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I’ve had a surprising number of conversations recently with nonprofit leaders who are lamenting the fact that their nonprofit board members don’t support their peer-to-peer fundraising efforts. These are just a few of the assertions I have heard:
“They’re too busy.”
“They don’t want to fundraise.”
“They think it’s a good idea for the organization, but not for them personally."
As a member of the peer-to-peer consultancy driving the “start with your core” fundraising philosophy, I wanted to get up on my soapbox and shout, “What do you mean your board isn’t fundraising? Who do they think is going to do it if they don’t? You need to focus on our core!”
Alas, there was no shouting. Just empathy and amplified motivation to help them create a strategy to get their board members back on board and involved in their P2P development.
If you, too, struggle with board participation when it comes to your peer-to-peer fundraising efforts, here are three steps you should take right now to engage your board members before another fundraising campaign passes you – and them – by:
1. Ask them to fundraise. It may sound obvious but the number one rule of fundraising is: you have to ask. Some of the nonprofit leaders I spoke with had, in fact, asked their board members to fundraise and received a paltry response. Others, however, admitted that they hadn’t directly asked their board members to fundraise. “They should just know that they need to fundraise, right?” Wrong. In fundraising, and in life, it’s better to not make assumptions. You need to ask.
Start with the board member you think will be most receptive so you get a win and have someone to lead by example, and then go down the list from there, one at a time. A direct, personal ask will be more effective in this case than an email to the group. Ask, ask, ask.
2. Explain the constituent circle. Draw a constituent circle, find an image of one online, or send me an email and I’ll send one to you. Explain to your board that people are connected to the organization at varying degrees, starting with those deeply connected – those in the middle of the circle – and radiating out to the most-likely-not-connected general public on the fringes of the circle. Show them that they are on one of the innermost rings if not right in the very center. And then share with them this little rhyme – I can’t for the life of me remember where I first heard it but I think it makes an important point: “It’s not you, it’s not me, it’s the other guy behind the tree.” Explain that there is no other guy behind the tree and pose this question: If you, who are in the middle of the circle don’t fundraise – why should anyone else?
3. Model the way. Your board members will be more likely to fundraise if they see you and other staff members fundraising. They will no longer see it as something that only your constituents do. They will see it as something that we, this deeply connected community, do together. If you already participate in your organization’s peer-to-peer fundraising efforts, share those experiences with your board. Tell them why you care and what motivates you to fundraise. Ask them to join you. And if you don’t already fundraise, start today. And then ask them to join you. A leader goes first.
Whether we are talking about board members or other connected constituents, always start by focusing on your core – the people who care (or should care!) the most about your cause – when driving your peer-to-peer fundraising efforts. If at first they don’t respond the way you would like them to, take a deep breath and then educate, lead, and ask them again.
If you are a nonprofit leader whose board is actively supporting your peer-to-peer efforts, we want to hear from you. Share your successes with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or by sending me an email and we may include you in a future blog post!
Need another resource to share with your board on the importance of peer-to-peer fundraising? Download The Family Tree of Peer-to-Peer infographic, which highlights the main channels of P2P fundraising.