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"What Do You Mean Your Board Isn't Fundraising?"

The Plenty Team
April 14, 2016

Next week we are teaming up with BoardEffect to host a webinar on how to create strategic alignment with and within your board. (You can register here!) Which is why it felt like a great time to pull this post from the Plenty archives, dust off the advice, and put it to work. Hopefully by now you understand how important the peer-to-peer (P2P) model is to your organization. And if you are already drinking the P2P Kool-Aid, you know that the opportunity to harness peer networks to advocate and fundraise on behalf of your cause is exponential. So, alright then, what are we waiting for? Let's roll that new peer-to-peer program out  right? 

Well, not quite. Chances are you need to get your leadership team onboard with your strategy first, including your board members. This can be easier said than done sometimes, however you have the power of P2P on your side. A great way to showcase the potential of P2P programs is to get your board directly involved in the fundraising efforts. 

Remember that "easier said than done" issue we mentioned earlier? We get it, getting your board more involved in your fundraising programs isn't always as simple as asking. We’ve had a surprising number of conversations 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 we've 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 the peer-to-peer consultancy driving the “start with your core” fundraising philosophy, our first question obviously is, “What do you mean your board isn’t fundraising?" If this core group of people  the people that are supposed to support and propel your mission forward – aren't contributing to your fundraising efforts how do they expect others to? Quite simply, they can't.

But never fear! We are here to help you create a strategy to get your board members back onboard and involved in your P2P development.

If you, 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:

people-huddle.jpg1. 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 we've spoken with have, 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 or find an image of one online. 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 (curteosy of our friend Suzanne Mooney): “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.

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