge Your Board's Engagement in Fundraising


Your school’s board of trustees or board of directors should be an excellent resource for your fundraising efforts.  Yet in my experience, many school fundraisers are disappointed by their board’s performance.  Likewise, many board members feel frustrated by the perceived nagging of the staff when it comes to fundraising help.

I have found that there are four simple, concrete things you can do at your school that can help get your board engaged with fundraising and excited about helping you raise the money your school needs to thrive: 

#1: Build a Culture of Philanthropy on Your Board.

In order to successfully get your board engaged with fundraising, your school needs to build a culture of philanthropy on the board.  First and foremost, this means clearly articulating to board members (and prospective board members) why fundraising is so important and why the board needs to be actively engaged in the process.

You need to cast a vision for your board, reminding them that your school is a special place with an amazing mission.  Show them that without revenue from your fundraising program, your school wouldn’t be able to do all of the things it currently does … and that if your school was able to raise more money, it would be able to do even more great things. 

Get your headmaster and board chair involved in explaining to the board why their leadership in fundraising is so important, and get your board’s input on your development efforts.  Ask for your board’s advice with fundraising, and report back to them on the results of your efforts.  Involve your board members in fundraising so regularly that philanthropy becomes the heart of your board’s mission.

#2: Give Your Board a Smorgasbord of Ways to Help with Fundraising.

As you build a culture of philanthropy among your board members, it is important to give them a menu of specific ways they can help with fundraising.  Some members will be willing to go out and ask their contacts for money – your team should be ready to support their efforts.  Many members of your board won’t be comfortable asking, but would be happy to serve as an “ambassador” for your organization, making connections between your team and their colleagues and friends.  You should encourage as many board members as possible to serve in this ambassador role for your school.

There are lots of other ways your board members can help with fund development.  They can throw small meet-and-greets with alumni, school families, and other prospective donors.  They can make thank you calls, write notes to donors, and attend cultivation events.  They can go to networking events, track down silent auction items, create personal fundraising pages for a peer-to-peer campaign, and contact local businesses for event sponsorships.  Be creative – give your board members a list of ways they can help, then ask them to select 2 or 3 ways to get involved with fundraising over the coming year.

#3: Run a Board Giving Campaign Every Year.

Every board member should also be a donor to your school.  Whether they give $1 or $1 million to your school, every member of your board should give, each and every year.  The best way to achieve 100% board giving, while at the same time building the culture of philanthropy on your board, is by running an annual board giving campaign.

A board giving campaign is a short campaign to get board members to make unrestricted pledges to your school on an annual basis.  Generally, these campaigns are led by the board chair, who explains why 100% board giving is essential, and then asks board members to make their annual pledges.  The pledges can be paid over the course of the year, but the pledges should be made by a specific deadline so that the school knows how much it will be receiving from the board during the year.  Your board campaigns will be more successful if you hold them at the same time every year, so that board members will be able to work their board giving commitments into their annual household or business budget.

#4: Recognize Your Board for their Fundraising Achievements.

Finally, remember that your board members are both volunteers and donors, who give their time, wisdom, and treasure to your school.  Donors and volunteers like to be recognized for their efforts … and your donors are no different in that regard.  Be sure to thank your board members often and to recognize them for their successes.

Recognizing your board members for their fundraising achievements also serves a secondary purpose: it will motivate other members to do more on your behalf.  As you hold up board members who are working hard (e.g. by holding events, making introductions, making calls, etc.) other board members will see what is possible and may put out some extra effort on your organization’s behalf.

Your school’s board can be an integral part of your institution’s development efforts.  Be clear about what types of help you need, offer your board members lots of different ways to get involved (first as donors, then in other ways), and thank them often for their help and support.

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